Ask any 3PL about the biggest challenges they face on a daily basis, and no doubt they'll say: "The paperwork ends up on a different truck to the stock!"
To those not in transport and logistics, this probably sounds like the most basic, most fundamental issue which should be very easily resolved. The issue is, however, without completely changing the way paperwork is handled, it's virtually impossible to stamp out the problem.
To understand why this occurs, let's first look at how most SME 3PLs operate:
When stock arrives into a 3PL depot from a client, generally all of the associated paperwork (invoices for all the orders they need to deliver) is sitting on top of one of the pallets, or sitting in the cab with the driver. The pallets are taken into the staging area, and the paperwork goes into the operations office.
If the 3PL performs carton deliveries, chances are that each pallet coming in contains multiple orders going to different places which need to be broken down and sorted into individual delivery runs. In this process, the pallets themselves, or the individual cartons within the pallets, are shifted into the correct area for the associated delivery run.
Meanwhile, the paperwork gets sorted into individual pigeon holes (delivery runs) within the operations office.
Confused? Let me explain using amazing computer-generated imagery:
Here, James is working in the office to split the paperwork into the various delivery runs. For each run, he has a little pigeon hole he puts the paperwork into. South, East, North etc.
Gary is doing the same thing, only he's doing it with the Cartons and Pallets.
How do they know which paperwork or box goes in which run? Well, they're experienced. They know the suburbs. They know that postcode 3000 is City, and Tullamarine is North.
However, they're doing this 250 times per day, and there's a few complications. On Tuesdays they run Brunswick on North rather than City due to needing to do early deliveries to an IGA. On Fridays Footscray is part of City, and on Mondays, due to a return pickup, Richmond is part of South. There's also another 20 or 30 rules but you get the gist.
So what happens?
Once, maybe twice a day physical stock is sorted into a different run than the associated paperwork. That's still over 99% accuracy, but it's not enough. As drivers cannot deliver without both stock and paperwork, and deliveries are extremely time-sensitive (they cannot simply bring back to the depot and try the next day), they often need to get the drivers to meet each other somewhere on the road to exchange.
Two Possible Solutions:
1. Get your clients to attach invoices to orders
The most simple solution in theory, yet the hardest to achieve, is simply to get all clients to attach their paperwork to the outside of the individual cartons or pallets associated with the order. If they're new clients, this can be do-able as you can set the terms when they first join. However, for old clients, this is going to be a tough-slog as you're asking them to do more work than they currently do. At Roving, we did this, but we lost clients in the process. We decided that this was such an important issue for us that losing a handful of clients for the greater good was acceptable, and we pushed forward. We had a very large client who wouldn't agree, so we bent the rules for them and attached the invoices to stock ourselves once it arrived, but for everyone else, it was simple: Put the invoice in a doculope on the outside of the box - if you don't, the customer won't get it.
2. Handle the documents digitally until you have finished allocating.
An easier to implement solution is actually to get all of the invoices emailed into CartonCloud. Clients can often email invoices directly from MYOB or their sales system of choice, to a CartonCloud email address. From here, CartonCloud can read the invoices and match them off against the correct consignment within the system. You can then do all of your allocations, and once complete, simply print all of the invoices on a per run-sheet basis. The cherry on top here is that the invoices print in drop-order. Plus, sending them digitally rather than printing them out can save your client time and money.
To get this up and running, you'll need to work with the CartonCloud team to setup parsers to read and automatically link the Invoices, but this is a one-time setup, and after that, documents get automatically matched. You can even use our Superimposed Proof Of Delivery to overlay the signature captured on the mobile phone onto the digital invoice and send that back to the client!
To get started, simply send an email through to support letting them know you want to automate invoices coming into CartonCloud.