The Hidden Charm and Survival of a Shipping Center
Quality of operations is a hidden charm of a shipping center. Quality activities that prevent unsatisfactory shipments go unrecognized by the customer. They only feel the effect of a failure, when and if it happens.
Delayed, damaged, or returned shipments are defective. Causes of defective shipments should be analyzed. The ship center that seeks to have the highest satisfaction rating from their customers would want to solve for each of them. Many causes for defective shipments come directly from actions a ship center does or does not take, such as:
- Address corrections
- Picked up by wrong carrier
- Returned from 3rd attempt to deliver
- Wrong or missing postage on mail
- Damage claims from insufficient packing
- Misplaced mailbox holder mail
Zero defects is virtually impossible and the slogan has disappeared from manufacturing because it is unrealistic, however, a business should strive to minimize them as much possible through the use of store policies and procedures.
The steps that a ship center takes to prevent causes of defective shipments are unique to the type of business and how it is operated. The staff at Jackson Pack N Ship (JPNS), in Jackson MI uses a set of procedures designed to catch mistakes and includes a few proactive ones to prevent mistakes.
To prevent delays from a wrong address the staff verifies each one during the transaction at the counter. The address is compared using an address checking application that flags it for incorrect or missing suite or apartment number, syntax, spelling, and zip code. Each time we find an error, we can count it as a delay that never happened.
Carrier staging areas, specific locations in the back room where packages are placed by carrier name, are inspected every afternoon. When we find a FedEx package is accidently placed in the USPS area, we know we have prevented a very big problem.
JPNS tracks every package twice per day. Our policy is to call the carrier, sender and/or recipient at the second delivery attempt to arrange for an alterative delivery such as hold at terminal.
The contents of the USPS bin are 100% inspected to see that each envelope and box has postage (and custom forms when applicable) and that no box or envelope exists without postage.
Occasionally, after a transaction is finished, and the item is packed in the backroom, we find that the packaging we sold looks insufficient. Preventing damage claims is much more subjective but at JPNS the staff understands that it is much less expensive to lose a little profit by beefing up packaging then to pay out a claim. So that is what we do. Even customer packed shipments get an inspection and they are beefed up a bit at times.
JPNS uses a Daily checklist to make sure tasks are completed, that way it is much easier to remember to get it done. The checklist covers items as mundane as filling copiers and printers – before they run out of paper, cleaning, tracking, ordering supplies, and auditing mailboxes for misplaced mail.
It would be very interesting to hear about policies and procedures used by other ship centers to prevent or catch mistakes. A comparison or benchmark of these actions would be beneficial for developing a shipping center Best Practice collection.
Measuring quality could be more difficult since it could be subjective based on owner/manager opinion. Blaming the customer for a wrong address, unavailability of recipients, and damage may exclude many preventable mistakes from being counted. However, looking at causes more objectively has helped JPNS to measure true shipment quality and strive to improve it. Regardless of fault, a ship center easily measure quality by keeping a tally of the number of returned packages, address corrections, and damage claims.