March 16, 2022

Why Automation & Accuracy are the Top Trends in Freight Forwarding Operations

Why Automation & Accuracy are the Top Trends in Freight Forwarding Operations

International freight forwarding operations are incredibly complex. They require a high level of coordination between vendors and a keen attention to detail to minimize errors. The global supply chain is increasingly interconnected, yet remains inflexible to unexpected market disruptions. This puts immense pressure on the freight forwarders trying to assist shippers in navigating continuously changing circumstances.

This article discusses challenges freight forwarders are facing in the current market and explores trends in digitization, automation, and data analytics to improve accuracy and increase operational efficiencies.

The State of Freight Forwarding Operations

The global supply chain is highly reliant on predictability, and has proven over time to be susceptible to failure when faced with unexpected volatility. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shift in U.S. consumer habits is the most recent example of unexpected market disruption, an forwarders are helping shippers tackle many challenges in the new freight environment, including:

  • Increased consumer demand for e-commerce and imports
  • Container imbalances resulting from U.S. import influx and COVID-related shipments on irregular, remote trade lanes. 
  • Consistently high freight rates due competition for container supply.
  • Extended transit times as a result of port and terminal congestion.
  • Implementation of additional surcharges and fees meant to encourage container movement and ease congestion. 

Growing volumes and increased freight activity put enormous strain on freight forwarders, and recent geopolitical issues in Russia and Ukraine are further increasing fuel prices and threatening global supply chain stability. While it is unclear what the long-term impacts of the situation will be, it is critical to identify new tools and solutions to help forwarders in manage freight volumes in difficult market conditions. 

Freight Forwarding Operations Trends

The global supply chain’s current state is precarious, so freight forwarding trends focus on systems for managing volumes and creating operational efficiencies in unpredictable freight markets. The biggest trends to watch in freight forwarding operations involve digitization, automation, and advanced data analytics.

Document Digitization

Many freight forwarders and vendors still rely on PDFs, spreadsheets, and scanned images to transfer vital shipment information between parties. This information is often transcribed into a digital platform like Cargowise, but these manual processes are time-consuming and prone to human data entry error. More errors mean more time spent trying to identify and remedy data issues. It is a system that is inefficient, tedious, and takes away from the time that operations teams need to execute freight commitments and meet customer service expectations. 

Digitization of documents is a top trend in freight forwarding operations because it eliminates the need for human data entry, which increases efficiency and improves accuracy. Advanced digitization systems utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies to read, upload, and classify data faster than ever before.

Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence

Strain on the global chain has increased the need for efficiency, accuracy, and speed in freight forwarding operations. Automation and AI technologies offer solutions for eliminating manual processes, organizing data quickly, and minimizing errors to keep operations running smoothly and efficiently. 

One of the biggest opportunities for automation technology is invoice management and reconciliation, as operations staff can spend up to half their working hours on these processes. Expedock offers AI-driven solutions for automating invoice management in three steps:

  1. Extract Data: Expedock transforms data from unstructured digital invoices and documents (PDFs) into structured, uploadable data. It does this by learning to “read” a document, mapping relevant fields and values, and extracting the data from those fields. The extracted data is automatically linked to the corresponding shipment in the Cargowise platform - no manual data entry required!

  1. Classify Documents: The same way Expedock reads an unstructured document, it can identify and classify document types (bill of lading, commercial invoice, packing lists, vendor invoices) and attach them to the correct Cargowise shipment.

  1. Audit and Reconcile Invoices: More than simply entering data, Expedock’s AI-technology monitors entries to identify discrepancies in anticipated charges versus invoiced charges. It flags those exceptions on a line-item level, allowing operations teams to review and reconcile charges in minutes. 

Data Analytics for Actionable Insights

Digitization and automation solutions extract and organize data to optimize efficiency, but freight forwarding operations trends also demand advanced data analytics to provide insight into operational performance. Monitoring key metrics allows forwarders to identify areas for improvement and develop plans for corrective action. Expedock provides customizable data analytics to aggregate the information that matters most to a freight forwarder’s business in a centralized hub, delivering insights to current situations as well as trends over time. Data insights give teams the visibility they need to better negotiate with carriers and make critical business decisions. 

Expedock delivers the AI-powered solutions for digitization, automation, and data analytics that freight forwarders need for operational efficiency and accuracy. See for yourself - get in touch with their experts today for a consultation and demo.

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