Getting Started With Shipment Weather

Many businesses ship weather-sensitive products such as wine, food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. Shipment Weather uses worldwide weather forecast data to verify that the weather at the shipping destination is within provided parameters that will not damage the items being shipped.  Users can plan shipments that reduce product spoilage and increase customer satisfaction.

The tool helps reduce product returns and bad reviews by aligning shipping dates to favorable weather conditions at the destination. You can import your existing order lists into the easy-to-use, web-based interface, and Shipment Weather system will automatically use the most current weather forecasts for each destination location to identify at-risk shipments. For shipments that are at risk of experiencing increment weather, Shipment Weather will offer suggested adjustments based on weather criteria that are specific to the product being shipped. 

For more information, and to sign up for a free trial, visit https://www.visualcrossing.com/shipment-weather

This article walks through the basic features of Shipment Weather.  You will learn to identify shipments that are likely to be at risk due to adverse weather at the destinations.  You will then use the Shipment Weather interface to adjust the delivery dates for at risk shipments and export that the updated list for external use. 

If you would like to follow along with the tutorial, you can download the sample data from the attachments to this article at the bottom of this page.

Quick overview

We will walk through the following steps in this introduction to the Shipment Weather application:

1. Importing shipment destinations and dates from a file

2. Creating custom shipping rules to identify the shipments that are outside of the optimal weather conditions

3. View the destinations and any weather exceptions in the Shipment Weather Calendar 

4. Modify the delivery date for destinations that are predicted to be outside of optimal conditions.

5. Export the list of shipments including any modifications made.

6. Use historical weather norms to plan shipments throughout the year

 

Step 1 - Importing shipment destinations from a file

The first step to investigate possible weather-related problems with a list of shipping destinations is to provide the tool with the destinations and an optional delivery dates. The destinations can be imported from a file or entered manually. After logging into Shipment Weather, you will be presented with the following display that allows you to select between importing the locations from a file or by using manual entry:

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We will be using a sample file of shipping destinations from a Comma Separated Values (CSV) file. A CSV is a table of data that includes multiple columns. You can easily create a CSV from data in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets by saving the data as a CSV file type. The file must include headers for each column.

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We click 'File' in the above screen to import a file. This window allows us to select a file from the local hard disk or drag-and-drop the file onto the target. (Notice that you could also paste the data from the clipboard using the 'Paste Data' option.  When pasting data be sure to include the column headers so the system can identify the columns for that dataset.)

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We select the 'Choose from file' option and select the CSV file provided with this tutorial. The application then analyzes the data using the column names as a guide for the information the system requires. Shipment Weather then presents you with a preview of the data plus the ability to define which columns the system should use for ID, Address, Name and Delivery Date.

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The system can utilize up to four columns for its analysis. Note that you may use the same column for multiple purposes with in the application simply by selecting that column name more than once.  These four columns are the following: 

ID

ID is an optional column that contains a value that uniquely identifies the destination location. This is typically an order number, customer name, customer address, or other value that you used to identify a specific shipment.

Address

Address is a required column representing the address of the destination. Typically this should be a complete address however it could also be an "approximate" address or latitude, longitude combinations. Note that approximate addresses, such as ZIP codes or postal codes, will create approximate location match and so should be used with caution.

Name

Name is a required column. This value will be used throughout the application when displaying the destination. You should choose the column that is most descriptive of the recipient the each shipment. It is typical to use the customer's name, but you can instead use the order ID or other value that is a common identifier within your shipping management.

Delivery Date

Delivery Date is an optional date indicating the currently expected arrival date for the shipment. The application will use this date to flag shipment that are at risk of weather-related problems. This value is typically exported from your shipper's delivery management system.  If no delivery date is supplied, the application will select two days into the future as a default.

In this tutorial, we will use the following column configuration as shown in the screenshot:

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Hit 'Add new data' to finish importing the data into the Shipment Weather application.

Step 2 - Creating custom shipping rules

Shipping rules are the criteria you supply to flag shipments that may be at risk from adverse weather conditions. By default, the system offers the following default shipping rules:

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Using these defaults, if the maximum temperature for the day is greater than 80F or if the minimum temperature for the day is less than 32, the shipment will be flagged as being at risk.

Additional shipping rules can be created to identify other conditions.  The user can create any number of weather alert groups as needed.  To add a new maximum temperature rule, hit the 'Add rule' in the Maximum Temperature' section. The system then adds a new rule:

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By default this new rule is set to 70-80F.   You can modify the 70F to set a higher or lower threshold. Here we will change the default text to something more descriptive or the required action and change the rule color to make it more distinctive on the calendar.  You can do so based on the screenshot below.
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We now have three rules. Hit 'Submit' to load the forecast weather conditions to identify the destinations that are forecast to experience weather-related problems.

 

Step 3 - View the destinations in the Shipment Weather Calendar 

Shipment Weather loads the weather data and presents the following calendar display.

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At the top we can see the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that reflect the shipping rules we created in the previous step. You will recognize the three rules and their colors:

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We can see that 10 shipments have no concerns based on their current delivery dates, one destination is too hot, five are too cold, and three destinations need premium packaging.

Click on the 'Too cold' blue KPI to sort the list by moving the the 'Too Cold' locations to the top.

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The five locations that are at risk for 'Too Cold' weather are now displayed at the top of the weather calendar. For each day, the date is colored based on the Shipping Rules that you defined. A grey color on the day indicates that no Shipping Rules are matched for that date.

Also notice that the calendar includes the current actual weather forecast (typically five to seven days) and then fills in the remaining space to the right with the typical weather conditions for that location based on historical weather patterns.  Typical weather patterns are an excellent method for doing long-term forecasting of shipments and works well with the "Annual" view option.   

Caution should be used when making decisions based on Typical Weather conditions alone. Typical Weather is a useful planning tool but should not be used for business critical decisions as the Weather Forecast can vary significantly from the typical conditions.

You will notice that some days include a 'mailbox' icon mceclip12.png. This icon indicates the day, based on your input data, that the delivery is currently scheduled to be made.  For those that imported estimated delivery dates it will reflect those dates.   For those that did not import delivery dates, the icon will be set by default as a two-day shipment.   If we click on the day with the icon in the first row, detailed weather forecast information is displayed

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Step 4 -  Modify the delivery date for destinations that are predicted to be outside optimal conditions

If we consider the first item in our list of 'Too Cold' shipping destinations, we see a grey date displayed a few days after the currently scheduled delivery date:

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Let's change the delivery date to that date to prevent cold weather damage to our shipment.

Click on the grey date, and the following popup is displayed with the weather forecast for the date.

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There is a button "Set as delivery date" to update the delivery date. Press this button to modify the delivery date and set it to the currently selected date. The calendar row is updated to display the new date. Notice that the originally planned for delivery date is displayed with an "outline mailbox" icon for reference.

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Also notice that we now have one less entry in our 'Too Cold' KPI display:

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Step 5 - Export the updated list of shipments

We now need to communicate the changes made to our shipment process and the affected customers. To do so we can export the list of destinations with their modified delivery date. 

Hit the mceclip18.pngdownload button in the upper right of the window besides the PKIs. This will enable you to save the modified list of destinations. 

Step 6 -  Plan shipments throughout the year

The Shipment Weather application also allows you to view the typical weather conditions for the upcoming year to identify general periods of the year where deliveries may be impacted. 

To do so, click the mceclip19.pngbutton.

The application takes a moment to calculate a full year of historical weather patterns based on typical conditions:

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Looking at this view it is easy to see that the northern locations will have a period of cold weather throughout the winter months. Similarly during the summer many destinations may be too warm or require premium packaging. 

Understanding how weather will affect your shipments at different times within the year will help you set correct expectations with customers such as delaying shipments of live goods or requiring premium packaging for all deliveries. 

Tutorial data.

The data used for this tutorial can be downloaded from the attachments for this article below.

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