As a recent addition to the LIDD team, I learned about TL, LTL and courier shipping methods and their processing differences. TL means “truckload” while LTL stands for “less than truckload.” These shipping methods require different operational handling from the beginning of order processing all the way through shipping.
TL and LTL methods are for larger shipments, typically pallets. Material handling equipment, such as lifts or pallet jacks, is required for moving pallets. Since these orders may be handled only on certain dock doors, they often need to be assigned to carriers before being picked. Each pallet must be wrapped and identified by a packing slip, and a bill of lading must be provided to the carrier indicating the inventory of the shipment.
Courier orders are for smaller shipments in individual boxes. Once picked, these orders go to a packing station, have their weight and dimensions captured, are assigned a carrier, labeled with a packing slip, and then consolidated by carrier.
The differences in handling for these shipping methods begin with order processing and affect label creation, picking, packing and shipping. If an operation’s order profile or customer base changes a lot – say because a wholesaler enters e-commerce – then expect to see a change in shipping methods. That shift will ripple upward and affect the whole DC, even if individual SKUs never change much themselves. This is an important dynamic to consider if you open new sales channels.