How Freight Forwarders can use Software to Optimize Import Operations

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As ships continue to pile up outside of the nation’s ports and supply chain challenges are making headlines in the mainstream media, behind the scenes, freight forwarders, 3PLs, customs brokers, and other logistics professionals are hard at work trying to keep shipments moving. We have never before seen the magnitude of challenges we’re dealing with in global supply chains, and at the same time, demand for imports is at an all-time high. You might call it a perfect storm for freight forwarders focused on imports: record demand coupled with brutal delays and sky-high costs. And while a lot of the obstacles at hand are truly out of the freight forwarder’s control, there are still things we can do to maximize speed, efficiency, and visibility to keep customers happy and expedite shipments.

If you’re still relying on e-mail and spreadsheets or cobbled-together, dated software systems to run your business, then you’re bound to struggle to keep pace with today’s supply chain demands and challenges. The good news? Modern, connected logistics software systems that digitize, centralize, and automate processes and data are here – and have become tantamount to success for freight forwarders in today’s import economy.

Here are a few ways that freight forwarders and logistics service providers can effectively use software to optimize your import operations:

 

Purchase Orders

Get your import right from the very start with an efficient PO process. The gold standard here is to use an online freight portal where your customer can input their information themselves, rather than relying on emails and copy-pasting from one system to another. In addition to wasting time, that’s where errors, inaccuracies, and omissions are known to slip in. Streamline the PO workflow by automating and optimizing key processes, and digitizing the process from the customer to the back-office.

 

Freight Allocations

As supply chain congestion and skyrocketing demand intersect, space on ocean carriers is at an all-time premium. This means that keeping up with carrier allocation commitments and tracking progress towards achieving incentives is also more important than ever for freight forwarders. If you’re still using spreadsheets and manual processes to keep track of allocation commitments, there’s a better way. Software now exists that lets you manage your freight allocations right in the same place as your shipments, eliminating the need to hop back and forth between spreadsheets and other systems, saving time, and sidestepping the errors that can slip in with manual data management.

 

Rates and Quotes

With rates constantly changing at a moment’s notice, it’s near-impossible to stay updated on all fronts, and that puts your profit margins at risk. Manual quoting and rate management processes simply can’t keep pace these days. Without the right quoting software in place, freight forwarders focused on imports may face significant monetary and resource losses. Look for quoting software that’s connected with your freight management and other systems to eliminate data silos and ensure all stakeholders have the same visibility. When you can search and compare your entire rate set, manage margins, evaluate surcharges and spot rates on-demand all from a single solution, you can respond faster to RFQs with the most current rate and risk conditions.

 

Import Compliance

Every importer knows that compliance is critical to ensure shipments arrive on time and goods don’t incur unexpected charges. Even small missteps can cause your shipments to be delayed or even seized. That’s why it’s important to seek out ABI software that helps keep you compliant and is regularly updated as tariffs and regulations evolve. Your compliance software should also integrate with other systems to avoid double data entry and streamline processes where possible.

 

Schedules

Take the manual effort out of maintaining and sharing schedules from multiple ocean freight carriers with a digital customer portal that allows you to define an allocation table, or routing guide, where you link carriers to trade lanes and set up filters. The more carriers, consolidators, and airlines that connect with the portal, the less legwork you’ll have to do over time, and the more value you can provide to your customers.

 

Bookings and Shipments

The fastest, most efficient way to execute your multimodal freight transactions is by entering all your electronic cargo bookings in one connected system that’s directly integrated with your carrier and NVOCC partners. Even better? Allow your customers to interact directly with operators via a digital portal and respond to status changes when needed, saving you time and effort, expediting your shipments, and boosting operational productivity.

 

Tracking and Visibility

Lines are becoming blurred between B2C e-commerce experiences and B2B freight forwarding as customers’ expectations for easy, self-service, 24/7 visibility are higher than ever. They don’t want to pick up a phone or wait for an email reply to find out that their shipment is delayed – freight forwarders need to offer online tracking and visibility that connects with data from back-end systems and carriers for the most accurate, up-to-date information.

Evolving customer expectations and challenging shipping conditions are forcing freight forwarders focused on imports to make better use of technology, leaving old ways of working in the past. The more you can streamline data collection and sharing between all stakeholders, the better the outcomes will be. From your customers to agents, internal teams, customs agencies, carriers, and more, timely, accurate data is key for optimal import operations.

 

About the Author :  Virgil Ferreira, Chief Operating Officer, Rate Management at Magaya. With more than 15 years of experience in the logistics technology industry, Virgil brings a wealth of knowledge to his role. As Chief Operating Officer, Rate Management, Virgil is responsible for leading the execution of the Catapult strategy and shaping the company’s product vision to continue leading digitization in the shipping industry. He holds a Bachelor of Economics from Drew University.