Success in freight forwarding depends on a massive number of KPIs. You must demonstrate your ability to find the best routes, select the most cost effective transportation modes (while still meeting deadlines), handle customs, uphold high standards of customer service, respond accurately and quickly to a multitude of stakeholders – the list is long and complex. The more complicated an industry like freight forwarding is, the more difficult it can be to figure out where to streamline processes while adhering to quality, budget, and deadlines.
To help narrow it down, we’ve outlined 5 areas where you can move the needle toward making your freight forwarder more efficient.
1. Use Your Data to Automate
One advantage of being a freight forwarder is there is no shortage of transactional data you collect about your customers, by necessity. The challenge is setting up systems that will measure that data so that you can use it to automate processes. To combat this, set up dashboards, alerts, and workflow management to ensure that internal users are completing all fields of data needed to prepare your organization for automation. This helps to protect the integrity of your data so you can measure where problems are happening, as well as where you are succeeding.
Then, leverage real-time data to create automation to increase efficiency, which goes toward reducing operational costs. For example, most freight forwarders now analyze costs at the shipment level. This allows sales personnel to measure profit margins more accurately and make better decisions in real-time, helping to maximize on shipment earnings. Those savings are passed directly to their customers, which can help to win future and repeat business.
2. Master Your ERP Systems
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems are powerful, but can also be overwhelming monsters. The nature of the beast is to make sense of the convolution inherent to complicated industries, so naturally the ERP system will, itself, be complicated. That is not to say it cannot be learned nor wrestled into a powerful engine that streamlines processes and inefficiencies – but it does take time and attention.
The challenge is, when time is money, it can be difficult for a team to set aside the time required to gain a mastery of their ERP system. When the phone is always ringing and deadlines are relentless, the loudest urgency will always take precedence. This however is a mistake because this is a system you are allocating significant budget to, with the average ERP system ranging anywhere from $75,000 to more than $10 million. Many different ERP systems, like WiseTech’s Cargowise One, have certification programs that come with the software, intended for you to gain the knowledge required to really leverage this system. It may be expensive from a time perspective, but is one of the best ways that you can get more efficient with the tools you already have.
3. Leverage Collaboration Tools
Freight forwarding relies on developing strong relationships between many parties. These include exporters, importers, agents, carriers, forwarders and their customers, too. The challenge is, oftentimes communication suffers given a lack of streamlining mediums for where they are sending messages. A freight forwarder is often struggling to make sense of messages coming in from emails, phone calls, faxes, instant messaging services, internal system messaging, or ERP messaging.
Achieving cohesion in communication is a huge way a freight forwarder can achieve greater efficiency, given that work is processed faster when all the stakeholders are on the same page. New technologies offer these communication channels, and often at a relatively low cost. Instant messaging channels like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Google Hangouts are portals that allow freight forwarders to get answers quickly. This also helps to memorialize these messages for future reference and ensures all stakeholders are in alignment.
4. Create an Innovation Committee
Advisory boards, or Innovation committees, are powerful think tanks that can help businesses like freight forwarding grow quickly by leveraging the experience of others. The concept of gathering experts from a variety of fields is one of the best ways to not only grow your operation, but also assemble a cohort of allies who can help you avoid pitfalls you may not be aware of. This can protect you and your business as you learn from others’ wins and mistakes.
Get started by gathering a group of peers who are outside of your industry to give you candid feedback on your business. What have they done in their business(es) that has worked? What has made them more efficient? Not only this, but set up specific task forces for initiatives such as marketing, digital media, new technology, and so forth. From there, be sure to establish a regular cadence for communication to keep the feedback flowing. Whether it’s monthly or quarterly, set those expectations from the start.
5. Invest in New Technologies
The freight forwarding industry is propelling quickly into a technology-first economy. The reason is:
- Technology provides your customer with the visibility they crave and need.
- Industry leaders are investing in technology, and training today’s customer that this is the norm.
While visibility has always been important to customers, it’s important to realize that the speed of getting access to that visibility is the critical trend to invest in. Your focus should be on meeting a customer at a point of engagement, making access to the whereabouts of their shipment self-service and on-demand to ensure your customers get their answers fast.
Integrating with the newest technologies ensures that your business will stay relevant and competitive to meet the demands of the new customer who needs real-time tracking and easy-to-use dashboards. While some freight forwarders have the budget and resources to build their own proprietary systems, not everyone does.
The good news is, having a multi-million dollar budget is no longer a requirement to advance your technology offerings to help you win more business.
That’s where we can help. Leveling the playing field for freight forwarders is why Logixboard exists. Our easy-to-use software is built for freight forwarders who want to get technologically savvy without breaking the budget. Click here to get started.