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How to Automate Shipping Decisions in the SkuNexus Platform

Derrick Weiss
August 1, 2018

Why Do I Need Shipping Automation?

Shipping automation (and automation in general) is the single biggest time saver you can use in an order management system.

Manually choosing shipping options like carrier, service, and pricing is a good way to start out and familiarize yourself with what’s available, but once your business grows you’ll be using a system to do it all for you.

There’s a lot of steps to take, and each of them can add up in time if you have to repeat them every day for a hundred orders, for instance.

Prevent Human Error

As perfect as I am, I still make mistakes.

The same is true for you, your employees, and everybody else in the world - it’s just a fact of life.

However, this fact of life can end up costing you both time and money:

  • Accidental mistakes, such as clicking the wrong option
  • Deliberate mistakes (aka sabotage) by choosing more expensive or slower options
  • Incompetence mistakes - when someone doesn’t have all the facts to make the best decisions

Automating the shipping process changes this process fundamentally, and the best automation will improve the efficiency of your staff, reduce (or eliminate) errors, and make your customers happier by extension.

This is how to automate those shipping decisions in the SkuNexus platform.

How Shipping Automation Works in SkuNexus

We designed our shipping automation functionality to remove as much human error as we possibly could.

The piece of the platform that makes it all happen is what we call Shipping Option Mappers.

Shipping Option Mappers

These are the meat of the shipping automation process.

You’ll choose a carrier, service, and enter in some additional details for orders that will move through a specific mapper, and then add rules.

These can be as simple as the location the order is shipping to, and as complex as your heart desires. Every data point in the system is available as part of these rules.

Chances are, you won’t need to use all of them, though.

You’ll set up these Shipping Option Mappers during implementation, based on the criteria and rules that you have written down, in your head, or are implementing on the fly.

Every order that enters the system has to meet a rule. If there's no rule, it doesn't get processed or moved to fulfillment unless a Shipping Option Mapper is added.

It’s built this way to ensure 100% accuracy, and there is literally no room for human error.

If an order doesn’t have a mapper, you’ll get notified, so that you can create a new one, change an existing one, or make some adjustment to resolve it.

Let’s look at a few examples:

You have three products: ice cream, ice cream cone plushies, and glass ice cream bowls.

The ice cream needs to be shipped with dry ice, and special packaging to keep it cool in transit.

It also needs to ship with the fastest possible shipping options, so it doesn’t melt.

You’d create a Shipping Option Mapper that picks the fastest shipping option (regardless of price), assign a weight or ranges of weight, and include special packing instructions for dry ice and cooling packaging.

The ice cream cone plushies don’t have any specific requirements - just a certain size shipping box.

You’d simply create a Shipping Option Mapper that picks the cheapest shipping options with USPS (since it’s a very light item), choose the box or mailer that it should be packed in, and that’d be it.

The glass ice cream bowls need to be individually wrapped and packaged with padding material so they don’t break in transit.

You’d create a Shipping Option Mapper that has a certain weight or ranges of weight (depending on how many bowls), has the cheapest shipping option, and include special instructions for packing fragile items.

Here's a graphic explaining the above:

Shipping-automation-ice-cream-example

Printing Shipping Labels

So you’ve got your Shipping Option Mappers created, and all your orders are going through just fine - but how do you get all those labels printed?

  • On demand - if you fulfill orders as soon as possible, your shipping labels can be printed by the warehouse employees as they need them, from the fulfillment screen in SkuNexus.
  • Batch printing - if you prefer to have a bunch of shipping labels printed out at once, this is the best route to take. You can configure the printing to take place whenever it’s best for you - one of our clients prints in the middle of the night, in order to maximize their efficiency the next day.

Multiple Locations

If you have multiple warehouse locations, fulfillment centers, or retail stores, these routing options make the process straightforward:

Ship from the location nearest to the customer (based on zip codes)

  • East coast/west coast warehouses
  • Retail locations (shipping from a much closer location than the warehouse)

Always ship certain items from certain locations

  • If that item is always stored somewhere specific
  • If inventory in another location has a different purpose

Custom rules

  • Build whatever you want. Since the system uses all available data points, you can configure these options to fit your locations.

Shipping Carrier Integrations

We connect to over 100 shipping carriers - across the world. Wherever you need to ship, we have you covered.

After all of the above happens, and the shipping label is printed, a notification is sent back to the customer. The order is marked as shipped, and you’ll see it update wherever you see it in the system.

To see all of this in action, schedule a short demo with a member of team here.

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