How Freight Forwarders Can Process Shipments 85% Faster


According to customer data shared by RPA Labs, Freight Forwarders spend 113 minutes on average processing shipments, and that’s not even including time spent drafting emails to clients, waiting for responses, or digging up documents that have been misfiled or lost. Here’s the breakdown of a Freight Forwarders workflow from our research:

  • Collect SI or BOL data and create the house bill of lading – 10 minutes
  • Check and link house bill of lading into master – 2 minutes
  • Submit SI & VGM – 20 minutes
  • Advanced filing for US, CA, etc, shipments – 2 minutes
  • Verify master bill of lading and upload into ERP – 2 minutes
  • Record cost provision – 2 minutes
  • Update ATD or job confirmation – 10 minutes
  • Issue agent’s delivery notice (D/N) – 2 minutes
  • Send pre-alert to destination – 2 minutes
  • Collect master sea waybill – 5 minutes
  • Verify actual cost – 2 minutes
  • Prepare HBL draft – 10 minutes
  • Verify HBL draft with shipper – 2 minutes
  • Prepare and send D/N to shipper – 10 minutes
  • Payment received – 2 minutes
  • HBL Releasing – 5 minutes
  • Customers clearance document checking – 10 minutes
  • Arrival notice preparation – 15 minutes

The total time spent manually processing each step combines to a staggering 113 minutes. Realistically, we know that this can sometimes take hours or daysUsing Software Bots to automate every step of a freight forwarders’ workflow can help cut the time spent processing shipments by as much as 85%.

With the rise of competition and market pressure, it is becoming more difficult to meet the profit margins needed to grow in the freight forwarding industry. Forwarders are facing increased pressure to:

  • Become digital
  • Offer a better experience to the customer
  • Grow the business with more jobs completed per person
  • Commit less mistakes

Customers are also getting more demanding – asking their vendors to move faster, answering their requests without waiting. Instant notification and gratification is becoming the standard. RPA Labs realized that “doing more with less” is the holy grail to growing the business, so we developed custom solutions that allow freight forwarders to digitize with ease. Here are the top seven automations we think every Freight Forwarder should implement in their workflows:


1. Quote & Booking Automation

More than 75% of customers buy from the company that responds first. Sales conversions are even higher if there is a response within the first minute. Instant response times give companies an edge over their competitors, leading to more wins and happier customers.  

By reducing manual time spent answering online inquiries, key staff members are able to reclaim countless hours each week to focus on developing new business strategies and personalizing customer experiences.


2. Sailing Schedules

Vessel schedules can be impacted for many different reasons such as route deviations, weather, port operations, and vessel speeds. Keeping track of these schedule-altering factors can be difficult to manage. RPA Labs automatically collects, processes, and migrates sailing schedules from emails, portals, EDI Messages, forms, third party websites, and more, into any system. This results in the delivery of the highest quality sailing schedule data and allows freight forwarders to improve shipment management. 


3. Document Automation

Document Automation allows for seamless system-to-system interaction with a no-code interface. Migrating data from shipping instructions, BOLs, packing invoices, and other documents has never been easier.

  • Document Collection 
    • Read 100% of documents and categorize them by document type, customer, and more
    • Extract and migrate data directly into any TMS/ERP system
  • Data Confirmation
    • Each document is checked for errors and matched with respective purchase orders
    • Notify parties for missing or wrong information
  • Automated Data Entry
    • Reduce time spent processing each document by as much as 85%
    • Allow employees to focus on high-level strategy instead of data entry


4. Container Tracking

Enhance customer visibility with notifications and tracking updates sent every step of the way, eliminating manual time spent providing updates and allowing customers the freedom from sending follow-up messages. We track ocean containers globally by automatically collecting, processing, and migrating data from emails, portals, EDI Messages, forms, third party websites, and more, into your tracking system. 

Consolidating all platforms into one centralized chat automation workflow allows for instant engagement with customers on your company’s website, Facebook, Twitter, and more.


5. Detention/Demurrage Management

Companies experience massive profit loss due to detention/demurrage fees, not to mention the countless employee hours spent manually reviewing each case. Our solutions provide visibility, proactive management, and creates a new profit source by applying robotic process automation. 

  • Visibility – We provide a stunning dashboard that shows exactly how much free time is left on every container, the delivery status, and sends alerts when time is almost up. 
  • Proactive Management – Our automated email reminder system sends a sequence of emails that let customers know how much free time is left. No more excuses or strained relationships. 
  • New Profit Source – Our solution automatically parlays the difference of what the carrier provides vs. customer free time. If a customer returns a container past the threshold, a charge can be created for the customer without incurring any charges from the carrier.   


6. Rate & Ocean Contract Management

Keeping rates up to date is a nightmare. RPA Labs works with several providers to make sure that the rates quoted are accurate. We automate the contract extraction and upload process, decreasing time spent loading contracts into systems. In turn, this decreases labor costs and will effectively be able to accept more customers to handle rate management. Key benefits include: 

  • Process Improvement 
    • Reduce the amount of manual keying of converting contracts
    • Speed up the document uploading process
  • Increase Customer Volume
    • Extend capacity to onboard more customers with several carrier contracts
  • Improve Quality
    • Minimize manual, error-prone processes


7. Real-Time Notifications

Your customers want to know when something happens. We provide that transparency with real-time notifications. 

Enhance your customer experience by providing instant notifications for every milestone via email, WhatsApp/SMS, or custom chatbots. Your customers will have peace of mind knowing the status of their shipment – without having to send an email or pick up the phone. 

Alert Management

  • Monitor alerts and notifications to manage the status of the shipment
  • Trigger workflows to notify customers/partners, collect a document, or plan operations based on the shipping notification
  • Update internal TMS/ERP based on the notification from shipping line

Workflow of a Freight Forwarder: Before and After Automation

The results are in, automating manual steps in your workflow can reduce time spent processing shipments by as much as 85%. Check out our comparison side by side:


Workflow of a Freight Forwarder

Total Manual: 113 Minutes   |   Total Automated: <18 Minutes


Want to find out how you can reduce your shipment processing time by 85%? Schedule a demo or request a bot catalog.



How RPA is Transforming Transportation and Logistics


If you work in transportation and logistics, technology may sometimes seem like the bane of your existence. The implementation of different kinds of software applications meant to elevate and simplify your business may, in fact, have the opposite effect.

Your employees may experience “portal fatigue,” trying to manually piece together a workflow involving a lot of copy-and-pasting among five or more technology platforms. The work can be mind-numbing and overwhelming. When is the paperless, seamless digital future we were promised going to become a reality?

Fortunately, help is on the way.

Robotic process automation is an affordable, flexible way to manage different software solutions. RPA uses a blend of artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing to learn and mimic repetitive, time-sucking workflows. The result of this automation is a more integrated process that optimizes your existing technology, saves time and resources, and generates significant gains for your business. RPA can also improve the user experience for your employees, eliminating redundancy and busy-work from their 8-to-5 lives.

“In our industry, portal fatigue is becoming rampant,” said RPA Labs CEO and co-founder Matt Motsick. “Automation means fewer portals, and more interconnections.”

RPA and Logistics

While RPA isn’t exactly new, it is just starting to have an impact on transportation and logistics. Freight forwarders, carriers, freight brokers and other logistics companies are beginning to see how automation can improve their supply chain solutions.

Here are three key areas in which RPA is having an impact on logistics companies today:

Report Generations – RPA uses machine learning and natural language processing to automate repetitive workflows like creating shipment orders, re-keying information from documents to databases, downloading reports, and inputting valuable information into CRM or ERP systems. RPA bots can also scrape relevant data from emails, texts, social media and other digital sources to identify market trends and insights.

Document Automation – Whether a company is a domestic freight broker, an international freight forwarder, an ocean carrier or a trucking fleet, they probably rely on employees to do all the data entry, migration and document indexing manually. Handling all these tasks – in addition to providing good service and communicating regularly with partners and clients – can be dull, time-consuming and cumbersome for any logistics company. RPA allows for seamless system-to-system interaction, so migrating data from shipping instructions, BOLs, packing invoices, and other documents is done automatically.

Invoicing – Making the invoicing process quicker and more efficient improves your chances of getting paid faster. RPA can post sales invoices and purchase orders into accounting systems without human interaction. The bots used by RPA can also identify billing errors and inconsistencies, and alert your accounting team and customers when invoices are paid.   

Emails and Digital Conversations – Unlike humans, RPA bots never take time off. That enables them to respond to customer questions immediately, either through email or online chats. This 24/7 availability can lead to quicker troubleshooting and improved customer service. In an industry in which 90% of correspondence is conducted via email, implementing email automation can be a true game-changer.

Other areas where RPA can help logistics providers include:

  • Inventory management
  • Vendor selection
  • Shipment status communication
  • Supply and demand forecasting

Transportation Management with RPA

Logistics service provider Ryder is a recent example of how RPA can be used to automate a legacy software system. Ryder began implementing RPA in 2017 to manage manual, repetitive tasks within the company’s transportation management system (TMS), according to a recent article in Forbes. Ryder, which optimizes an estimated 14 million shipments per year, also began using RPA to track carrier websites for appointment scheduling.

Now, with 133 RPA bots executing more than 1,300 tasks, Ryder has been able to redeploy more than six of its (human) transportation analysts to other work. The time required for Ryder to identify a freight carrier and book a load has been cut by two thirds. And the accuracy of the process has improved because RPA bots do not make data entry mistakes.

The Cost of Not Automating  

The thought of adding another layer to your existing technology may seem daunting. However, the long-term impact of not automating through technology like RPA could hurt your company’s ability to compete and meet heightening customer demands.

According to studies, companies in industries like heath care, accounting and insurance are seeing an average of 43% time reduction for processes like collections, billing and credit analysis, thanks to RPA. As automated technology improves with more artificial intelligence capabilities, transportation companies that adopt early will reap the benefits of better time management and streamlined supply chains. Those companies will gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In short, while some companies automate, others will stagnate. For your company, robotic process automation may be the answer in gaining the full benefits of your existing technology.

Sources: Techwire Asia, Forbes,