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.
Order management – how shipping orders turn digital
Everybody has heard of circulating files: the good old folders that used to carry documents securely to a defined distribution list in a particular order. In most offices, they are nothing more than a far-away memory. However, shipping orders still trace this physical route at many companies – at least until reaching freight forwarders' order entry departments, which are aggressively digitalising to speed up processing and enable convenient customer service. It's a time-consuming process that modern order management can replace simply and efficiently.
Shipping orders mark the start of the transport chain. They link a company's logistics team to its logistics service provider. For freight forwarders, the order initiates the process of planning the transport. Freight forwarders need accurate data and a firm commitment to process the order. In analogue processes, all bets were off until a truck arrived to pick up the shipment, at which point the service provider's employees still had to enter the order data in the system. However, managers at logistics companies have long viewed these kinds of delays as highly inefficient. Instead, they push for faster processes, automatic order management, and real-time information, prompted in large part by e-commerce. That way, shippers can make a firm commitment to their customers immediately after receiving an order. For a perfect customer experience.
Digital customer service begins with order management
Meanwhile, the service providers' customers expect the same level of service in other areas. And that expectation can only be met if freight forwarders use software. Modern systems offer convenient solutions for digitally capturing order data and making it available in real time, for arranging transports, processing orders and providing customer service. They make it possible to import data over interfaces from shippers' operational systems, including their enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. Companies that generate much less business for forwarding agents can resort to a simple middle ground solution: table-based data imports.
Software solutions simplify manual data entry
Even companies that only place orders sporadically will find a convenient solution to speed up the logistics process with web-based order management. Using a simple input screen with predefined mandatory fields, they can enter orders with just a few clicks and transfer the information digitally to their logistics service provider. They can get additional help in the form of stored order templates, customer addresses and article master data. This approach to data entry also improves their own processes: right after the data is entered, shippers can also print out shipping labels for all packages as well as the loading lists, thus completing their shipping preparations more quickly.
Order management ensures process reliability
Modern order management solutions feature powerful interfaces to the forwarding companies' transport management systems. In addition, they validate entered data before sending the orders to the freight forwarder. This prevents incomplete entries and allows dangerous goods information to be automatically added from a connected database. Predefined workflows guide freight forwarding customers through the entry process so unerringly that they even offer to add the freight forwarders' value-added services before the order is placed. Possible sources of error are minimised with individual input screens that use the customer's look-and-feel as well as a rights management system that authenticates authorised employees. In addition, the ability to pre-announce orders allows shippers to reserve the cargo space they need, even if the shipping order has not yet been approved. This gives companies and logistics service providers alike the reliability they need to plan adequately and keep their processes running smoothly.
Digital order management beats circulating file
Freight forwarders who offer digital order management are proposing a new way to automate circulating files. They are making order processing more efficient with early order planning, organisation of downstream processes and real-time information transmission. And they are raising the bar for customer service excellence.