A single carrier cannot be all things to all customers
Today, when B2B and B2C businesses alike are facing unparalleled pressure to deliver goods expeditiously to meet increasing customer demand, a multi-carrier dispatch platform provides the solution for businesses with shipping needs to boost operational efficiency and preserve margins.
In years gone by, a business needing to ship freight (a shipper) would have engaged a carrier directly. Called a third-party logistics provider or ‘3PL’, these carriers have their own fleet of trucks which they utilise to transport a shipper’s goods from Point A to Point B.
Increasingly however, shippers - especially those with complex needs- are getting more savvy. They recognise that while a particular carrier may be suitable to ship goods from one location to another, from Sydney to Melbourne for example, it may not be the best choice for another route, such as from Broome to Perth. Indeed, carriers tend to have certain specialisations including freight profile i.e. oversize; transport options i.e. air, road or rail; and/or locations i.e. regional areas.
While the larger 3PLs may promise a complete logistics solution, regardless of how large their footprint may be or how diverse their services, the single-carrier option costs the customer in a myriad of ways including: uncompetitive rates, sub-optimal services and increased risk exposure.
Introducing the 4PL’s multi-carrier dispatch platform
Fortunately, the rise of technology has enabled the emergence of a superior solution for customers. Unlike a 3PL, a fourth party logistics provider, or ‘4PL’ is asset-light and tech-heavy, meaning it does not have any of its own trucks on the road and instead, leverages sophisticated software, extensive relationships with carrier partners and its highly trained people to deliver a comprehensive supply chain solution.
Central to the 4PL offering is its multi-carrier dispatch platform. A multi-carrier platform provides significant efficiencies in the management and tracking of freight delivery. In efm’s case, we use our market-leading proprietary software, OneFlo. The platform is an intuitively designed, user-friendly portal that enables customers to select the optimal carrier for each shipment from a vetted shortlist and offers extensive benefits that enable the shipper to carve out competitive advantage.
The interface of efm’s multi-carrier dispatch platform, OneFlo is intuitive and efficient to use.
The benefits of a multi-carrier dispatch platform
1. Improved cost-efficiency
The cost of a shipment is determined by various factors: the size and weight of the package, the delivery location, the delivery timeframe and so on. The carrier that provides the best rate for a small parcel going from Sydney to Melbourne in two days will likely not be the carrier that provides the best rate for a pallet being shipped from Adelaide to Darwin in a week.
A multi-carrier dispatch platform provides shippers with accurate, real-time shipping quotes. Further, if cost is the overriding priority for a customer, efm’s OneFlo provides a ‘low cost routing’ option, which will ensure only the cheapest shipping option is provided for every shipment.
2. Optimal fit for every consignment
Although always a consideration, cost is not always the most important factor for businesses shipping goods. Sometimes customer satisfaction or end-to-end visibility throughout the journey is of paramount importance.
Aside from the multi-carrier platform, a major benefit of working with a 4PL is that they will curate the selection of potential carriers specifically to meet the needs of each customer. It is very unlikely, therefore, that two customers will see the exact same list of carrier options.
Shipper A may have major Carrier X to ship to Brisbane, major Carrier Y to ship to Melbourne and boutique Carrier Z to ship to Canberra. Even if their receiver locations are the same, Shipper B may have different carriers in the mix to accommodate the freight profile or time restraints.
Choosing from a curated selection of carriers means you can select the best fit for every single shipment.
3. Automated consignment and label creation
Creating consignment notes and shipping labels has traditionally been time-consuming and error-prone. A multi-carrier dispatch platform largely automates both processes, which saves time and reduces inaccuracies.
When creating a consignment note, data fields are made easy to populate with drop-down selections of vetted carriers and the detail of frequently shipped items and repeat receivers.
Label creation is straight-forward and mistake-proof with the platform storing the labels for all the carriers in their network and automatically providing the carrier-compliant label for the relevant carrier selected. efm’s platform, OneFlo, for instance, is compliant with 142 carrier labels!
This automation benefits the customer by improving operational efficiency, minimising transit delay risk and avoiding additional carrier charges caused by incorrect label formatting.
It is also possible to integrate the platform with a customer’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system or Warehousing Management System (WMS) to further automate the consignment creation process with the pre-population of various data including the items’ length, width and weight.
4. Protection from carrier cyber security vulnerability
In a single-carrier relationship, a shipper is at the mercy of the carrier, which is vulnerable to disruptive cyber-attacks and tech outages. When a disruption strikes, a shipper is forced to bear the consequences of the delay, which can include millions of dollars of lost revenue, disgruntled customers and discontinued contracts.
A multi-carrier shipping strategy, however, provides coverage for this type of risk. In the event of an outage, such as a cyber-attack, shippers that go through a multi-carrier dispatch platform like efm’s OneFlo, enjoy uninterrupted service.
Because a multi-carrier dispatch platform operates independently of carriers’ platforms, efm customers can continue to create carrier-specific consignments and use carrier services through efm’s OneFlo.
Not only does this cover protect the shipper from the potentially cataclysmic consequences of a carrier outage, but it also puts them at an advantage over their competitors whose operations are at risk of being halted by the 3PL.
5. Contingency carrier options mitigate risk
Similarly, it isn’t unusual for carriers to experience an overload of orders during peak seasons such as Christmas, which leads to costly shipment delays for their customers.
A 4PL monitors for and is poised to intervene in issues that could delay carriers’ shipments, such as a seasonal influx of consignments. Leveraging a multi-carrier dispatch platform, a 4PL will identify and secure an alternative carrier provider to fulfil the delivery.
They will also isolate and transfer the freight to the new provider, ensuring the stock is on the shelves, or the items are in the consumer’s hands, within a matter of hours or days.
6. Security is a top priority
A multi-carrier dispatch platform houses swathes of potentially sensitive information including names, addresses and phone numbers. Therefore, it is important to choose a 4PL provider with a highly secure platform that protects customer data at every step of the journey.
efm’s platform, OneFlo is a web application, which means that customers do not have to worry about configuring firewalls, updating software or patching servers. efm works to ensure customers’ data is transmitted and stored securely and the infrastructure is constantly monitored and routinely updated and patched to quash any would-be security threats.
7. Promotes CoR compliance
After the labels and consignment notes are printed and the truck is loaded, the truck is manifested. When a truck is ‘manifested’, the Manifest is handed to the truck driver. The Manifest is a document that details the freight being carried and is an essential part of Chain of Responsibility.
In the event of an accident, the truck driver would present the Manifest to inform the response approach by authorities and first responders, such as isolating dangerous goods.
If a shipper engaged multiple carriers individually, the process of manifesting would be exposed to human error. The multi-carrier dispatch platform provides a seamless and reliable solution for ensuring trucks are manifested, and for manifesting more than one truck at the same time, which is invaluable in a multi-carrier strategy.
8. Tracking portal provides visibility
Some platforms, like OneFlo, provide a customer tracking portal. This allows a customer to type in the consignment number of a shipment and see the status of the parcel by viewing the scanned events that have been completed, such as pick up, arrival at depot, loaded on truck, and so on.
After the freight reaches its final destination, a Proof of Delivery (POD) acknowledges that delivery has been received. The POD is the catalyst for the shipper to pay the invoice. Without a multi-carrier dispatch platform, it would be necessary for a shipper to log in to all of their carrier platforms to check for this documentation.
With a multi-carrier platform, however, all the PODs are accessible via the single portal. Additionally, and importantly, in the event of an issue, such as if goods have not arrived, the 4PL can intervene and investigate with the carrier and warehouse manager and resolve the issue for the customer.
9. Returns made easy
There will always be some customers who will return the product for various reasons. Usually, the customer expectation is that the shipper will bear the financial cost of the return. Therefore, the affordability of carrier services is a critical component of managing returns.
A multi-carrier dispatch platform is a comprehensive and holistic system, making it easy for a shipper to create an in-bound consignment and to select the most suitable carrier for the return.
In addition, as mentioned in Point 1 - Improved cost efficiency, it is possible to set a ‘low cost routing’ rule to ensure the cheapest shipping option for all returns.
10. Streamlined invoicing and reporting
The transparency afforded by the multi-carrier platform enables the measurement of key metrics such as punctuality, accuracy and damage rate. Defining and measuring performance against strategic KPIs serves as the basis of long-term and ever-improving high performance.
From a finance point of view, rather than process 10 invoices for 10 different carriers each month, a customer receives a single thoroughly checked and reconciled invoice from the 4PL. The data is provided in dashboard format in the portal so customers can consume the data along whichever metrics they are most interested in –by carrier, location etc – and use these insights to inform their future business decisions.
To find out more about how a multi-carrier dispatch platform could help your business, contact us.
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