Strategies for managing complex business rules for parcel shipping don’t need to be complex.
Written by Jeff Lukaszewski, Research & Development Expert at ProShip, Inc.
Every enterprise has their own unique processes surrounding their parcel shipping strategy. ProShip calls these processes business rules. Business rules define or constrain some specific aspect of a business process. These rules are necessary because of the rapidly changing shipping environment to support not only operational decisions, but to monitor the effectiveness of the entire enterprise from a performance point-of-view.
Breaking down the two types of complex business rules
Typically, business rules are one of two types: prescriptive or algorithmic. Prescriptive business rules are conditional or functional, usually represented by true or false. These rules are designed and setup to be configurable and easily changed by the business as their needs change. An example of a prescriptive business rule: if the value of a good being shipped is greater than or equal to a set value, then enable signature requirement for the shipment.
Algorithmic rules act as processors, by taking an input and returning an output. Unlike prescriptive rules, algorithmic rules are designed to be fixed and static. They can have configurable options, but for the most part, you control them by changing the input. An example of using algorithmic rules is carrier service rate shopping.
When using a multi-carrier shipping solution, the software will leverage the use of a database, custom scripts, and modules that enhance functionality to implement customer specific business rules. Some of the most implemented business rules are:
- Basic or advanced rate shopping
- Translations for ship methods or value add services
- Blind or Drop Ship rules
- Customer markups or discounts on freight cost
- Using data indicator to set the return address printed on the shipping label
- Using data indicator to set third party account information
When working with your software implementation team, a few key things must be kept in mind when discussing what business rules your company will need. When creating rules around data supplied by the carrier (e.g., rates, time in transit, sort code or zone data), not all carriers supply the same types of data, and it might be unavailable for a specific carrier. Here is where having a world-class service team on your side as part of your shipping technology makes all the difference – the integration team can work with your business to find a viable solution to smooth out these disparities.
Remember, business rules can range from simple to complex depending on the shipping environment. It is worth noting that the simpler the business rule, the easier it is to implement and maintain. In some cases, complex or multi-layered business are a necessary requirement. Though we don’t recommend implementing super complex business rules, here are some of the ones we’ve worked with:
- Weather Data Feed
- The data feed could be used in an upstream process to determine how to package a shipment
- The data feed could expedite routing based on the information
- Carrier Cost Markup
- The logic behind markup can be complex depending on how a customer marks up or potentially discounts the cost returned by the carrier. Especially if the markup/discount will be different by customer, service, and potentially destination.
- Change Audit
- Logging/Storage of what changed on an address from what was sent from the host system vs. what the address validation handler corrected.
- Multi-Origin Rating
- Ability to rate shop from multiple origins in a single call to determine the most cost-effective origin to ship it from.
- Carrier Service Exclusions
- Exclude various carriers or services based on cost, destination, or being shipped within a specific date range (i.e. don’t use USPS when it is between Dec. 21st and Dec. 24th).
- Hazmat/Dangerous Goods
- Routing of packages based on various products the shipment contains.
If possible, complex business rules should be reviewed by a knowledgeable implementation team and kept to a minimum as they can increase transaction time.
ProShip’s complex business rule advantage
No customer can process shipments efficiently and effectively without business rules. One benefit that sets ProShip apart from the competition is transactional speed. There is proven correlation between the number of business rules and the transaction time of the system. The ProShip implementation team works with you to minimize the transaction time of your business rules using innovative and advanced strategies including running as many rules upstream as possible. With these strategies in mind, parcel shipping challenges don’t have to be difficult and complicated. Managing your complex business rules becomes simple and cost-effective with the right partner.