The JDA Parcel product is an extremely extensible, flexible, and robust solution.
As you move forward, there are a number of facets to this small package manifesting system that must be understood and acted upon to ensure a successful implementation. We’re going to highlight the most significant concepts and functionalities in this article.
While it is possible to implement some types of supply chain execution software and expect it to continue working with limited maintenance, small package manifesting systems, such as Parcel, do not fit that mold.
It’s imperative to understand that while a WMS has immense surface area and its configuration is solely dependent on your particular operational and technical requirements, JDA Parcel is substantially different. JDA Parcel is largely subject to changing regulations and each supported carrier’s implementation requirements. In short, Parcel requires regular, on-going maintenance to ensure it is providing accurate results.
The sections below go into many of the specific areas of concern that can make or break your implementation.
Routinely Purge Transactional Data
As we’ve mentioned in the past, Parcel will slow down if not properly configured to weed out old data. When compiling a list of criteria needed to properly route and rate packages, Parcel amasses a mountain of data that has little value after:
- The tracking number, delivery date, and shipping charges are determined
- Weekly carrier invoices are calculated and any discrepancies are resolved
Typically, carriers invoice on a weekly basis, meaning 8 weeks (60 days) of transactional data is more than adequate to allow for analysis when billing disputes inevitable occur from time to time.
Non-Commissioned Carrier Software
Every carrier supported by Parcel has a distinct method for communicating with its production back-end systems. In our experience, it has been common to find one or more carriers not fully configured which prevents the affected carrier from receiving package related data electronically.
Typically, this plays out in a couple painful ways:
- The carrier manually keys data into its systems and charges additional fees
- The carrier calls your Shipping Manager upset about the redundant data entry
- You receive greatly inflated invoices calculated using weighted averages
The standard configuration documentation that JDA provides for each supported and certified carrier outlines the commissioning process. It is important to understand how each carrier behaves and its distinctive configuration requirements to ensure package data is successfully provided to the carrier’s network.
Always Close Carrier Manifests in a Timely Manner
Before the carrier leaves with the day’s packages, the Parcel manifest for that carrier must be closed as it causes the package data to be transmitted to the carrier. When this process is followed as needed, the carrier is able to immediately start scanning the packages when they arrive at its induction facility.
However, when not performed in a timely manner, the same issues can arise as outlined above when a carrier is not properly commissioned. Luckily, carriers are usually forgiving at first and want to help you find a solution.
Keep the Carrier-Specific Software Current
For some carriers, Parcel must integrate with carrier software such as FedEx FSMS, UPS LinkHTTP, and DHL Cyclone Activator, to name a few.
As an example, in order for Parcel to route and rate FedEx packages, Parcel must interface with the FSMS software to gather the necessary information. In this scenario, Parcel acts as a proxy to FedEx given the carrier keeps its business logic contained within FSMS. Furthermore, if and when the FSMS software misbehaves or its configuration data becomes out of date, Parcel will be unable to create packages for that carrier until the issues afflicting FSMS are remedied.
There are other carriers that behave similarly, but FedEx is one of the most popular and misunderstood. Parcel provides carrier specific software configuration instructions, which when reviewed, provide the necessary information to keep the carrier specific software running optimally as well.
Keep Carrier Rates and Routes Current in JDA Parcel
Many carriers provide a method for JDA Parcel to download or access the rates your business has negotiated, but there are some that don’t provide such a mechanism. UPS is the most notable carrier in our experience. FedEx has its FSMS software and DHL allows for its data to be downloaded over FTP, but UPS doesn’t provide a formal method.
In this scenario, the rates and routing data must be acquired from your account rep and manually reformatted into a format that Parcel can load. There are many steps to this process, but thankfully, it is largely repetitive and can be easily taught to your IT resources.
For those of you that don’t track rates or leverage delivery data within your WMS, you are most likely not affected by this particular configuration step. However, those of you relying on this data to be accurate must plan to revisit this setup every time your business negotiates new rates — typically an annual event for most carriers with USPS reserving the right to do so on a quarterly basis.
Avoid Altering Carrier-Specific Compliant Labels
The need to add data to carrier-compliant labels is a routine exercise for most typical implementations. Your business may need a way to track additional data on carrier invoices or a large customer may have mandated that certain values must be displayed on labels sent with its orders.
Unfortunately, this almost always translates into an inexperienced consultant or employee directly altering the carrier shipping labels within Parcel.
Why is this a problem? Any time you upgrade or apply a service pack, you run the risk of losing your changes. If that is not enough, you run the risk of your carrier rejecting the labels if you haven’t properly certified your changes using their comprehensive and, sometimes, lengthy certification process.
Nearly every time we’ve been consulted on this matter, we have been able to avoid altering Parcel labels and instead have enhanced WMS manifesting functions to simply supply additional details to Parcel in the form of reference fields. This is the best practice way of getting your data on those labels and it also just happens to work for every carrier supported by Parcel.
If you need additional barcoded values, we have you covered there as well. It is a more involved undertaking, but adds less risk and keeps your logic in the WMS.
Carrier Requirements Can Change Frequently
Each carrier is subject to changes in federal and state law that may cause them to change their business requirements. When this happens, it can force JDA to update Parcel accordingly. This trickles down to you and your implementation as the carrier can refuse to take your packages if you are not also compliant.
Typically, such changes are communicated early and often to provide ample time to comply. This is also one of the underlying reasons Parcel has a three-year support cycle. With that said, it’s important to work with your carrier representatives and JDA consulting partner to keep abreast of carrier changes that may affect your operations.
Don’t Forget to Involve MacGregor with JDA Parcel
MacGregor has amassed a treasure trove of knowledge and expertise concerning Parcel over the years. Our team of consultants range from past Practice leaders with dozens of successful implementations to past product development personnel intimately familiar with the intricate details of the Parcel product. From small operations shipping a few dozen packages a day to behemoths shipping 100K packages on a daily basis with strict throughput demands, we’ve been there and done that.
We’d venture to say no other consulting firm has the experience or expertise that we do in this arena.