Digitalise efficiently with paperless work

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Man in striped shirt editing diagrams on his ipad

We've all had to deal with them: paper printouts, lists and phone calls. They're still commonplace in many companies. After all, digitalisation may be advancing, but it is far from encompassing the complete process.


Anyone who aims to keep all the information about an ongoing process in a single data source will benefit from:

  • Greater predictability
  • Transparency of all data and process steps
  • Always the latest information for all stakeholders
  • End-to-end digital workflows


Service providers who go fully digital set themselves up to automate their processes as extensively possible, which minimises disruptions due to waiting and searching. The secret to success is going paperless – because paper lists and the need to physically deliver them are what slows down every logistics process.


Data integration

Go paperless without re-entering data

Every digital process requires all the data sources to be integrated in a single point of truth. All the data stored in this shared basis has to be kept current and correct. This can be done with help from application programming interfaces and event sourcing platforms, which link local IT systems to the transport management system (TMS). However, this will only work if customers and partners do their part and provide all order data electronically. They can do this either via electronic data interchange (EDI) or – if the shipment volume is small and sporadic – on a customer portal that supports order entry. The data gives the freight forwarder an additional management tool: it can define KPIs and monitor them electronically using a control room approach. If there are problems, the people in the 'control room' can respond early on.


End-to-end process

Keep the chain closed

Every transport process begins with a quote. That is why the sales department takes the first important step in the digital end-to-end process: entering master data correctly. In addition, salespeople and key account managers should carefully file all rates and terms digitally. This information, along with the data from the concrete transport process, can be used to issue the digital bill. If information is missing at this point, someone will have to fix it manually and the invoice cannot be issued automatically. In other words, dimensions, weights, transit times, wait times and add-on services should always be updated in the transport process. Ideally, the lead system for master data will be the customer relationship management (CRM) system. It can hold valuable additional information such as customer sales or the volume per route. Changes in these indicators can provide early warnings about problems in the customer relationship. They show when order volumes with customers are shrinking and provide openings for conversations with customers. Making the CRM system the single source of truth allows quick, efficient responses to customers' service requests because no additional research is needed.


Transport and handling

Avoid mistakes and searches

Paperless processes provide big benefits for transport and handling in addition to administration. After all, current data is absolutely essential to transport and handling. Paper lists are only snapshots and might even become obsolete while being printed out. Time and clarity are particularly important in cargo handling. They matter when making a decision about whether a local transport vehicle can wait for a time-sensitive shipment to arrive or whether a special trip has to be arranged, for example. On warehouse monitors with real-time data, handling personnel and drivers can track the current status of all the shipments: partially unloaded, completely unloaded or still en route. If individual packages are scanned and checked against the itinerary during loading, misdirected goods can be detected before the local transport truck leaves the depot. The driver also generates important billing data by recording wait times at unloading points.


Administration and billing

Better planning, higher income

Up-to-date vehicle data allows dispatchers to significantly improve trip planning. For example, they can use ETAs and current positions to see which driver can squeeze in another trip this shift without having to actually call the driver in the vehicle. Another equally important function is the complete documentation of current process data, for example, on pallet exchanges, delivery problems or any damages. This information not only improves service monitoring but also ensures that no service is forgotten, especially in billing. That way, providers always receive the income they have earned. This is especially important for freight forwarders that use multiple networks as well as their own third-party partners. They need to know instantly what billing terms apply to a shipment and what procedure to follow for the network they are currently using. It helps to use driver apps with digital workflows and instructions. They keep delivery quality high and consistent with the agreed processes.

Conclusion

Reach the next level

Companies can improve service delivery enormously by maintaining complete, correct and current data with 100% digital processes. This eliminates many errors caused by repeated, sometimes inconsistent data (re-)entry as well as missing information. It does away with wait times and searches for packages. And it allows the automation of numerous processes that previously required employees' full attention. As an added bonus, these forwarding companies can spot changes in business sooner and prepare for the future earlier through digital reporting. Paper is yesterday – automation and digital processes improve today.

How digital are your processes?


Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert
CTO

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.


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