Author: Extensiv Apr 05, 2024 9 Min READ

Shipping Manifest: Definition, Examples & More

9 Min READ
Shipping Manifest: Definition, Examples & More


Shipping Manifests Explained: What They Are & How to Write Them

Shipping manifests are critical documents for ecommerce businesses, retailers, and third-party logistics (3PL) providers. They are vital for accurate inventory and optimizing warehouse management and order fulfillment processes.

However, despite their importance, manifests often create business challenges for shippers. For example, when employees leave out or enter incorrect information like product descriptions, quantities, or weights, it can create a logistics nightmare, resulting in the wrong products going out to customers or regulatory and compliance oversights.

Retailers and 3PLs must overcome these challenges to maintain operational efficiency and ensure customer satisfaction, but doing so without the support of warehouse management systems (WMS) and order management systems (OMS) may feel daunting.

See how Extensiv drives the modern supply chain

These fulfillment technologies can help automate and simplify warehouse shipping procedures such as creating and managing shipping manifests. When integrated with inventory management and sales platforms, you can ensure shipping manifest and order accuracy, for example, by automatically inputting relevant information into your shipping database. You can also incorporate technologies like barcode scanning into these systems to reduce manual processes and improve tracking and accountability during shipping.

What Are Shipping Manifests?

A shipping manifest is a list of items in a shipment. It contains essential information, such as item descriptions, quantities, weights, and other relevant details. Shipping manifests help goods move from one place to another, whether within a warehouse, between different locations, or among supply chain stakeholders. A manifest ensures transparency, accuracy, and compliance throughout the shipping process.

In logistics and the supply chain, shipping manifests manage inventory, fulfill orders, and comply with regulations. By accurately documenting all items in a shipment, manifests enable businesses to track the movement of goods. They are also critical in ensuring compliance with customs regulations, tax obligations, and other legal requirements for transporting goods.

For instance, a retail business may need to send a batch of products to its distribution center. In this shipping manifest example, the document should include detailed information about each item, such as product codes, descriptions, quantities, and weights. As the shipment moves through a logistics network, the manifest will serve as a reference point for supply chain staff to verify contents, update inventory records, and accurately fulfill orders.

In a more extensive network, some products may need to be exported across international markets. In this instance, the shipping manifest would also include information necessary for customs clearance, such as harmonized system codes for exports, declared values, importer and exporter names, and country of origin.

The Role of Shipping Manifests

Shipping manifests streamline operations, open the door to organized warehouse growth, and enhance customer experiences.

For retail business owners, manifests enable precise tracking of stock levels, preventing stockouts and ensuring seamless order fulfillment. You can use manifests to cross-reference picked and packed items against orders received to minimize errors and enhance customer satisfaction.

Similarly, for 3PL providers handling fulfillment on behalf of retailers, manifests boost customer loyalty and facilitate efficient warehouse management by providing clear documentation of incoming and outgoing shipments and act as a blueprint for picking, packing, and shipping.

The detailed information in a manifest is also essential for regulatory compliance. Retailers and 3PLs must adhere to various requirements governing the shipment of goods, including customs regulations and other obligations. Shipping manifests provide the necessary documentation to demonstrate compliance, which mitigates the risk of penalties and fines and also fosters trust and confidence among customers and regulatory agencies.

Shipping manifests also facilitate tracking and traceability throughout the shipping process, benefiting retailers and logistics companies. By recording relevant information such as shipment status, tracking numbers, and delivery updates, manifests enable stakeholders to monitor the movement of goods in real-time. This visibility is crucial for proactive inventory management, allowing timely intervention to circumvent delays and other issues. Accurate tracking of shipping information also enhances customer experiences by enabling transparency for order status.

Shipping manifests are also crucial for billing and invoicing. Documenting services rendered, including the number of items shipped and additional services provided, ensures that all involved parties clearly understand services and associated costs, which fosters transparency and accountability for all financial transactions.

7 Types of Shipping Manifests and Their Applications

1. Cargo Manifest

A cargo manifest provides detailed information about the cargo a vessel or aircraft is transporting such as descriptions, quantities, weights, and destination ports or airports. It records all cargo loaded onto a vessel or aircraft, which aids in cargo handling, stowage planning, and customs clearance.

Unlike other manifests, a cargo manifest specifically focuses on goods transported via sea or air.

Use Case: Retailers or 3PLs involved in international trade may use a cargo manifest to ensure accurate documentation and tracking of goods transported by sea or air.

2. Freight Manifest

A freight manifest lists details of goods transported by land, generally in trucks or trains, including product descriptions, quantities, and destinations. It’s a record of the transported freight, helping with route planning, load optimization, and proof of delivery.

Unlike other manifests, a freight manifest specifically pertains to goods transported over land.

Use Case: Retailers or 3PLs involved in domestic transportation of goods by truck or train may use a freight manifest to ensure accurate documentation and efficient routing.

3. Export Manifest

An export manifest contains information about goods leaving a country for international destinations, including product details, quantities, and export declarations. It ensures compliance with export regulations, customs authorities, and trade documentation requirements.

Unlike other manifests, an export manifest provides information about goods leaving a country for international destinations, ensuring compliance with regulations and facilitating customs clearance.

Use Case: Retailers or 3PLs involved in exporting goods to foreign markets may use an export manifest to ensure regulatory compliance and facilitate smooth and compliant exportation.

4. Import Manifest

An import manifest provides information about goods entering a country from international sources, including product descriptions, quantities, and import declarations. It helps customs officials verify incoming shipment contents, assess duties and taxes, and facilitate clearance of goods into the country.

Unlike other manifests, an import manifest specifically pertains to goods entering a country from foreign sources.

Use Case: Retailers or 3PLs involved in importing goods from overseas may use an import manifest to comply with customs requirements and expedite the clearance with accurate documentation.

5. Hazardous Material Manifest (or Dangerous Cargo Manifest)

A hazardous material manifest is required for shipments containing hazardous materials, such as chemicals, gasses, or flammable liquids. It includes detailed information about the nature of the hazardous materials, packaging, handling instructions, and emergency response procedures. It ensures the safe handling, transport, and disposal of dangerous goods.

Unlike other manifests, a hazardous material manifest specifically focuses on shipments containing hazardous substances, emphasizing safety and regulatory compliance.

Use Case: By law, retailers or 3PLs involved in transporting hazardous materials are required to use hazardous material manifests to ensure compliance with regulations and mitigate risks associated with transporting hazardous substances.

6. Out-of-Gauge Manifest

An out-of-gauge manifest is for shipments exceeding standard size or weight limits, often called oversized or overweight cargo. It provides details about dimensions, weight, and special handling requirements. It helps logistics providers plan and execute transportation, including obtaining necessary permits, arranging specialized equipment, and ensuring safe handling and delivery instructions.

Unlike other manifests, an out-of-gauge manifest specifically pertains to shipments that deviate from standard size or weight limits and require special handling and transportation arrangements.

Use Case: Retailers or 3PLs involved in transporting oversized or overweight cargo, such as machinery, equipment, or large structures, may use an out-of-gauge manifest to ensure compliance with regulations and coordinate the logistics of transporting non-standard cargo.

7. Reefer Manifest

A reefer manifest is used to transport temperature-sensitive goods (perishable cargo), which require a controlled environment to maintain quality throughout transit. It includes details such as product nature, temperature settings, and handling instructions. It guides the entire transportation process, including finding suitable temperature-controlled storage facilities, maintaining optimal temperatures, and adhering to strict handling protocols.

Unlike other manifests, a reefer manifest is for shipments that need temperature-controlled conditions, such as pharmaceuticals, fresh produce, or frozen foods.

Use Case: Retailers or 3PLs involved in transporting perishable goods use reefer manifests to guarantee safe and hygienic product shipments to ensure preservation of product quality and regulatory compliance.

Common Challenges for Shipping Manifest Creation and Solutions

Inaccurate Inventory Data

Maintaining accurate inventory levels is essential to avoiding errors in manifest creation, which can cause incorrect shipments and unhappy customers. One solution to this challenge is to use fulfillment software that integrates with inventory management systems. This integration provides real-time visibility into stock levels, ensuring up-to-date inventory data. Brands and 3PLs can use this information to confidently create shipping manifests, reducing the risk of errors and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Manual Entries and Human Errors

Manually entering product details, quantities, or shipping addresses repeatedly can lead to discrepancies in shipping manifests, causing delays and additional expenses for corrections and updates. However, fulfillment software can overcome this challenge, which automates manifest creation using a predefined shipping manifest template and data from order management systems. By eliminating manual data entry, the software can reduce the risk of errors and streamline manifest creation, saving time and reducing expenses.

Compliance Issues

Carriers have specific requirements for type of packaging, labeling, and documentation. There are also country-based and other regulatory requirements. Non-compliance causes delays and fines. Fulfillment software can ensure compliance, automatically generate compliant and accurate shipping labels, and include all required documentation. It automates and standardizes processes, reducing non-compliance risk and ensuring smooth shipping.

Managing Different Requirements

3PLs manage multiple clients, and each client can have unique preferences, specifications, and documentation requirements for shipments. Additionally, ecommerce brands and retailers may work with different suppliers, carriers, and processes for different products, which can also affect requirements on shipping manifests. This makes it challenging to ensure manifest consistency and accuracy. Fulfillment software can help by providing customizable templates and workflows for each situation, allowing users to tailor manifests to meet individual needs.

Coordinating Shipping Companies and Transportation Modes

Logistics operations often involve multiple carriers and utilize different transportation options to move goods, complicating manifest creation and management. Fulfillment software can address this with carrier integrations and provide a centralized platform to manage all shipping processes. By automating carrier selection, tracking shipments and freight charges, and consolidating documentation, fulfillment software streamlines manifest creation and simplifies logistics operations.

Ensuring Timely and Accurate Communication

Delays or errors transmitting shipping manifests can cause supply chain disruptions. This can negatively impact customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. Fulfillment software can mitigate this with real-time shipment status visibility and automated client and carrier notifications. With proactive alerts for shipping issues or changes, fulfillment software enables logistics providers to maintain open communication and promptly address concerns. This ensures smooth and transparent shipping.

Unlock the secrets to prevailing in the world of ecommerce and logistics in our  exclusive webinar – hear Rick Watson’s unique perspective and actionable  insights for leading in the next era of commerce.

How to Create Shipping Manifests

By streamlining shipping manifest creation, verification, and transmission, brands and 3PLs can minimize errors, reduce shipping costs, and enhance customer satisfaction with timely and accurate deliveries.

When you link order information to shipping manifests, you can streamline shipping document creation and verification, which decreases manual errors and improves order fulfillment efficiency. Additionally, training staff members to use these systems effectively ensures smooth adoption and integration into daily operations.

With regular monitoring and process improvements, you can seamlessly integrate manifest creation into your existing workflows and systems (for example, ecommerce shipping solutions) to improve your accuracy and communication. Here are six best practices you can take to create accurate shipping manifests:

1. Understand Individual Requirements

Gather comprehensive information about all unique shipping requirements, such as product details, packaging specifications, and delivery preferences. This is an essential first step in creating accurate shipping manifests. Fulfillment software can streamline this step with customizable profiles and intake forms that capture and store client-specific preferences and requirements. By centralizing this information in one platform, you can ensure manifest consistency and accuracy for each party involved.

2. Verify order information

Ensure all order details, including product descriptions, quantities, and shipping addresses, are accurate. Automate this process by integrating your shipping platform with an order management system to retrieve and verify order information in real time. You can ensure accuracy and reduce errors by automatically cross-referencing order details with inventory data.

2. Select Shipping Method and Coordinate Carrier Options

Choose the correct shipping method and best carrier for each shipment to optimize delivery times and shipping expenses. Coordinate carrier selection based on individual preferences, shipment characteristics, and transportation routes. This step ensures shipping efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Fulfillment software can assist with warehouse shipping procedures by integrating with carrier systems to access real-time rates, transit times, and service level options. By analyzing factors such as carrier performance, pricing, and service offerings, you can make informed decisions and select the most suitable carrier and rates for each shipment.

3. Generate Shipping Labels with Automation

To ensure smooth transit and delivery, create accurate shipping labels with correct recipient information, tracking numbers, and carrier barcodes. Fulfillment software can automate shipping label generation by pulling relevant information from shipping manifests and order details. You can ensure labeling consistency and accuracy with standardized labels that comply with carrier requirements.

4. Automatically Create Customized Manifests

Automate shipping manifest creation to meet requirements, comply with regulatory standards, and ensure smooth shipping processes. Fulfillment software can streamline this with customizable templates and workflows. By pre-populating manifest fields with stored data, you can simplify creation of accurate and standardized manifests, reduce manual errors and ensure compliance with individual specifications and regulations.

5.  Coordinate Documentation (for International Shipments)

Create accurate customs documentation for international shipments–such as commercial invoices, export declarations, and certificates of origin–to ensure customs compliance and smooth clearance through checkpoints. Fulfillment software can simplify this by automatically generating customs documentation based on information provided in shipping manifests and order details. Ensuring all required customs information is included and accurately formatted can expedite the customs clearance process and avoid delays in international shipments.

6. Track Shipment Progress and Communicate with Stakeholders

Monitor shipment progress in transit to proactively address delays or other issues and provide customers with accurate delivery updates. Fulfillment software can provide real-time visibility into shipment status and data analytics by integrating with carrier systems for shipment tracking and monitoring. By providing visibility into shipment status and delivery milestones, you can keep stakeholders informed and effectively manage expectations throughout the shipping process.

Use Extensiv to Ensure Accurate and Compliant Shipping Manifests

Extensiv's warehouse and order management solutions help brands and 3PLs overcome shipping manifest challenges like accuracy and compliance by automating and streamlining inventory management, shipping manifest creation, and document storage and management.

Extensiv’s tools ensure you can accurately ship every item with real-time status updates and tracking.

For businesses struggling to overcome the complexities of shipping manifests and that want to optimize fulfillment workflows, Extensiv simplifies these processes, ensuring compliance and improving customer satisfaction.

Extensiv offers several features and functionalities to ensure accurate and compliant shipping manifests, for example:

  • Automated data analytics to ensure all shipping manifest information is accurate and complete. Extensiv automatically validates product details, quantities, weights, and shipping addresses against existing inventory and order information.
  • Seamless integration with carrier systems to streamline shipping manifest creation and management. By connecting directly with carrier APIs, Extensiv retrieves real-time shipping rates, transit times, and offerings, allowing retailers to make informed decisions when selecting shipping methods, carriers, and rates. Extensiv can also automatically generate shipping labels and documents.
  • Customizable templates to meet specific shipping requirements and preferences. You can define fields, layouts, and workflows to align with your processes and compliance standards, including client-specific instructions and branding. For logistics providers, client profiles centralize individual data so you can easily access and reference client-specific instructions to ensure shipping manifests are tailored to meet individual client needs and comply with regulatory standards.
  • Automated compliance checks ensure shipping manifests are accurate and adhere to regulatory requirements and industry standards. Extensiv validates shipment details, including product classifications, packaging specifications, and customs documentation, against relevant regulations and compliance frameworks. You can flag potential shipping manifest issues or discrepancies early to proactively rectify compliance problems.

Accurate and well-documented shipping manifests are essential for smooth supply chain operations. Whether done efficiently or poorly, they significantly impact inventory management, order fulfillment, and regulatory compliance. To tackle shipping manifest complexities, consider implementing an advanced fulfillment software solution like Extensiv to streamline processes, automate compliance, and enhance overall shipping performance.

Interested in learning more industry best practices? Subscribe to our blog above!

FREE REPORT Proven Ways to Improve Warehouse Profitability Get the guide for a five-point warehouse tune-up.  

Shipping Manifest FAQs

What information is included in a shipping manifest?

A shipping manifest is a detailed record of the contents of a shipment. It includes information such as product descriptions, quantities, weights, and destination addresses for each item. This comprehensive record helps with inventory management, order fulfillment, and regulatory compliance.

What are some common challenges associated with shipping manifests?

Some common challenges associated with shipping manifests include data accuracy, manual entry errors, and regulatory compliance. If these challenges are not handled efficiently, they can lead to shipping errors, delays, and regulatory fines.

What is the difference between shipping manifests and bills of lading?

Shipping manifests and bills of lading are different documents that serve as records of transported goods. Shipping manifests provide detailed information about shipment contents, such as product descriptions and quantities. Bills of lading are legal documents carriers issue to acknowledge goods receipt. They are contracts that outline transportation terms and conditions.

Written By:

Latest Insights

May 09, 2024 6 Min READ
May 07, 2024 8 Min READ
May 02, 2024 2 Min READ