• Brendon Koh

Tips to improve freight forwarding operations in 2021

Keppel District Park in Singapore
Keppel District Park in Singapore

If you are reading this article, chances are, you are unhappy with the way your freight forwarding operation is currently being managed and are looking for ways to improve freight forwarding operations. This article aims to explain how you can do so. Digital transformation has been the topic of the hour especially with the ambiguity and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to many businesses worldwide. In Singapore, the Government implemented various regulations to contain the spread of the virus and encouraged citizens to work from home. This has resulted in a decrease in physical store visits and an increase in online spending on digital platforms (e.g. Shopify, Lazada, Shopee, Qoo10, RedMart etc.). Wholesalers, Retailers, Importers and Exporters have also moved to digital platforms to compensate for the dip in physical store sales. What does all of this mean for freight forwarders? Freight forwarders need to improve freight forwarding operations to be able to meet the surge in demand for freight services, deepen customer relationships, instil customer loyalty and improve their bottom line. This article aims to explain the key areas of focus that freight forwarders should work on to remain competitive. Read on to learn more.

1) Digitize Freight Operational Data

The first step on how to improve freight forwarding operations would be to focus on digitizing data. Freight forwarding operations entails a huge amount of data that comes in all shapes and sizes. More often than not, data silos exist as customer enquiries, job details and booking instructions are sent via various means such as calls, faxes, emails, word documents and freight rate platforms. In order to prevent data silos from emerging, freight forwarders need to ensure they have an internal, digital database containing customer and job data which serves as a system of record and source of truth. This enables freight forwarders to respond to customers effectively and keep operational data updated.

2) Streamline freight operational processes

The second step on how to improve freight forwarding operations would be to focus on streamlining freight operational processes. Most freight forwarders have specific ways of how various freight processes should be managed. For example, the specific steps and documents required vary according to certain factors such as transport type (air, sea, land), transport direction (import, export) and cargo load type (FCL, LCL, Consolidated). In order to streamline freight operational processes, freight operations managers/directors tend to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) documents for employees to follow. The problem is that SOPs are like the ‘Terms and Agreements’ clauses shown when buying products - nobody reads them. A better way would be to build a custom freight management system that has all the SOPs programmed into it. This gives employees greater confidence in their day-to-day operations as they do not need to second-guess their actions as the software automatically shows/hides job data input fields according to the pre-programmed SOPs. By streamlining all your freight forwarding processes, you can plan, evaluate, define, manage, and optimize various roles and responsibilities.

3) Consolidate non-freight processes

The third step on how to improve freight forwarding operations would be to focus on consolidating non-freight data and processes into a centralized system. One of the most challenging issues that freight forwarders face is having too many separate spreadsheets and applications to manage sales (invoices, profit & loss, quotations), accounting (debit note, credit note, general ledger) etc. The best approach would be to reduce the number of applications used and replace them with a central database application. By centralizing company data, freight forwarders are able to draw insights through data analytics, informative dashboards and make well-informed, data-driven decisions.

4) Automate Document Generation

The fourth step on how to improve freight forwarding operations would be to focus on automating freight documentation. The core business of freight forwarding requires the creation of a lot of documentation such as Air Waybill, Bill of Lading, Delivery Order, Pick-up Note, Arrival Notice, Booking Confirmation, Shipment Release, Consolidation Manifest etc. The traditional way of managing freight documentation is to create document templates using microsoft excel and word. Whenever a new job is confirmed, a shipping executive would duplicate the relevant templates and manually key in the same job data to the various templates. The problem with this approach is the high error rate due to unexpected mistakes made by employees. Employees may use the wrong document template version or key in the wrong data to the various templates that belong to a specific job. A better solution would be to leverage on a freight management system where employees only need to key in job data once and are able to easily generate DOs, BOLs and AWBs within a button click.

5) Embrace a digital-first culture

The last step on how to improve freight forwarding operations would be to focus on building a digital-first culture within the company. One of the biggest challenges for freight forwarders looking to digitally transform their operations is the resistance to change. Most freight forwarders shun at going digital because of their inability to understand the role technology can play in their company and their fear of what they don’t understand. A digital-first culture creates a company-wide mindset towards the value and benefits technology brings and how they can positively impact day-to-day operations regardless of the employees’ role in the company.

The Bottom Line

Freight forwarding operations can be hard to manage and optimize. To improve freight forwarding operations and ensure productivity, efficiency and transparency, freight forwarders need to focus on unifying employees, processes and operational data together by:

  • Digitizing Operational data

  • Streamlining freight operational processes

  • Consolidating non-freight processes

  • Automating Document Generation

  • Embracing a digital-first culture

All this can only be possible for freight forwarders if they have a custom freight management system that is robust and scalable since off-the-shelf, ready-made freight management systems are not customizable and built with generic SOPs. Being a software company specialized in freight forwarding operations, Automate Labs helps freight forwarding companies build customizable cloud-based freight management software solutions that are integrated, cost-effective and easy to use. If you are serious about improving your freight forwarding operations with the right technology partner, feel free to book a discovery call via www.automatelabs.co/discovery.

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