As global supply chains become increasingly complicated, there are now more digital connections and business collaborations in the global shipping industry than ever before. Holding freight data in opaque, disconnected silos and relying on outdated methods of communication is not just inefficient - it’s unsustainable.
The global supply chain is no longer a linear process. Whereas before it was simply about moving freight from point A to B, now there is now a multitude of options for transporting that freight, each with its own unique set of capabilities and constraints.
So, what do shippers really want from their logistics service providers? Two things: accurate information at their fingertips and the ability to conduct business and transact - without having to pick up a phone or wait for email replies. Digital customer-facing freight execution platforms are the answer, collecting the most relevant and up-to-date data from carriers on one side, and providing shippers with a simplified and accelerated process on the other.
Digital freight execution platforms also provide shippers with a unified view of their shipping options, giving them the data they need at a glance to make an informed decision for any particular shipment.
Plus, as we continue to navigate uncertain waters, shippers are increasingly seeking solutions to increase resilience. After all, if there’s anything the last few years have taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. The organizations that were able to pivot fastest came out on top. The availability of accurate data and solutions to action that data are key building blocks to resiliency in the face of new and unexpected challenges. Supply chain optimization, especially today, hinges on accessible, up-to-the-minute data, shared and acted on to keep freight moving as successfully as possible.
Digital Freight Execution Puts Power in Shippers’ Hands
Increasingly, freight forwarders and logistics providers are giving their shipper customers access to online freight execution platforms for just this purpose.
Largely unheard of just a few short years ago, online freight execution tools for shippers have quickly emerged to become a must-have for established forwarders to compete with startup digital forwarders. Logistics providers can no longer afford to go without offering this critical customer tool which enables shippers to access crucial freight data online, including timely visibility of their freight on the move. Their shipper customers have come to expect it, and it’s what’s needed to compete in today’s market.
Traditional methods of communication between shippers and freight forwarders can be slow and inefficient. Email and phone tag are not conducive to fast decision-making, and sales representatives may not always have the most accurate information about fleets, equipment, and routes. Digital freight execution platforms enable shippers and carriers to communicate in real-time, facilitating fast decision-making while eliminating the potential for miscommunication.
As digital conveniences proliferate our day-to-day lives (think of ordering food online, tracking your latest purchase, viewing your favorite shows on-demand, and so much more), it only makes sense that we should expect similar experiences in our work lives. That means that the traditional way of working in the freight industry, fraught with manual processes, phone calls, and emails, simply doesn’t cut it in today’s digital-first world.
What’s more, with timely freight data, shippers are better equipped to quickly address exceptions by changing transportation plans. Supply chain disconnections are costly. Responding to exceptions is critical to a smooth-running supply chain where shipments arrive at their final destination as planned.
“An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage,” Jack Welch
One of the outstanding things about a digital freight platform is the ability to integrate various functional modules to enable shipment data to be used and shared. These may include tracking and visibility, warehouse inventory, ocean shipments, freight rates, and even finance information, enabling a shipper to pay invoices online. Customer-facing online portals are an important and effective way to facilitate a shippers’ access to key shipment information, improving visibility and productivity on all fronts.
Partnering for Sustainable Success
Partner programs are another important aspect of connected digital freight platforms. This openness to integrate with a broad range of shipping industry businesses, such as technology or service providers, offers shippers the ability to access their partners through their forwarders’ customer-facing freight execution portal. This enables the shipper to have a comprehensive and complete flow of key freight data based on their unique needs and partners.
For example, if a shipper is using a real-time transportation visibility (RTTV) system provider, they can work with their forwarder to integrate the RTTV solution with the forwarder’s digital platform. This is only possible when the forwarder has a partner program enabling integrations.
All parties involved with a shipment can boost productivity and enhance value for the customer when they’re digitally integrated with freight transaction operational areas and partner providers. Technology companies who try to wall off access to the data they manage for their customers and their functionality have it backwards: they might create an appearance of their own business interests being protected in the short term, but long term, they’re either going to hurt their customers, or, more likely, their own product development roadmap.
Recent supply chain challenges have pushed BCO shippers and their logistics partners to take a much closer look at cargo flows. Accessible, convenient, and transparent freight data is now the expectation and necessary to control costs and keep cargo in view for optimal supply chain management.
Digital freight execution is the wave of the future, and it's already making a big impact in the shipping industry. Streamlining data flows by building out connectivity helps to bring greater logistics harmony that allows shippers to optimize their overall freight ecosystem.