Aug. 10 2006 05:18 PM

Over the past decade, tools for tracking and validating the delivery of parcels and documents to and from individuals within and outside a company have become more sophisticated, integrated and effective. Tools like the Internet, handheld label printers and barcode scanners and specialized software have evolved to support what we refer to as delivery management. Simply put, delivery management is the ability to initiate, track and validate deliveries of documents and parcels as well as compile information about these transactions and analyze them quickly and easily.


Finding a delivery management solution has become a priority for many companies. Why? Cost is a key reason: In 2002, companies spent nearly $80 billion on package and letter shipments. For many companies, mailing and shipping expenses exceed five to seven percent of their revenues.


One driver of shipping costs (and the need for delivery management) is today's complex global environment. Deliveries often must be managed within local campuses or facilities and among far-flung regional, national and international locations. A single shipment of documents or parcels may also involve many delivery agents, including mail center staff, other employees, messengers, courier services and domestic and foreign carriers.


Employee involvement in the shipping process also is a cost driver one that is often overlooked. In most companies, employees who are not members of the mail center staff initiate a significant number of expedited envelopes and package shipments, including intra-company shipments. Few of these employees understand the costs associated with the delivery agents or service levels they select.


Who Needs Delivery Management?

The need for a delivery management system depends on the number of expedited documents and packages a company ships, the costs of these shipments, the size of its mail center staff and the number and location of major offices and satellite facilities. But hard numbers aren't necessary to make an initial assessment. Companies in need of delivery management solutions exhibit the following symptoms:

  •            Costs for next-day and priority shipments are higher than necessary; attempts to rein in those employees who frequently initiate "rush" shipments have been unsuccessful.

  •            Accounting and operations staff members don't have a simple way to access, compile and analyze shipping information and set appropriate business rules.

  •            Mail center efficiency is low because of frequent calls and visits from employees demanding to know the status of incoming or outgoing packages or who need assistance with shipping.

  •            Carrier charge allocations require third-party audits or manual adjustments; money is lost since chargebacks can't be made.

  •            Important packages and documents sent between the company's offices, locations or sites don't arrive on time or are lost or misplaced.

  •            Carrier accounts have proliferated, complicating invoice validation and payment.


    These symptoms generate expenses that drop straight to the company's bottom line and drain company profits.


    Look for these Attributes

    The best approach to delivery management is an integrated solution one that seamlessly brings together the best delivery management tools in such a way that the value of the sum is greater than the parts.


    Here's a short list of attributes that contribute value to a delivery management system. Together, they signify a system with the highest potential return on investment.


    Web-based Was the solution created specifically for the Web (Web-based) rather than simply re-written so it can be · accessed through the Web (Web-enabled)? A Web-based solution designed from the beginning for distributed access by large numbers of users at multiple locations can easily be scaled up as requirements grow.


    Desktop-driven Can shipments, searches, rate comparisons and queries be initiated through the desktop? An appropriately designed desktop application empowers employees who are shipping novices to make better decisions, and it makes information more accessible to key decision-makers.

    Information-rich Does it track information that supports invoice validation and rate negotiations with carriers, productivity analyses, cost center auditing, consolidated reporting and calculations of service levels? Can reports be generated quickly and easily?


    End-to-end visibility Does it seamlessly track a shipment through multiple moves and handoffs among internal staff and carriers? End-to-end shipment visibility ensures that the most secure and effective processes are in place to manage your deliveries.

    International Will it evolve to support shipments to and from international locations, including the languages, currencies, local and regional carriers and weight requirements associated with those countries?


    Saving Time and Money

    A delivery management solution with these attributes will have a positive impact throughout an organization. Such a system can achieve percentage reductions in costs as follows:

  •            By analyzing the carrier and services used and developing optimum business rules for shipping, you can reduce costs by two to four percent.

  •            By enforcing shipping rules via the desktop and eliminating paper air bills, you can reduce costs by three to eight percent.

  •            By having correct addresses, appropriate cost center allocations, the ability to verify charges, improved handling and delivery of proposals, bids or quotes, new customer applications and sales or orders, you can reduce costs by one to three percent .


    Delivery management can also dramatically improve customer/client service and employee productivity:

  •            Employees at all levels are more productive because information is at their fingertips.

  •            Mail center employees can spend more time managing deliveries and less time translating employee information for shipment processing or answering questions.

  •            Operations and finance staff have information at their fingertips to analyze their current operations.

  •            Employees receive enhanced mail services, and opportunities for packages to "go missing" are dramatically reduced.

  •            Customers' and clients' delivery expectations are met by reducing the errors most often responsible for delivery failures.


    Few truly integrated solutions with all the desired attributes are currently available, despite the obvious need for delivery management. But the need for such systems is climbing as mail center operations continue to become more complex and challenging. Global expansion, new carriers, more services and expectations of immediate access to information have set new standards. Within the year, expect to see a new generation of enterprise delivery management solutions that integrate the tools necessary to optimize efficiency and provide exceptional service to internal and external customers.


    Bruce Beatty is director of Marketing for Pitney Bowes Distribution Solutions. For additional information on tracking, visit

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