Logistics and Supply Chain Process Automation: 5 Steps to Prep your Company
Each time a freight forwarder helps their customer move a container, they spend countless hours getting rate quotes from their logistics suppliers, sending load instructions and BOLs, and searching for attachments within their bloated email service. This process is tedious and time-consuming, especially when you factor in the other tasks required like tracking loads, processing invoices, and maintaining customer relationships. Fortunately, freight forwarders have a bit of help getting those projects off their desk with logistics process automation, that is, the use of technologies to streamline accounting and file paperwork to make their jobs easier and less stressful.
Logistics automation saves time and production costs and reduces the remedial tasks involved when combing through emails for lost documents, allowing them to focus on more important goals like managing accounts and growing new business. This article looks at some of the steps freight forwarders can take to prepare them for automation.
The global pandemic exposed the precarity existing within supply chain management and logistics networks as a whole. Companies everywhere experienced major disruptions due to the effects of government-mandated quarantine orders and closures. The pandemic accelerated growth in e-commerce sales. A surge in consumer spending exacerbated port congestion and ship dwell times and created a general shortage of truck capacity, chassis, and containers. Covid-related disruptions impeded many companies from optimizing their current operations, improving labor efficiencies, and responding to changing market forces.
Implementing technologies to improve internal digitization processes is just one of the essential steps freight forwarders can take to stay competitive within today’s marketplace. The other step is embracing industry trends toward automating customer-facing experiences, such as online pricing tools and customizable SaaS technologies. Failing to adopt industry trends may push some freight forwarders toward irrelevance.
But where should companies start if they want to use automation? Implementing change management can be challenging for businesses. Freight forwarders are already under enormous pressure to fulfill higher volumes from their customers. Any overhaul of existing processes will likely have a cost involved. Decision-makers must figure out exactly what processes require automation in the first place. Any overhaul of existing processes will involve a financial cost and require user adoption training.
Freight forwarders that are ready to embrace technological change must prepare themselves. Here are some things to consider before automating your operations:
The first significant step in implementing logistics and supply chain automation requires identifying internal workflow inefficiencies within the business. Nobody knows this better than the employees who are following daily procedures. Ask your workers to create workflow charts, send out questionnaires asking for feedback on current processes, and conduct interviews with them to learn about what procedures need improvement. After collecting and analyzing this data, decision-makers can determine what manual processes need optimization. Remember that whatever automation project you are considering for your business, the workers will be the ones that use it most. Not only will their feedback be necessary, but your chosen automation should be designed to benefit your teams.
Business leaders ready to invest in automation should research whether their potential tech partner has any customer testimonials. Learning how other businesses in your industry have already implemented and embraced the use of automation will help determine whether the technology is a good fit for your business. These business endorsements usually showcase ways that automation streamlined operations by reducing costs and eliminating time-consuming manual processes. Take the time to research how logistics automation can support your business.
After analyzing internal processes and researching what areas in the business might benefit from automation, the next step is to create a roadmap that calculates factors such as:
Logistics automation is designed to help freight forwarders reduce the time spent on remedial tasks, allowing them to focus their energies on more critical initiatives. Before implementing AI tools, business leaders should plan how it will affect their business.This plan should include keeping everyone informed regarding the project’s status. As Deloitte points out,“proper internal communication within the company is an important prerequisite for the smooth progress of the project. If the entire team is not properly briefed on the project, its implementation could be slowed down, and some team members could even block the process for various reasons, leading to delays and additional costs.”
The vast majority of forwarders spend most of their day stressed about monotonous daily routines. That consists primarily of sending emails back and forth with providers and shippers, tracking down rate quotes and paperwork, and making sure loads arrive on time. The introduction of automation can help companies shift away from clunky manual processes and allow staff to focus on things like procurement and customer service, which are the real driving force for business success.
Tech solutions can really help freight forwarders collect and process data that might otherwise remain buried in email attachments and not shared internally with other team members or analysts. Logistics and supply chain automation can collect data transmitted between forwarders, providers, and customers, helping businesses visualize expenditure costs over time. Beyond that, it can also minimize the chance of errors and ensure that your operations run as smoothly as possible.
Expedock automation software has helped some freight forwarders save between 20-80% on their total expenditures. The technology eliminates hundreds of hours typically spent on manual data entry by automatically creating a cloud-based database that saves invoices and other documents. This automation helps eliminate redundant workforce inefficiencies and allows freight forwarders to organize their data into easy-to-use software. Further, the software alerts team members of any discrepancies found in the accumulated data, ensuring that each load you ship with your customer is free of errors.
Adopting automation software starts by understanding that your current operations are not working efficiently. Each forwarder is different, and it's essential to know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to help streamline manual processes. That’s why it’s important to adopt customizable technology to fit your specific business platform.
It’s your job to focus on logistics. LetExpedock do all your manual work. Why not try Expedock’s AI-powered logistics and supply chain automation free for 30 days? Read the details here.