What Are the Tools of the Modern Freight Forwarder?
The logistics industry in general, and freight forwarders in particular, get a lot of criticism for being behind the times with their adoption of technology. This is hardly a new observation. But, it seems the time is at hand where companies are recognizing the opportunity technology presents - the industry is changing.
This is a phenomena we recently wrote about: Why Is There the Perception that Freight Forwarders Are Slow to Adapt to Technology?
Technology and tools are more available than ever to both LSPs (Logistics Service Providers) and shippers alike. And today, smart forwarding companies are leveraging the advantages technology can offer.
The benefits of technology to the freight forwarder, and international shipping process overall, include improving or even eliminating task oriented processes. This can include improvements like cutting down on phone calls and paperwork, or automating manual activities.
The benefits go deeper too. Logistics technology can provide greater strategic advantages by supporting better decision making that improves areas like carrier and mode selection, or even helping to choose the location of suppliers around the world.
So how and where do these new tools fit into a freight forwarders operation?
Global logistics is notoriously paperwork and data intensive. Shipping documentation and customs paperwork are just two of the countless requirements that go into getting a shipment picked up and delivered across borders. Forwarders that leverage technology to capture and reuse relevant data gain the benefit of better data accuracy and access. An example of this type of solution is www.interarc.co.
To a forwarder, getting a customer to accept a quote is just the start of their work, especially for ocean cargo. Verifying space and sailing schedules through a booking platform make the process more efficient and reliable. This is a solution offered by www.inttra.com.
Rate and Contract Management
Freight rates are complicated and it’s normal for freight forwarders to be managing hundreds of carrier and customer rate sheets and contracts. Accessing these rates and calculating them with accuracy is impossible to do manually, especially when you also factor in surcharges and GRIs. Add to that the complexity of tariff filing and freight invoice audit, and the process is all the more difficult. www.gocatapult.com provides tools to manage every part of rate and contract management.
Dashboards & Connectivity
A big advantage for shippers today is access to real time track and trace information from carriers. The old way of communicating data – EDI – is rapidly being replaced by API technology. This allows freight forwarders to receive and present to shippers better information and make it accessible on-line. A leading API connectivity solution for logistics is www.p-44.com.
Freight forwarders are also under pressure from new types of forwarders who claim to be disrupting the industry. See www.flexeport.com and www.freightos.com for example. While many are bringing a new approach (and attitude) that is refreshing, some are really more about user experience and the customer interface than special technology. Many of these companies still rely on the technology (or manual processes) detailed above behind the scenes.
The bottom line is that forwarding is a competitive business and those that embrace and leverage technology will excel in the marketplace.