As a college-educated computer scientist, Bastian Späth understands how IT solutions are developed from the ground up. For more than 15 years, he has spent every workday collecting requirements, finding ideas, developing designs, setting up projects and getting them safely across the finish line.
Digital order management streamlines freight forwarding
Goods are transported from "source" to "sink", or so the theory goes. In practice, goods moving along the process cause changes in the data, from order entry to proof of delivery (POD).
Just as the flow of goods remains uninterrupted, the flow of data should also be consistent and support the overall transport process. This facilitates digital order management and reduces administrative overhead. An effective digital process chain contains the following elements:
- Digital order entry (through a web application or directly from the ERP system)
- Tracking and tracing
- To-do management for transferring tasks between partners who are jointly providing a service
- Supply chain event management (SCEM) for proactive incident reporting and rapid responses
- Electronic proof of delivery (POD)
- Digital archive (for completed orders, accompanying documents and PODs)
Each of these elements harbours potential in and of itself. However, they only really unleash their potential when combined into a digital end-to-end process in which data is shared across all interfaces as well as a closed, seamless digital chain.
Start with A
Red tape has often been lambasted as the bane of existence. However, this oft-demonised aspect of everyday life is the secret to efficiency in logistics: entering and forwarding all process data until the job is done. If you want to see the big picture, you have to view the logistics chain as more than just a series of individual steps. And that requires digital order data in order to get off to a good start. The data can come directly from an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. If a suitable interface is not available, freight forwarding customers can use a web application to enter address data, article information and shipment data such as dimensions, weights and number of packages. The freight forwarder uses the data to arrange the transport: pickup, transfer to a different means of transport, main run, another transfer and then delivery as general cargo and part loads. Full loads are transported door to door.
Know the current status
Once order processing starts, the packages will change their status at every process interface. These changes are recorded by scanning the package label. A track and trace system shares this information with key stakeholders. If disruptions occur in the predefined process chain, an SCEM will immediately inform the dispatch department. That way, the freight forwarder can take action to still deliver the order on time or find an alternative way to supply the recipient. It's worth noting that gaps in the digital process chain deprive dispatchers of the opportunity to overcome obstacles.
Data for all
The digital process chain does not end until the delivery has been made and the POD and accompanying documents have been electronically archived. It is important to supply all the stakeholders with the information they need at all times. This can be done with rights-based usage systems that effectively protect legitimate trade secrets while operational data keeps the process running. This is also important for billing. After all, an order is only closed out once payment is received. For this reason, many customers like to use the data in the digital archive – quotation, transport history and proof of delivery – when verifying invoices in order to check whether the service has been correctly invoiced. If some data is not available digitally, it slows down the process, increases administrative costs and delays payment approval. It also restricts the liquidity of the logistics service provider and makes the overall process more expensive. Thus, comprehensive digital order management not only powers efficient processes – it is also the key to better contribution margins.
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