On Sunday, March 12, 2011, we set our clocks ahead one hour. Throughout that day, my wife Helen and I repeatedly gazed at the clock and were stunned at the actual time. We were playing catch up all day as time flew by. So how important is one hour to you and your staff? In the journal of Applied Psychology, it states "Switching to daylight saving time during the spring leads to both higher numbers of and more severe, workplace injuries, likely because of cutbacks in sleep" The fact is, one hour a day can cost you between 14-20% of a seven-hour workday (assuming one hour for lunch), so do the math. Not trying to save an hour a day is the same as losing an hour a day, which destroys productivity and costs you plenty.

Are you the type of person that implements every imaginable timesaving step to squeak out every minute of productivity or are you the more relaxed type, not worried about getting done today what could be achieved tomorrow? I've consulted with hundreds of executives during my career and among them there is a mixed bag regarding operational efficiencies. However, one thing is absolutely certain - those that optimize time for themselves and their staff are more likely to excel in business today while those that don't, lag far behind.

David Taylor, Director of Business Development of Agile NYC Metro planned for his hour loss in advance. He cleverly set the clocks back the previous night so that it was easier to cope on the fateful day. That way he was splitting the hour up between two days by sharing it with Saturday, the day before daylight saving time went into effect. Good thinking, David. He lessened the blow, but this is further evidence of just how important a single hour is to your productivity.

Now imagine every day is daylight saving day. Are you feeling the pain? It's akin to having that dream where you are running but never get to your destination. So if you want to pick up an extra hour out of every day in your shipping department, here are five steps to get you started:

1 - Get One Shipping App: If your shipping operators use several disparate software products, those usually supplied by the carriers such as UPS, FedEx, USPS and LTL, they are wasting bundles of time! I'm still amazed to find how often warehouse automation is ignored even in companies who claim they are efficient. By acquiring a single multi-carrier shipping app that will process shipments for all carriers, you will save time. Free shipping apps are supplied by carriers for their own benefit, not yours.

2 - Route Shipments Prior to Shipping: Commonly referred to as "rate shopping," this process wastes time when performed in the shipping area. If you deploy the proper technology, all routing can and should be done prior to shipping. This is extremely important for busier shipping operations. Rate shopping in the shipping area should only be performed when a customer changes their mind after the order has already been taken.

3 - Automate Shipment Updates - Another shocker is that many companies still manually key shipping charges and tracking numberss into their ERP system after a shipment is complete. Integrating your shipping app will automatically upload shipping and handling charges, weight, tracking numbers, date of shipment, etc. and eliminate this manual process altogether. It will also help increase accuracy and help get invoices out faster.

4 - Address Validation: All good shipping apps come with address validation. However, that doesn't mean you should check every address at the point of shipping. That will waste time. Address validation in the shipping area should be a supplement to proper address hygiene in your ERP system. That will save time; trust me!

5 - International Shipment Processing: It is still common for companies to have an export department that prepares customs documents in advance of a shipment. This is another area you can save bundles of time. New shipping technology completes all the necessary customs forms automatically, checks the denied party screening list and files SEDs electronically for those that ship items valued at over $2,500. This is a huge time-saver.

When someone says to me: "Who cares about saving one hour a day?" I say, "your competition!" Of course, there are numerous other ideas that can help improve operational efficiencies in the shipping department. Stay tuned for more, or contact me anytime.

Jim LeRose is Principal of Agile NYC Metro and President of Advantaship.com. Jim has been a transportation industry consultant for over 25 years. His clients have saved millions on transportation costs. Agile has helped companies such as JP Morgan, Audiovox, Intuitive Surgical, Panasonic Electric, Petco and over 1,000 others. Advantaship helps small businesses get big discounts typically reserved for large organizations from carriers such as FedEx, USPS, DHL and others. Jim welcomes your comments and can be reached at jim.lerose@agile-network.com or 888-214-1763.