Justin Cramer explains how to keep labels carrier compliant while adding customizations that fit your needs
E-commerce retailers, manufacturers and healthcare companies are growing ever more concerned with how customers interact with their brands - from their overall shopping experience to packaging and delivery. Shipping is a critical component of supply chain logistics, and companies are finding it increasingly important to optimize shipping as it significantly impacts customer experience, repeat purchasing, brand loyalty and profitability.
What becomes tricky is staying carrier compliant while shipping year-round. Shipping compliance - or non-compliance - can make or break your supply chain. When shipping compliance is achieved, ongoing rules and requirements for rating, labeling and manifest reporting are not an issue. However, many companies today are risking compliance with their shipping labels. Creating completely custom labels can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to maintain, and carrier’s specifications can change causing major non-compliance issues. If a carrier label is too far out of compliance, the carrier may not deliver the shipment. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?
This is why we’ve asked Justin Cramer, Global Project Management Director and Co-Founder of ProShip Multi-Carrier Shipping Software, about shipping label best practices. Justin has designed shipping solutions executing more than 1.1 million labels a day and has worked with many small shippers all the way to extremely large shippers on achieving certified carrier labels. Here are a few questions we’ve asked Justin to clear the air on custom labels.
Q: Why do companies think they need fully customized labels?
“One, shippers may want customizations to extend their branding for marketing reasons.
Two, for receiving reasons. Shippers may need to make changes to a label for the consignee to expedite the receiving process. Companies like Walmart, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond require very particular data to be on a label on the box being received by them. Most companies want to produce a single label for this purpose. But using too small of a label means that the carrier section of the label must be altered in order to fit the extra information.
Three, for conveyor routing identification. Much like the receiving process above, many shippers need a license plate on the shipping container that can be scanned by their own material handling equipment. This allows the warehouse control software (WCS) to route the parcel to the appropriate trailer.
Four, lack of knowledge. Many retailers and manufacturers don’t know the difference between customizing a label and simply mapping data onto the appropriate parts of the label. Like the receiving requirements above, many consignees will require that data appears on the carrier label in spots like “P.O.” or other reference locations. Many companies don’t understand that mapping data to those pre-existing locations is part of a proper professional services engagement rather than the creation of a ‘custom label’.”
Q: What are the top issues companies run into when using fully customized labels?
“There are problems that come to mind. One is risk. By creating a fully customized label, the shipper increases the chances that a shipment will be delayed between themselves and the consignee. This could be due to the carrier being unable to process the parcel, or that the data on the custom label is no longer provided by the source engine - therefore the custom label can no longer be completed by the shipping software.
Otherwise, most carriers require an extensive one-off certification process. This means a carrier could ask for labels from every printer with examples from every service that a shipper might use. This can add up to thousands of labels, along with their corresponding EDI manifests that must be manually created by the shipper and the professional services team.”
Q: What do you recommend to companies using fully customized labels risking delays, certifications and expenses?
“I recommend education on what is mapping versus what is truly custom. As mentioned before, many companies don’t understand that basic reference field mapping does not create a custom label. Furthermore, mapping means the shipping software vendor is putting the data into a location on the label that is already part of the label certification process. Thus, no custom certification is required.
Other than that, I would recommend using a larger label. By assuming that all carrier label data will fit in a 4x6 area, procuring labels that are larger than that, say 4x8, adds area that is completely owned by the shipper. This would allow the inclusion of logos, receiving barcodes and data, internal barcodes and data, along with anything else a shipper might want to add. However, make sure that your barcodes are not of similar type and length as one of the carriers’ barcodes.”
As you can see, shipping is complicated, and factoring in label customizations within carrier fields is a huge risk. Instead, companies should consider mapping as a best practice and reap the benefits of adding additional images or information without risking the integrity of the label.
ProShip, having pre-certified carrier labels that change when carriers change their specifications, will do away with any costs and concerns. ProShip multi-carrier shipping software makes it easy to stay up to date, therefore keep your labels up to date.
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