Digital technology is transforming a lot of industries and the transportation and logistics industry feature in this too. Role players in this field – from traffic coordinators at carriers, shipping clerks for manufacturers, to invoice processing analysists at 3PL firms – have all experienced the benefits of this digital evolution both in personal and professional lives.
With all this given, 3PL vendors continue to face issues such as driver shortages, the rise of emerging geographic markets with antiquated paper-based systems, proliferation of data from Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, manual data entry and warehouse and on-truck capture devices interfacing into legacy systems. Additionally, relationships are getting more temporary and unstable as competition levels escalate. These competitive disruptions include Amazon’s drone package delivery testing, Google’s same day delivery, the inevitable Uber for Trucking with supply chain load sharing and self-driving trucks. The new market entrants that are starting to dominate are equipped with new technologies and aren’t subjected to old fashioned systems.
Besides the new market entrants, there are also smart trucking applications that are on their way to levelling the playing field with real-time asset maintenance tracking, driver matching, driverless autonomous or semiautonomous freight trucking, instant payment and capacity load sharing. Innovation in this industry is something developing at a very alarming and fast pace.
Senior Vice President of Product Marketing at ABBYY, Bruce Orcutt, documented how businesses, especially 3PL firms, can take advantage of this transformation and be ahead of the pack. Here are his pointers.
Customer Experience Is Your Secret Weapon
Switching costs currently are very low and customers that are not happy find it relatively easy to just move elsewhere where levels of engagement will be high. A competitive weapon is improving and empowering customer experience. This can be achieved by accelerating transactions using self-service tools and giving access to enhanced process visibility.
Applications that encourage customer engagement are now strategic tools that are used to improve experiences. Customer onboarding, trace and tracking, omnichannel invoice validation and processing are all tools that can satisfy your consumers. However, they need to be tightly integrated into backend systems-of-record to work and be successful.
Acting on Information
What can give 3PL practitioners ground to be ahead of the rest is real-time data. Customers will benefit by making use of data from the business processes to give them context, allowing them better decision making regarding their supply chain to accelerate shipments and minimize costs. Real-time data can assist in logistics management decisions such as load optimizations, claims management, carrier selection, centralized track and trace. What is important to customers as well is management of costs and visibility. Having insight to metadata gives them narrowed visibility into shipment and on-time delivery validations, class of service confirmation and exception handling analysis, duplicate billings, “Customer/Address Not Found” surcharges, GL coding for multi-shipment purchase orders, specific detail on surcharges for fuel and residential delivery.
The ability to control and influence data that carriers and freight forwarders own enables 3PL practitioners to offer new revenue streams from digital products and services. Real-time business intelligence dashboards of customers’ logistics supply chain that are customized, and load optimization algorithm that is based on real-time data, can reduce supply chain costs and can carry major business value in carrier negotiations.
Maximize Your IT Investments
The processes that are in place already are the backbone of your business. There’s been hard work put into supporting a high volume of digital transactions and can probably support a diverse set of documentation sources through self-service portals that take on fax, email and various formats such as spreadsheets, Web Services, EDI, ANSI X12, CSV and EDIFact. The goals set out by your IT investments were to achieve the speed of execution and agility to reduce existing business latencies and inefficiencies. However, keep in mind that there are still aspects of the analog world that may not go hand in hand with your new digital strategy.
Documents still dominate most 3PL business processes. Proof of delivery, bills of lading, claims documents, carrier invoices, catering and fuel receipts, customs declarations, driver logs and expenses all have to be captured in order to start processes. Even if there’s a small percentage of your logistic data inputs that still use paper, chances of errors taking place are high and it slows down the process. All this will then need people that will carry out repetitive and dull tasks of manual data entry, scan, track and trace, monitoring shipment schedules, invoicing validation and credit collections.
Improving The Workflow
Your workflows a lot of times may begin with a physical document that then will need to be converted into a digital file in order to be processed, validated and inserted into your business process. Capturing data and information using a mobile is a normal channel for initiating a process. Most customers have the ultimate capture device right in their hands in the form of smartphones. They can be empowered to capture and submit logistics documents in whatever channel they want to do it via. It could be through an email, a self-service web portal, the cloud, scanner to an FTP site and fax.
A digitized and efficient workflow will also give customers insight and transparency into the logistics process so that they are able to have feedback into how their transactions are progressing and can know whether or not there is additional documentation needed to move forward with the process. Every user always needs to feel like they are in control of the process.
Incorporating intelligent capture that automates the process of classifying document types is very important for a dynamic workflow. Being able to automatically recognize, separate and distinguish between different document types such as delivery notices, contracts, invoices, orders, split POs and more, is a critical step. A business process will be able to deduce where the document should be routed once all is automatically classified.
Auto-classification of document types into classes and sub-classes delivers a tremendous business value. It lowers cognitive tasks along with the burden on workers and this then minimizes operational labour costs and errors. It also improves employee satisfaction and accelerates the transaction.
With that said, consumers still don’t want to program complex sets of rules just to learn how to classify documents. Your capture engine should be the one intelligent enough to analyze a large quantity of documents with minimal tuning and automatically internalize in precise detail what document classes and data feeds need to be extracted for custom business processes.
Now that you’re informed on the role and importance of digital transformation in transportation, see how to Achieve Short-Term ROI Through These 3 Transportation Innovations!