Upgrading to digital platforms is the need of the hour in the freight forwarding business. Digital technology is revolutionizing every industry with instant communication, real-time data and insights, and highly efficient solutions that reduce operational costs and increase profits. For many years freight forwarders have operated the traditional way using written communication, emailing, phone calls and manual quotation which can take days or weeks to get the process through. With digital platforms taking over much of the back end work, forwarders are free to focus on the core business processes. They are now more empowered to broaden their customer reach and respond quickly to changes thereby being flexible to the dynamic needs of the modern freight forwarding industry.
The most characteristic feature of traditional freight forwarding is the disjoint communication process, the opaqueness in multiple aspects of logistics and the uncertainty of timelines which are often at the mercy of several factors that affect the carriers such as the weather, changes to shipping routes, unforeseen delays due to breakdowns and more. Digital platforms for freight forwarders bring in technology and automation into every aspect right from contacting the customers to documentation, paperwork, tracking of shipments in real time, management of personnel to delivery of the shipment to the consignee.
When flexibility matters
Consider emergencies such as natural disasters or the COVID-19 pandemic when the logistics market becomes highly unstable as transport becomes temporarily unavailable or the priorities change overnight. Logistics planning is complicated by itself in normal conditions, however, during a crisis it becomes the toughest task impossible to be handled manually. Digital freight platforms and their networks played a key role during the pandemic thanks to their reliability and flexibility that the shippers needed critically during the peak when essential items had to be transported on priority over other shipments. The surges in demand for the essentials we met by forwarders running on digital platforms by scaling up and covering more freight on the primary lanes.
Digital platforms greatly reduce the risk of errors in the shipment management as information from all sources is managed by the software and all the involved parties such as the manufacturers, shippers and the consignee have access to the same data at the same time. Such a centralized management platform offers great flexibility at the level of individual products as the SKUs can be instantly tracked and prioritized based on the urgency. They can then be redirected to a different carrier or other means of transport to fulfill its need while still maintaining a tight control over the costs. Digital platforms are the best tools to handle uncertainties of this magnitude where aspects of the supply chain are beyond the control of all parties. It still offers forwarders a handle on the situation as it keeps the movement of freight flexible.
How flexibility is ensured
Faster management through increased visibility and transparency into the operations offered by digital platforms allow business leaders and managers to make instantaneous decisions based on real-time information that helps prevent disruptions. Visibility tools in the form of shipment trackers, automated alerts and digitized communication offer a real-time insight that helps forwarders stay flexible and respond quickly to arising needs through, scaling, rerouting or networking with other carriers to pick up the load. Even during non-crisis working conditions, shipments can remain flexible through the use of digital platforms and serializing individual cartons such that the shipment can be allocated and re-allocated in response to a change in need while it is still in transport. In essence the technology allows the carrier to become a floating warehouse that can assign inventory while on the move.
The last example is one of the many innovative solutions that digital platforms offer which freight forwarding companies are quickly adapting to stay ahead of the curve. For freight forwarders to be flexible, it is important that they are aware of what is in the shipment pipeline and have instant access to the information and customers. The only way to attain that level of flexibility is to have one platform that they can rely on for visibility, supply chain management, regulatory compliances, accounting and customer management. Digital platforms offer all the tools for freight forwarders to stay flexible and ahead of the competition.