Build the Ultimate 3PL Tech Stack

Digitization in freight forwarding has become less of a question of “should we?” and more of a discussion on “how?” Your tech stack should add efficiency to your internal teams while also leveling up the experience your customers receive while working with your company.

It is important to evaluate your company’s individual challenges to decide which aspects should be prioritized in your tech stack first, but in the end, each of the following four software categories are now essential to a successful freight forwarding business:

  • Customer Experience
  • Analytics
  • Document Management
  • Online Payments and Invoicing

Some software partners can help satisfy multiple of these essential capabilities, but the main priority is that you have each of these in your stack in a way that works for your operation. Your tech stack is your toolbox – don’t show up to work without the tools you need to get the job done.

1. Customer Experience

Historically, strong customer service offerings have always been a major factor in a shipper/BCOs decision to partner with freight forwarders. While a recent study showed that this is still top of mind for shippers, there is now a desire to see traditional customer service shift to a digitized customer experience.

What does this look like?

Adding a digitized customer experience to your tech stack is all about adding efficiency, ease of use, and accessibility of data to your relationship with customers. This can look like:

  • Shipment visibility
  • Live tracking of shipments
  • Online messaging/correspondence
  • A modern and visually pleasing platform 
  • Accessible analytics dashboards

Having a customer experience layer in your tech stack differentiates your business from other freight forwarders. When customers have this data and direct communication access to your team all in one place, you are ensuring that the overall efficiency of their supply chain improves – which leads to substantial cost savings.

Internally, the benefits of a customer experience layer in your stack include better operational efficiency and productivity. Spending less time on the manual, repetitive efforts of traditional customer service will give time back to your team for high value tasks (read more about digital customer experience’s impact on your employee retention too). Elevating your customer’s experience will also result in reducing churn and winning new business by satisfying their top priority of receiving excellent customer service from you.

“They [shippers/BCOs] want to be able to see it. They want to be able to interact with that data. They want to be able to slice and dice it, reuse it for an internal presentation, and make informed decisions with it.” 

Sean Crook, Director of Neolink (hear more)

Logixboard’s white labeled platform lets forwarders provide customers with real-time visibility of their shipments, access to reports and analytics, customizable views for better tracking of multiple shipments, and direct messaging with your team on any questions that arise.

Logixboard Pitch

2. Analytics

Creating accurate tracking, analytics reports, and strategic visualizations of data to guide logistics decisions will lead to productivity improvements in your forwarding company. What if your team could gather all this automatically with software that pulls data straight from your TMS? That’s where the analytics layer of your tech stack is so integral.

What does this look like?

  • Internal access to current and historical KPIs
  • Exceptions tracking
  • Route specific analytics
  • Carrier comparison

Deeper and more accurate information enables strategic decisions, leading to a better overall performance from your company. An analytics focused layer in your tech stack will allow you to make predictive reports/assessments, analyze current operational efficiency, and even delve into past performance metrics to gather further insights. Overall productivity of your team, optimization of routes, and better communicated ETA expectations (resulting in higher satisfaction from customers) all result from prioritizing digital analytics tools.

A well rated analytics tool to add to a tech stack is Tableau. Werner Enterprises, a global transportation provider, uses Tableau to tap into their data to build customized views that benefit teams across their company. Another well known analytics tool for freight forwarders is Power BI. The Managility Logistics Optimization on Power BI lets large scale organizations gain valuable insights to improve their processes.

Logixboard has set up its analytics dashboards in easy-to-use, compelling formats that eliminate the need to compile data, manage spreadsheets and manually create needed reports. The user-friendly views are not only used by shippers but also by forwarding operations teams

Logixboard Pitch

3. Document Management

Whether by truck, rail, sea, or air, forwarders manage many documents for each job they handle. It’s important that every piece of documentation is available when it is required by different parties throughout the journey of the shipment. Having digital document management tools as part of your tech stack makes these processes less manual and less stressful for your team.

What does this look like?

  • Documentation can be accessed online by customers, forwarding agents, and customs
  • Ability to upload documents
  • Automated population of documents needed – based on job criteria
  • Document scheduling/due dates

On time document management is key in logistics and avoiding the repercussions of mistakes/delays is crucial for a successful shipment. Cost and time for handling of inbound freight can rise significantly if the accompanying paperwork is not in order. Having correct documentation easily accessible allows efficient loading, unloading, clearance through customs, shipping and tracking – minimizing delays, storage charges, fines and lost shipments. Digital document management assures speedier sharing and easier access to documents by all relevant parties.

Document Logistix helps eliminate the use of paper, improve records management and automate business processes. Their software powers the operations of some high document volume businesses including major logistics companies like DHL and CEVA. IntelliChief’s document management software converts hard-copy documents into secure electronic files and stores them. Shippamax’s DocRouter features automatically categorize and route your email attachments to matching jobs.

 “Documents from various sources can generate a ‘single view’ timeline of events, offering granular visibility and automated workflows to enable multi-party collaboration, early identification of exceptions and proactive resolution.” 

said Supply Chain Digital

Logixboard’s document management features customers can upload/download shipment documents. Documents sync with your TMS in real-time and automatic notifications alert your team (and your customers) anytime a new document is uploaded.

Logixboard Pitch

4. Online Payments and Invoicing

The use of digital invoicing software allows freight forwarding companies to reduce costs and give back time to their operations. There are many steps in a shipment that will accrue costs to a shipper/BCO that must be invoiced. Softwares can take all the manual work out of these processes for freight forwarders.

What does this look like?

  • Getting rid of physical payment features (physical invoices, checks) 
  • Reducing manual payment communication
  • Automatic tracking of accrued costs in a shipment, compiled into invoices based on job type
  • Automatically sharing costs with internal accounting and customers at the mark of the shipment being delivered to destination

Automatically capturing that data with payment/invoicing digital tools and storing it for a compiled invoice saves internal teams time. These digital capabilities let internal operations and customer teams breathe easier knowing invoicing will be done timely and accurately.

One payment management platform used by logistics companies is PayCargo. Freight forwarders, carriers, customs brokers and others can use their vendor account to manage payments in one secure location.

Without digital automation…“As much as 70% of invoice processing costs are wrapped up in document handling, auditing and payment processes.”

stated by SWG’s Freight Payment Auditing white paper

Filling Your Toolbox

The ROI of digitization is no longer a question, but a differentiator for those freight forwarders deciding to not just survive recent industry changes, but thrive in them. Your tech stack should be a toolbox for your team to get more done with less manual work, have better insight into future ways to improve, and level up your customer experience offerings.

“We took a look at our customer base. On average, we saw a $9.4 million increase last year in revenue across our customer base.”

Julian Alvarez, CEO of Logixboard (read more)