Data and a More Efficient Shipping Process

Logistics is a data driven process. It runs on data, and produces a lot of it too.

While this creates opportunities, it creates challenges as well. The largest is that the data used in the process of shipping comes from a lot of different places, and in a variety of formats. This means pulling it all together and putting it work can be difficult.

A common method of streamlining data and processes around this challenge is digitization – which makes for a more seamless exchange and use of data. Manual processes for managing data are slow, inaccurate, and inefficient in general.

A company looking to take control of the data in their shipping process typically starts by mapping out how data moves through their operation – with the most important points being to know what outputs they need from the data, as well as where it’s all coming from. This includes not just the specific data points themselves, but also the formats and methods it gets delivered.

For example, a process that is widely managed inefficiently and benefits from digitization is international shipping. Every freight shipment, big or small, requires a lot of documentation. The Bill of Lading being the most basic. Getting the information for a BOL is easier said than done because all the inputs for it can come from a lot of places and the reason many companies still hand write them.

The ship to address can come from a Purchase Order. The product description and quantities may come via a feed from an ERP system. Special delivery instructions may come from a TMS or manually added from a Routing Guide, and the carrier name may come from a customer’s phone call. All this information must be brought together to complete a document that moves everywhere with the shipment.

Digitization and a system for data management can make the entire process easier and provides some other benefits as well.

Centralized shipment information allows documentation to be available on-demand. This helps de-centralized parties involved in the logistics process to be kept in the loop – not to mention making it easier to replace missing or lost paperwork along the way.

Pulling electronic data into a BOL (or any other documentation) improves accuracy because it eliminates the need for data to manually keyed in. This is, of course, a potential big time saver that helps with data accuracy as well.

When information is digitized and no longer hand-written on paper, it becomes more searchable and re-usable. Data can also be elevated to serve as a valuable decision support tool for companies that helps streamline logistics operations and even creates a better experience for customers. Better access to data means more transparency.

Of course, transitioning from manual or non-digitized processes for managing shipping needs to start with a plan and adding the necessary capabilities. A simple starting point can be to find the data points that are common to as many steps and documentation in the shipping process as possible (like the consignee address for example). For more information on our solution for data management and simplifying how your company creates shipping documentation, visit

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