Electronic data interchange: the key to good service

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Colleagues high-five each other after successful electronic data integration.

It was a small news item in the local media. The Biebelried highway police now records tailgating violations digitally instead of on VHS tapes. This highlights two opportunities for improvement in 2021. First, electronic data exchange would speed up and improve many processes. Second, there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit on the digitalisation tree. That includes the customer service experience in the freight forwarding industry, which is only gradually embracing online portals.

Following the same old playbook conveys a sense of security. However, using hard copies for all business communications is playing it much too safe in logistics. After all, electronic data interchange (EDI) has been helping to improve business processes at logistics companies for more than 30 years. As it evolves, new opportunities emerge to meet the needs of industrial and commercial companies as they optimise their supply chain.

For example, they can use real-time communication to improve their planning processes. Once business partners link their data sources together, all their applications always have the data they need. For freight forwarders, this is the logical path to comprehensive customer service.

What are the advantages of electronic data interchange in logistics?

In logistics, performing a single task has always required the cooperation of many partners. However, they cannot link up into an efficient value chain without exchanging a large amount of information. For example, to transport goods, they have to share:

  • Order data (shipment dimensions and weights, pickup location and destination)
  • Delivery dates (when the delivery can be made)
  • Progress data (order status or current truck position)
  • Transport statistics (to identify potential for improvement)

This can best be done by having them all integrate their data. They do not have to be tied to system, connections, interfaces or formats such as Fortras Release 100 or EDIFACT. Logistics is fully digitalised when users can use their normal solutions and the resulting information is easily transferred to all connected business logic. Service providers will then have achieved a closed digital process chain and that benefits customers and partners with real-time 24/7 service that proactively supplies their operational systems.

Order processing is based entirely on electronic data interchange

From order placement to notification, tracking and tracing and reporting, digital order processing in logistics is based entirely on the electronic exchange of data. Freight forwarders agents can only start transport orders once they have all the data they need. Shipments that have to be announced are only delivered straight to recipients that have digitally scheduled a delivery date and time. Dispatchers, customers, and consignees will only learn the current order status, the truck's position and estimated time of arrival (ETA) if this data is transmitted in real time. Data analytics based on business intelligence solutions faces a similar challenge: it also requires data integration and electronic data interchange. Digital data, in other words, accelerates the entire logistics chain right through to invoicing.

Perfect customer service is the most important benefit of electronic data interchange

We judge supplier quality and reliability largely by shipping quality ‚Äď in our personal lives and at work. The business partners will have a good relationship if the goods arrive on time. This means that every order can potentially turn into a service request. And that can get extremely expensive for freight forwarders that only offer phone-based service. However, you can avoid these costs with electronic data interchange and complete data integration since it is much cheaper to operate an online service portal. Your customers will also find all the information they need on the portal without having to search for a long time. And that is another benefit that strengthens customer loyalty.


No electronic data interchange, no business

Freight forwarders and logistics operations live off electronic data interchange (EDI). They can no longer compete effectively without digitalising all their processes from start to finish. As value chains become ever more complex, customer service has become the most important area to benefit from data integration. In our next blog articles, we therefore will show you how to digitalise all your customer service activities and reap the benefits of electronic data interchange.

Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert

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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