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FREIGHT FOCUS: Linking Freight Charges to the Web

March 1, 2009
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Manufacturers must stay ahead of the curve to keep costs in line, especially in this economic climate. Extensible markup language (XML) can be used to seamlessly link freight rates to different existing desktop and online applications. The use of XML technology can help companies become more cost effective by providing accurate freight estimates while improving efficiency for freight invoice checks and balances.

Online Services

A Web service is best described as an Internet-based program that can be used by an existing application that centralizes certain data for internal or Internet use. Since most freight rating engines are Web-based, companies can use a Web service to instantly provide the data needed to rate a shipment. The Web service transfers the data (generally zip code, freight class and weight) to rate a shipment from any program the shipper wishes to use, interfaces with the rating engine, and sends back the data (freight cost, transit time, quote number, etc.).

Different shippers use a Web service for a variety of applications, depending on their specific needs and procedures. Most commonly, shippers tie the service into their order entry program, accounting software, bill of lading application, or e-commerce shopping carts to provide automatic and accurate “shipping and handling” costs to each order or Web-based quote.

Customer Service
Customer service staff can save huge amounts of time by using the order entry program. In this case, the customer service person keys the customer’s order into the order entry program. The data electronically pings the rating engines through the Web service and sends back that rating data, having calculated the freight rate.

Accounting
A Web-based service provides companies with the ability to automatically upload freight rate data to invoices for freight pre-paid and add-order invoices. Many companies still wait for the carrier invoice to arrive, or at least until the carrier sends a confirmation e-mail following shipment, to send the invoice to the customer. Tying the rates to the accounting program allows for immediate invoicing, which helps speed up cash flow.

Bill of Lading
Many shippers use a Web service to integrate freight rates into their bill of lading program if they do not have the appropriate rate data at the time of order entry. Freight rates are automatically synched into the program as employees in shipping fill out the bills of lading. This is very helpful for matching freight invoices as they come in to ensure that the carrier is billing properly.

E-Commerce
Tying a Web-based service into an e-commerce program makes it easy for online shoppers to see what the freight rates are before making a purchasing decision or choosing between various shipping methods. Customers rely on e-commerce sites to provide as much information as possible so they can make an informed decision about their purchases.

High-Tech Tools

The use of a Web-based service is extremely powerful. The amount of time it saves and the accountability it provides are worth their weight in gold.

Any views or opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of Ceramic Industry, its staff, Editorial Advisory Board or BNP Media.

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