How Freight Forwarders Could Apply RPA to Reduce Global Booking Confusion

Over the years, much has changed within the domestic and global supply chain network. Sure, the pandemic is partly to blame. However, the influence of robotic process automation (RPA) has had its effect as well. RPA in freight forwarding represents a significant shift in processes and highlights the growing dominance and prevalence of supply chain and freight forwarding technology in the world today. As noted by Supply Chain Digital, “The most repetitive tasks are the most applicable to RPA. Tasks such as demand prediction, inventory allocation, stock replenishment and even mark-down calculations and assortment and financial plan seeding are easily completed with ML/AI-powered tools. These ML/AI use cases can be delivered with accuracy improvements of 2,000 basis points and 50% reallocation of labour to more complex processes that can now be tackled as the basic steps are automated.” The renewed focus on customer service, streamlined processes, and improved service levels shape the modern supply chain. The industries with the most to gain from embracing automation and robotic processes are freight-forwarding and logistics companies. 

The Challenges Leading to Problems in Global Forwarding Collaboration

RPA in freight forwarding can help address many of the key challenges that currently impede maximum efficiency and that continue to cause problems for freight forwarders:

  • Fuel costs that continue to rise
  • Rising surcharges and fees laid on shipments 
  • Environmental issues and concerns
  • Customer service needs and shifting demands
  • Driver retention and continued shortages
  • Capacity shortages and booking issues
  • Technology implementation and onboarding
  • Customs regulations and laws
  • Global economy and diversification
  • Market instability and shifting customer demands

RPA in freight forwarding can help bring these issues into focus and highlight problem areas for managers to address as needed.  Global coordination among freight forwarders can significantly improve with the right plan and with known problems and areas of concern being monitored in real-time automatically.

Applied RPA Improves Working Relationships Across the Supply Chain

The primary benefits of automating tasks in logistics and embracing RPA in freight forwarding include:

  1. Increased overall productivity:  RPA in the supply chain helps integrate customer systems such as ERP software with collaborative platforms. By improving accuracy, efficiency, and timeliness, forwarders can spend less time correcting mistakes and dealing with customer fallouts and more time managing capacity and securing loads.
  2. Greater data access: A single chatbot or logistics monitoring robot can generate a wealth of valuable information and data. Access to accurate, real-time data allows managers and directors to see trends easily and monitor critical KPIs. More quality data improves decision-making and can help mitigate future bad decisions.
  3. Improve customer service: The worst mistake is one that leads to the loss of a customer. Automated systems, push notifications, chatbots, and other examples of RPA in freight forwarding improve freight forwarding customer service. Fast and accurate service and on-demand data updates feed the customer’s need to be in the know.

Ways Forwarders Use RPA to Build Collaboration

Collaboration has stayed vital within freight forwarder’s networks, and forwarder uses of RPA in the supply chain today can bring about improvements in the following ways:

  • Tendering Speed. RPA in freight forwarding puts data at the fingertips of forwarders, team members, and third-party service providers to provide a tendering, processing, and productivity boost.
  • Rate Negotiations. Securing the best shipping rate is essential for freight forwarders, and automated data tracking and collaborative platforms make this more efficient and profitable. 
  • Improved Throughput. Monitoring productivity levels with machine learning and logistics process automation demonstrate how a good RPA platform impacts and improves network productivity from end to end. 
  • Faster Email Management. Leveraging RPA technology also allows forwarders to spend less time managing emails and fully automates your staff’s email sorting, data aggregation and response time. 
  • Managing Freight. RPA in freight forwarding and real-time monitoring and tracking can reduce delays and improve freight management practices and procedures within the supply chain.
  • Inventory Management. Forwarder uses of RPA also improve inventory and warehousing collaborations. Managing based on real-time data keeps things running as efficiently as possible. 

The utilization of robotics and automation can help improve collaboration throughout the supply chain, thus improving forwarders’ success even during market instability.

Streamline Global Logistics With the Right RPA Solution

Forwarder uses of RPA can help streamline complicated processes and manage mundane and mindless tasks to free up team members to more productive and meaningful jobs. The bottom line is that RPA and other innovative technologies can improve booking success and make supply chain management and logistics much easier across the board. Schedule a free demo with RPA Labs today to get started.

The Top Challenges Facing the Freight Forwarding Industry

There have been significantly more mergers and acquisitions in recent years in freight forwarding, including “TFI International’s $800-million acquisition of UPS Freight; Uber Freight’s $2.25-billion purchase of Transplace; DP World’s $1.2-billion purchase of U.S.-based Syncreon and $890-million purchase of South Africa’s Imperial Logistics; and the GEODIS purchase of Texas-based Velocity Freight Transport,” according to Logistics Management. Such activity demonstrates that centralized freight forwarding is essential to managing the growing complexity of these forwarders, and consolidation of forwarding services can help solve the top challenges facing the freight forwarding industry and shift toward automation in logistics, including the following.

1. Increasing Competition in Freight Forwarding

New startups and expanding service opportunities, combined with lower barriers to entry into the shipping and transportation market are rapidly increasing the competitive nature of the industry. This is one of the leading challenges facing the freight forwarding industry and it is all bringing more companies into the equation. This, in turn, makes it difficult for forwarders to stay profitable and maintain a competitive advantage. 

2. Limited Visibility Into Real-Time Container Capacity and Location

Poor tracking updates and incomplete monitoring allow for missed opportunities to continue to be an issue. Additionally, delays, disruptions, missed deliveries, damaged packages, and lost cargo can also be an issue with limited visibility and poor real-time tracking. Real-time tracking and status updates have become an expectation rather than a wish in the market today.

3. A Talent Shortage

Worker and driver shortages continue to be a leading challenge facing the freight forwarding industry. Not enough workers on docks and in warehouses can lead to bottlenecks and loading/unloading delays. Not enough drivers on the road quickly lead to capacity issues and tighter deadlines,  as well as longer delivery timelines across the board. Embracing RPA in supply chain logistics is crucial to overcoming these shortages. 

4. Changing Regulations Affecting Global Trade

As more and more regulations come into play for domestic and global shipping and logistics, the stress on the supply chain only intensifies. From customs and inspections to duties and taxes to shipping limits and regulations, there are many issues that can affect global trade and, by extension, local supply chain markets as well. Rules must be upheld, so freight forwarders need to know what current requirements exist.

5. Cyberattacks

The continued demand and focus on e-commerce, digital shipping industry, online marketing, and fast delivery promises increased exposure to cyberattacks and threats from outside sources. These attacks can ruin logistics and supply lines, drain finances from essential budgets, and undermine the entire supply chain network as a whole. Protecting the technical side of the supply chain is as important as any other security measure.

6. Increasing Customer Service Demands

Along with the rise of e-commerce, on-demand tracking, real-time updates, and personalized shipping and delivery options come a whole new level of customer service expectations. Customers will no longer tolerate sub-par possibilities and services. Freight forwarders must work with shippers and carriers who can maintain high levels of customer satisfaction while also meeting and exceeding expectations. Overcoming this challenge facing the freight forwarding industry relies heavily on customer-driven services.

7. Speed of Transit and Rising Transportation Costs

Another challenge that freight tender and logistics managers must contend within the modern supply chain is the volatility of the market and sudden changes in expense and general rate increases. Monitoring fees, rates, and trends make it easier to plan for additions and budget accordingly, even during uncertain times in market economies.

Overcome the Challenges Facing the Freight Forwarding Industry With a Digital, RPA-Driven Workflow

The benefits that can come from implementing a centralized freight forwarding setup or platform are essential to managing the complicated and multi-faceted industry that is transportation and freight management. Dealing with the most common challenges facing the freight forwarding industry remains at the heart of supply chain management. 

Proper organization of forwarding services and appropriate consolidation and automation of critical services can make overcoming significant challenges facing the freight forwarding industry much simpler and much more manageable. These and other common freight forwarding challenges can be less of an issue with an RPA focused workflow and platform in place. Overcoming challenges facing the freight forwarding industry is easy with the right set of tools and the right guidance. Contact RPA Labs today for a free demo to get started!

How These 5 Freight Forwarding Technology Innovations Boost Service Levels, Reduce Costs, & Improve CX

Freight forwarding technology is designed to reduce costs, hasten bookings, and help international trade flow seamlessly. However, it can be confusing to think about how technology comes together to improve service-level performance and enhance user or customer experiences. In the end, it’s all about timeliness and speed, so let’s consider five technology innovations that work to achieve those goals. 

Automated Data Entry

Automation in logistics for data entry is a fully loaded topic. It can be extremely useful for sharing details regarding containers and shipment status, but there are other opportunities for automated data entry to make an impact. For instance, using robotics process automation (RPA) within email platforms can compile data, enter it into a TMS, and trigger a series of activities to keep everything and everyone updated. Moreover, the same processes can be applied to further add context and streamline communications.

Streamlined Communications and Contextual Messaging

Remember that robotics process automation depends on data and reliable responses to a given question or topic. Within email and communication systems, the technology can be useful in pulling data in a reverse flow from that described above. 

For instance, a virtual, email response bot could review an inbound email, pull data from a TMS, and generate a response based on the full context of the digital conversation. Together, it provides a contextual picture of what’s happening and allows for more collaboration and faster communications among stakeholders.

Reduced Confusion Over ETA and Appointment Scheduling

Technology also adds value for freight forwarders by generating predictive arrival times and managing the sailing schedules. Appointments might vary based on the type of mode in question. As another example, if the shipment is by sea, appointment times will need to be scheduled based on the ship’s expected arrival time, truck arrivals for drays, and subsequent unloading/turn times for the drayage provider. 

Fewer Delays in Crossing International Borders

Another application of advancements in freight forwarding technology is rooted in the ability to share documents digitally. While a chatbot or email response bot could be empowered through the right integrations, this particular use of technology is best described as sharing links to documents. As such, it’s easier to keep track of documents, maintain compliance, and share vital information on demand. That’s a marked advantage when working to reduce delays in crossing international borders and ensuring all duties and taxes have been paid. 

There is another use of technology in this instance. Documents can be linked directly through payment processing systems to shorten the payment clock, submit payments to customs authorities, and avoid further delays. 

Better Rates Powered by Instant Quoting

Instant quoting across the preferred channel of communication is perhaps the biggest advantage of advanced freight forwarding technology. According to Supply & Demand Chain Executive, up to 35% of supply chain professionals surveyed reported lost revenue due to supply shortages in 2020. Part of that shortage comes from a limited ability to forecast demand and provide quotes based on the sum of transportation activity. Freight forwarding technology enables companies to use automation to instantly assess the market through analytics, generate a quote, and confirm a booking amount — all of which help control administrative costs. Ergo, total landed transportation costs decline.

Achieve All These and More With RPA Labs-Powered Freight Forwarding Technology Working Across Your Operation

The advancements in freight forwarding technology reflect the ongoing digital transformation of the global supply chain. As technologies continue to emerge and evolve, companies are able to do more with less, reduce delays, and improve throughput. However, figuring out the right way to take advantage of automation often comes down to connecting the slow processes of email and manual status inquiries to lightning-fast responses. That’s where a solution in robotics process automation can add the most value to your supply chain. Connect with RPA Labs to get started today.

Customer Experience in Logistics: 5 More Tips for Freight Forwarders

Improving customer service and the customer experience in logistics are top priorities in today’s supply chain. Like all forms of communication, there are differences in how teams interact with customers to achieve those goals. Regardless, it is important for shippers and all other professionals in the supply chain to take vital steps to hear the concerns of business-to-business (B2B) customers. Moreover, automated responses delivered through chatbot functionality can be used to streamline communications addressing a wide range of needs, including interacting around sailing schedules or reviewing track and trace data. Here are five more service-driven best practices that can help improve the customer experience within the logistics industry.

1. Clearly Communicate Your Needs With B2B and D2C Customers

Time after time, a poor customer experience in logistics shipping may lead a customer to reverse orders or return products. An important step to ensure that B2B and D2C (direct to consumer) shipment expectations are aligned is to communicate clearly and concisely. Automation through chatbots will set the tone for the future of the company by creating a seamless way to interact and keep everyone on the same page.   

2. Be Consistent in Quoting, Booking, and Execution of Shipments

Throughout the carrier and shipper process, freight forwarders must remain consistent in quoting, booking, and the execution of shipments by managing the flow of goods and services to customers. A company’s supply chain is the most crucial element in determining whether a consumer’s experience is great or poor. Freight can be booked through different types of transportation modes, so the quotes should remain at a sustainable level when asked by a supplier about specific quantities and weight. Integrating a manageable automated system to ensure the quality of the product, supplier, carrier, price, and delivery method aligns to offer companies every opportunity to retain customers.   

3. Leverage Automation in Back-Office Workflows to Reduce Delays

Leveraging artificial intelligence proves to gain new possibilities within companies. Since the inception of the internet and connected systems, company transition from outdated and traditional systems rose exponentially. Still, some freight forwarders may use the old systems that cause delays in scheduling and booking, which hemorrhage money, time, and reliability. Such issues further increase the risk of poor freight forwarding customer service due to a lack of visibility, notes Forbes. With improved capabilities of visibility and artificial intelligence leading the way, teams dedicated to the customer experience in logistics minimize the risk of loss of a customer. They can further use technology to automate back-office workflows, such as using the transportation management systems and APIs to enhance productivity to speed quoting, booking and shipment execution. 

4. Use Chatbots to Interact Without Sacrificing Quality of the Customer Experience in Logistics

Enhanced automation through chatbots helps increase the quality of the overall freight forwarding customer experience. Chatbots create a personal conversation through data entered by a customer and interact through advanced APIs. Configuring a system that allows companies to turn on automated responses through end-to-end logistics not only provides ease-of-access and user-friendly systems but creates a responsive environment that nurtures outstanding customer experiences. Combining automation with other advanced technologies equals more money and higher customer retention rates. 

5. Streamline Document Management With Integrated Systems

Document management systems can be streamlined through digital means too. Companies that automate traditional office workflows eliminate the need for paper handling and manual transactions, and they offer virtual storage of important documents, accessible any time. The shipping world turned upside down during the global pandemic and struggled to keep pace with the disruption-driven demands of customers. This created the need for shippers, suppliers and carriers to fully integrate systems that communicated with one another in milliseconds. Now, users can digitally upload an order detail page, bill of lading or proof of delivery notice and send it across the world, therefore streamlining the entire process of transportation procurement. 

Improve the Experiences of Your Customers by Putting the Right Systems and Processes in Place

The purpose of a shipment boils down to one thing: the customer. The customer experience in logistics must remain a priority, from the click of a ‘buy’ button to the final delivery and every step in between. Shippers should further realize that customers exist in either a B2B or D2C space, so measuring their experiences effectively requires a heavy reliance on clean, accurate data, integrated systems, and complete visibility. That’s what it all means, creating more visibility with the right systems and processes in place to monitor and improve freight forwarding customer service and beyond. Learn how your company can leverage automation to drive value that translates into positive customer experiences in logistics while ditching the typical customer service means of interacting of the past. Request a demo of RPA Labs to get started.

Freight Forwarding Customer Service Best Practices: 5 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

Throughout any business, customer service is a vital operation from start to finish. To maintain a competitive edge in the shipping and logistics industry, businesses must follow a few best practices to improve freight forwarding customer service. But it can be tricky. How do you improve customer service processes and reduce the risk for human errors? Here are five ways to improve customer service and drive continuous business through your network with logistics chatbots and more.

1. Streamline Payment Management by Auto-Auditing Freight Invoices

When it comes to freight invoices and learning how to streamline those processes, businesses find that technology plays a large role in the logistics industry. Freight invoicing involves maintaining the checks and balances of the shipper. Teams can spend countless hours ensuring that expenses are paid properly and eliminating errors. For example, as reported by JOC.com,  a way to save time and money for customer service partners is by partnering with software providers to streamline the payment processes. Freight forwarders effectively turn freight invoices on auto-pilot by minimizing the efforts of the team, finding errors in extraordinarily quicker ways, and allowing teams to focus on other areas of the business that require human interaction. As such, they can better their freight forwarding customer service goals as well.

2. Integrated Disparate and Siloed Systems With APIs

Another way that customer service is improved in the freight forwarding business is to integrate the current systems with application programming interfaces (APIs). These allow a cloud-based system to operate on logistics automation through applications that exchange information with one another in real-time to keep employees informed. Siloed systems without APIs do not let information interchange and do not allow for automation like a fully integrated transportation management system (TMS) does. Even worse, disparate systems increase the risk of negative freight forwarding customer service. Together, an integration of formerly disparate and siloed systems opens new and improved processes without the need for manual input. 

3. Obtain Customer Feedback on All Transactions, Using Automation to Aggregate Data and Identify Opportunities for Improvement

Customer service advocates do well to continuously monitor interactions and ask for feedback through surveys and polls. Using robotic process automation (RPA), logistics management professionals can submit information about their experiences to freight forwarders. In turn, that amounts to more data for analytics to identify service failures and ways to avoid them in the future. Regardless of how the freight forwarding customer service team chooses to interact, online or with a more traditional method, the goal must stay the same. And that transcends interactions across all shipping modes, whether accounting for differences in sailing schedules or planning OTR moves. They must determine what happened and how they can improve future experiences. Customer feedback is vital to drawing new and repeat shippers and transportation businesses. 

4. Create a Compelling, Immersive and Interactive Experience

One of the best ways to continuously improve customer relations is to remain an active participant in the conversation. Messaging instantaneously is not always an option with human interactions. However, in a fully integrated system, chatbots offer a customized solution to your business that can make or break a sale, which undoubtedly equals more money. Chatbots are fully automated to simulate human conversations. Such interactions can be personal, give valuable information about shipment procedures, practices and needs, relying on integrated platforms along the way. Additionally, chatbots can ask questions about a specific topic, so who needs to speak to a person when a computer can do all the same things fully automated and responsive? Even more so, using the systems to create an immersive experience can be further applied to help customers stay informed with track-and-trace functionality to always know shipment estimated time of arrival (ETA) and more. Together, it builds a better freight forwarding customer service experience.

5. Use RPA to Transform Your Marketing Efforts to Attract and Retain More Customers

Robotic process automation is key to driving more business transactions. From beginning to end, chatbots improve customer service interactions and reduce human errors by eliminating the need for an email or other more laborious means of communication. They also provide updated tracking information to consumers and customers through cloud-based internet solutions. It all amounts to increasing how your team interacts with customers in initial marketing through closing a sale. 

Enhance Freight Forwarding Customer Service Experiences With the Right Technology

By leveraging automation and advanced technologies, freight forwarding customer service representatives can eliminate the usual window of three to five business days to resolve simple inquiries. Be part of the solution by using modern technology to automate more back-office workflows. And don’t forget to ook a demo with RPA Labs to see how your business can improve customer satisfaction rates, which can lead to more business, more money and higher retention rates.