Smallbusinesstrends.com reported earlier this year that 42 percent of small business owners spend an average of more than two hours managing each individual piece of freight they ship. That figure comes from a survey conducted by global logistics consultant FreightOS. It implies that for a small business sending out five shipments in a week, the owner of that business is devoting more than 10 hours to managing freight. Chances are, at least half of that time is wasted.
Take a moment to think about how much time you spend managing freight for your small business. Now, imagine how much more you could get done for your business by cutting that time in half.
Putting these three tips into action will go a long way toward saving you half the time you’re now spending on freight management.
1. Instead of Comparing Carrier Rates on Your Own, use a 3PL or Freight Broker
If you’re a small business operator and you’re comparing individual carrier rates on your own every time you have a freight shipment, you’re wasting a lot of time. Here’s why.
- Carriers don’t want to take the time to deal directly with a small business. They would rather contract with 3PLs (3rd-Party Logistics providers) or freight brokers to book that business for them, even at deeply discounted rates. By focusing on high-volume shippers, and offloading the rest, the carrier saves time and money.
- If you’re not shipping to the same locations every time, you’re liable to find that the carrier you booked one week can’t help you the next because they don’t have a lane to your new destination. 3PLs that operate nationwide have networks of carriers to call upon, so you never have to hunt for a new carrier. They are already in the system.
- Top tier 3PLs and freight brokers have the technology at their disposal to compare carrier rates instantly. FreightCenter (which is both a 3PL and a freight broker) extends access to that technology to our customers. To compare rate quotes from 50+ LTL carriers, simply submit your shipping information to our instant quote system. You will immediately see which carriers are available for your load and how long a transit time they anticipate. You can also review your options with an in-house shipping agent to make sure you’re getting the service you need for the price you want. In the end, the choice is yours.
2. Standardize Your Shipments as Much as Possible
Unless your business is shipping many different types of products, you can probably standardize how your shipments are packaged and prepared to a significant degree.
- The majority of pallets come in one of three sizes: 48” x 40”, 42” x 42” and 48” x 48”. If your shipments are palletized, try using the same size pallet as much as possible.
- Freight that isn’t palletized is shipped in crates. How many different sized crates do you need? You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that most of your shipments can go in crates of one or two sizes.
- Standardize the packaging techniques you use so preparing your shipments becomes second nature. Don’t let each shipment turn into an art project. Packaging is very important, but it doesn’t have to be a time-sucking exploration every time.
Standardization might cost you a few dollars those times when you could have used a lighter pallet or smaller crate, but in the long run, the more you can standardize your freight, the less time you’ll waste trying to turn each piece of cargo into the perfect snowflake of a freight shipment. Ask yourself if it’s worth spending an extra hour to save $15.
If you’re shipping more than once a week, the time savings of standardizing your shipments will soon be worth far more than the nickels and dimes you might save by making each shipment the lowest price it can be.
3. Buy A Freight Scale
Nothing wastes shippers more time, or causes more annoying and expensive billing adjustments, than trying to calculate how much their cargo weighs without the aid of a freight scale.
Freight scales used to represent a significant investment to the small business shipping a couple of times a week. Now, 48” x 48” pallet scales that weigh 5,000 to 10,000 pounds and have a digital readout are available online in the $400-$700 range.
If your business is shipping 100 times a year, that’s an investment of $4-$7 per shipment. Imagine the time you’ll save when you stop guessing on weight, and how nice it will be to no longer receive billing adjustments from carriers because the weight you entered with your shipping information was incorrect.
Spend Your Time Doing What You Do Best
Unless you’re a freight management expert and that skillset generates revenue for your business, try to spend as little time as necessary dealing with freight, and as much time as possible generating revenue.