Freight is Getting Bigger. And Also Smaller.

At first glance, it seems to defy the laws of supply and demand.

According to sources here and here, supply-chain activity is increasing, largely driven by e-commerce and small-parcel delivery. We all learned in economics that when there is increased demand for a fixed inventory of goods or services (in this case, capacity), prices rise to meet the demand. At Christmas, if there are only a certain number of Tickle Me Elmos, and everyone wants one, the price goes up. So logistics costs should be going up, right?

Not so fast. In fact, U.S. logistics costs fell by 1.5% in 2016 after five straight years of increasing, according to the recent 28th annual State of Logistics report published by A.T. Kearney and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. It was the first such decline since the Great Recession.

So is there something wrong with the classic supply-and-demand equation? Let’s investigate further. It seems that even though supply-chain activity is increasing, there is actually overcapacity. The economic details about it are a little complicated (you can read a great summary here). Put simply, even though there is more demand, there is also more supply — too much supply — and that’s driving prices down.

Figuring Out the Pricing Paradox

Having thought a lot about this issue, we at CoLoadX have an alternate explanation, and it has to do with freight size. Any freight forwarder can tell you that the smaller a piece of freight is, the higher its transportation costs per pound, kilogram or cubic meter. Plus, smaller freight often moves at “minimums” or “de minimis” charges, which should mean that an increasing number of smaller shipments should be driving up freight costs, not down.

The reason that’s not happening is that when you have so many small parcels, bulk pricing starts to become more widely available. Minimums are getting lower specifically because the volume of small freight is increasing. It’s almost as if the higher cost of a small parcel is being offset by the aggregate volume of those parcels. So everyone is realizing the benefit of lower unit costs.

Where Wall Street Meets Container Ships

The nuances of size and cost aside, there’s a bigger story here: This is just one example of the many complicated factors affecting the cost and dynamics of your logistics chain. It’s more than a company can handle on a spreadsheet — or even on a dedicated software platform. The entire industry needs to be moving towards powerful algorithmic cloud-based solutions.

That’s more than just techno-jargon. Stock trading has become dominated by algorithms, which allows millions of trades to be executed every second. Profitability depends on it,  because stocks trade in a dynamic market, where price, volume, and direction are always changing. Is it really that different from logistics? Capacity and freight are commodities, and increasingly they are changing on a real-time basis. You and I can try to understand and anticipate trends, but our human minds can’t outsmart them.

So, no, classical economics is not invalid. Supply and demand holds. But in today’s complex world, seemingly opposite things can hold true.

Yes, freight can be getting bigger while it’s also getting smaller.


Download the free CoLoadX whitepaper, “Logistics as a Service: How it Will Transform Your Ocean Freight Business” and see how LaaS will help your company grow.

What the Cyberattack on Maersk Means for your Logistics Business

Imagine coming into the office one morning to find your data frozen, unable to access reports or conduct business. Has your data been lost? Did this affect your clients and vendors? You call around (no email either!) and hear the three words you’d been dreading: You’ve been hacked.

Now imagine this scenario on a vastly larger scale: On June 27, 2017 the Petya Cyberattack was unleashed against the I.T. systems of A.P. Moller-Maersk causing its reservations, tracking and port-management systems to become inoperative worldwide.

Almost daily, we hear about cyberattacks on financial institutions and governments. But even though these grab the headlines, the Petya incident demonstrates that breaches of logistics security can be every bit as dangerous — not just to your business but also to the world economy.

The timing of this cyberattack comes at a particularly sensitive moment for logistics companies, as industry giants like Maersk, global retailers like Amazon, and a slew of startups are focusing their efforts on supply chain digitization.  The irony here is that technology, not logistics processes or labor, is what brought 17% of the world’s container shipping to a near standstill.  

Here’s what we know:

  • Heading into one of the busiest weekends of port activity in the year, Maersk was virtually reduced to pen and paper operations while its systems were rendered useless.  
  • The attack was in the form of “Ransomware” which attempted to extort money from Maersk in order to get the attack and its effects reversed.
  • The effects of the cyberattack continued to be felt at major ports such as New York for more than a week as truckers queued to collect containers that couldn’t be located in electronic systems.  
  • The shutdown of Maersk’s I.T. systems was entirely preventable.

That’s right, the vulnerability that the Petya Cyberattack targeted was in the Server Message Block that enabled file-sharing and print-sharing across various nodes on a network (imagine the number of times a container number and seal number has to be shared and printed just inside the Maersk ecosystem and you get why this is a soft target). Microsoft released software patches for this vulnerability in April 2017.  Installing them could have at least kept Maersk’s systems running at a minimally acceptable level during the cyberattack.  

So what does this mean for your logistics business?

For freight forwarders and NVOCC’s of all sizes, but especially those who lack significant I.T. budgets, it’s time to get your entire business into the cloud.  This applies not only to communications like VOIP phones, email and company websites, but also to your logistics operations software as well as quoting and booking functionality.  Cloud-based solutions that run on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud provide the security and flexibility needed to protect and grow your business as its technology needs evolve.  

It may not be easy to turn your back on servers and equipment that have been paid off and work just fine, until one fine day you find that a cyber intrusion has brought your business to a complete standstill. Shifting to a secure, cloud-based system may sound risky, but waiting for the inevitable next big hack is even riskier.


Download the free CoLoadX whitepaper, “Logistics as a Service: How it Will Transform Your Ocean Freight Business” and see how LaaS will help your company grow.

Here’s the Secret to Taking Your Freight Logistics Business Global

As those of us in the business know, Freight Forwarders deliver tremendous value to their customers and to the world’s supply chain.

But despite the fact that Forwarders are critical to the global economy, too many seem artificially constrained by factors like location and industry segment. After all, if our industry is global, shouldn’t your business be as well? Is it possible Freight Forwarders are thinking too small?

It’s 2017 and in order to grow, it’s necessary to think big — global, in fact. But doing business the same old way only reinforces those old constraints. Only technology — enabled by an innovative platform and forward-thinking business practices — can catapult you from a small-potatoes shop to a global juggernaut.

Once you’re doing business online, you’ve liberated yourself from the shackles of geography. Shipping perishables from California across the Pacific? Why not bring your rates, relationships and expertise to opportunities in Florida? Have a large volume of paints, but can’t ever seem to get a foothold in perfumes? The right digital platform gives you the power to access the right base of rates so you can grow into new verticals.

How Mom and Pop Can Conquer the World

Here’s a fun example from another kind of business: Imagine you are the owner of the best candy store in the world. Everyone in your neighborhood knows your candy store is the greatest.

But your candy store has a problem: No one outside your hometown really knows of it. As a result, your customers are all local, and you don’t have the budget to advertise regionally or nationally. And even if you did, how would you keep up with the demand? You would need to source ingredients on a whole new scale, accelerate production, and account for shipping logistics.

It’s pretty obvious how this candy store can go global using technology. Their storefront (and inventory management and delivery) comes courtesy of Amazon, cost-efficient advertising comes from Google and Facebook, and sourcing ingredients comes from bulk sellers online.

Parallel solutions apply to the Freight Forwarder who is looking to grow their business by going global. But logistics is not exactly the same as e-commerce, and there are some important considerations when figuring out to migrate your business to a digital platform:

  1. Affordability: A digital solution shouldn’t come at a steep cost. Rather, it needs to offer you added value without emptying your pockets to access it. The old adage goes, “Spend money to make money”, but it doesn’t say spend “all” your money.

  2. Ease of use: The last thing you need when you’re growing your business is a tedious new tool that slows you and your daily processes down. Your perfect digital solution should be intuitive and should mesh easily with your busy schedule. When your business grows globally, it’ll grow fast. You need a solution that’ll help you keep up the pace.

  3. Global diversity: Your digital solution should help you expand your reach. This means the audience it opens to you isn’t restricted to nearby businesses where you can “pop over and say hello.” Local success is important, but your digital solution needs to give you a chance to expand beyond the farthest limits of a full gas tank.

  4. Clarity on available business to minimize your risk: You can’t run your business on pure hypotheticals. You need ways to analyze data to assess risk and reward. A good digital solution will help estimate the demand awaiting your services and expertise, so you don’t have to take shots in the dark and potentially spend on a fruitless endeavor.

  5. Brand reputation: Your business has value. Your digital solution needs to help you leverage that value. You’re not using your digital solution to show it off, you want your digital solution to show you off. If you have something great to offer the wider world of your industry, make sure your digital solution can help spread the word.

Digital solutions promote visibility and enable opportunities that were previously out of reach. But the right digital solution will help your business mobilize on a global level so that your value doesn’t get trapped in a small corner of a big world.


Download the free CoLoadX whitepaper, “Logistics as a Service: How it Will Transform Your Ocean Freight Business” and see how LaaS will help your company grow.

How Logistics Became the new Prime Real Estate

Prime retail location has always been defined by access to the highest number of walk-in customers, which is why retailers gladly pay a premium for location within a mall, proximity to another larger retailer, a major landmark or generally wherever their ideal customers are.  

But in the world of online retail, the store is on a computer or mobile device and the customer could be at their home in Beverly Hills or an auto parts warehouse in Bayonne.  The ability to deliver to that location rapidly and reliably means that logistics, not geography, provides the new definition of “prime location.”

Square Mile is the New Square Foot

Success in retail is typically measured in Sales per Square Foot.  In a brick-and-mortar environment this still matters, but in e-commerce sales it’s virtually irrelevant.  Instead, it’s time to start paying attention to Sales per Square Mile. Leading retailers like Walmart and Home Depot have been attempting to address this trade-off between stores and distribution centers, and they will ultimately get it right, but not without support from their logistics providers.  The shop floor isn’t just inside a store anymore, it’s inside an entire county or city.  Logistics is the catalyst.

Not Just the “Last Mile”

So if home delivery is important to retailers and their customers, what does this mean to the freight forwarders, NVOCC’s, customs brokers and various other entities who ensure there’s always product available in the market?  Ultimately, everything.  If companies like Amazon, Seamless, and Uber are focused on delivering to their customers’ doorsteps, then it’s obvious that large lots shipped via ocean and bulk containers to & from key overseas markets have to be moved faster just to keep up with the demands of today’s e-commerce retailers and consumers.

Adopting technological solutions that shorten the time it takes to get a container rate, make a booking, process documentation, and clear customs will add value to the existing logistics companies who already have the knowledge and relationships to make the world’s goods move.  This makes them more valuable than ever before to the customers for whom they manage logistics.


Download the free CoLoadX whitepaper, “Logistics as a Service: How it Will Transform Your Ocean Freight Business” and see how LaaS will help your company grow.

Focused on Price in Logistics? You’re Missing the Point

According to a recent editorial written for the Journal of Commerce by our CEO, Fauad Shariff (subscription required but highly recommended), those who think logistics startups, existing stakeholders, and their customers are solely focused on price are missing the point.

Mr. Shariff pointed out that while it is too early to know which companies will revolutionize the world of logistics, technology has never failed to transform an industry. And with the $260 billion ocean freight and logistics industry, there are likely to be multiple winners.

The article was written in response to two recent columns from JoC’s Hugh Morley and Peter Tirschwell, who both articulated that the jury is still out on which business model is making the most difference in ocean container shipping and which one is most likely to prevail.

A common industry response, cited by both articles and in many industry discussion groups, is that technological innovations, especially in the form of marketplace-driven business models, are solely aimed at driving down freight costs and compressing profit margins of existing freight forwarding and logistics companies. In his analysis, Mr. Shariff challenges this reasoning by pointing out that no business can succeed if its sole objective is to drive down price, as this completely ignores the other types of value delivered by freight forwarders.

no business can succeed if its sole objective is to drive down price, as this completely ignores the other types of value delivered by freight forwarders.

If not price, then what is the focus of today’s logistics startups and large entities such as Amazon, AliBaba and Walmart? The answer, according to Mr. Shariff, is velocity of goods.  While the world of ecommerce has made a retail transaction possible on a mobile device in 30 seconds or less and offers same-day or overnight delivery, the world of logistics continues to operate over a network of ERP systems, relaying data via EDI, through a lengthy order-to-cash cycle with multiple cut off dates and staging points.

Solving this problem by accelerating the individual steps in a shipment will ultimately speed up the entire shipment process. This, not price commoditization, is what all companies, from to startups to global forwarders and shippers alike, are truly looking to achieve with today’s technology.

Read the complete article here on Journal of Commerce.  

 


Download the free CoLoadX whitepaper, “Logistics as a Service: How it Will Transform Your Ocean Freight Business” and see how LaaS will help your company grow.

Our New Whitepaper: Introducing Ocean Freight “Logistics as a Service”

As lifelong veterans of the Ocean Freight industry, we at CoLoadX are committed to helping everyone in our sector grow their businesses using innovations in technology. Our customers are Freight Forwarders and NVOCC’s, — but we know that our unique approach helps the entire logistics chain: from manufacturers all the way to consumers. We know the challenges all of the stakeholders in logistics face, and we’re committed to making logistics faster and easier for our customers as well as their customers.

Unlike some players who market aggressively, making empty promises of lower prices and unrealistic agreements, we think it’s important that our customers truly understand the value we bring, and more specifically, how you can use our solutions to grow your business. That’s why we’re proud to announce that we have just published our first whitepaper — an in-depth discussion of what these technology innovations mean for you. We’ve made this whitepaper available for free in order to help guide you through the important changes ahead.

 

Instantly Download “Logistics as a Service: How it Will Transform Your Ocean Freight Business” Whitepaper Here

 

The digital revolution has transformed nearly everything we do on a daily basis, both as consumers and as businesses. In our daily life we seldom, if ever, use travel agents or stock brokers anymore. And yet, the logistics business seems stuck in the pre-digital age. Sure, there’s email, but we still rely on paper, phone calls, and even faxes. We operate multiple offices and pay expensive salaries and benefits.  The absence of a technological solution specifically for logistics companies is trapping value, draining profits and forcing companies to rely solely on bargaining and discounting to survive.

 

Read More: Your Biggest Freight Pricing Problem Solved!

 

Now, you might say, “Our business is based on relationships that cannot be replaced by computers.” That’s absolutely true. But this whitepaper will explain why strong business relationships and powerful technology are not mutually exclusive. In fact, technology platforms — like the one we’ve developed at CoLoadX — can help you win and serve more profitable business while allowing you to focus on your business’s unique strengths.

 

Read More: The Relationship Business Paradox in Logistics

 

We’ve given a name to this phenomenon: Logistics as a Service (LaaS). You may be familiar with the term Software as a Service (Saas) applied to other industries, especially in technology. It refers to services that replace desktop applications and apps with services and data hosted in the cloud. That not only makes for more efficient shipment execution, but also enables the kind of fluid and flexible information exchange and analysis that’s necessary for your company to grow quickly. Think of it as using GPS vs. a pocket compass, and the benefits should be obvious!

Here’s a Sneak Preview of the Specific Topics That we Cover in the Whitepaper

How LaaS used in Ocean Freight can help you:

We’re offering this free whitepaper because we believe that it’s not enough to blindly adopt technology without knowing how your customers actually benefit from it. We want our customers — current and future — to truly understand why technology is important to their survival and future success and how they can use it now instead of waiting for the future, at which point it will be too late to adapt.  

Once you’ve read the whitepaper, we’d love to hear your comments, including any questions you have. We hope to produce more industry leading, meaningful publications  in the future, and your feedback will help us create content that matters to your business today.

And of course, we’d love to provide you with a quick, live demo of CoLoadX and demonstrate how you can start implementing the ideas in our whitepaper right away. Please email us at info@coloadx.com or call (650) 918-4612 — we’d love to hear from you.

 

Keep Your Ocean Freight Vendors Honest

That vendor sales rep who stops by your office…he’s a nice guy, right? There’s no reason to distrust him. But is that vendor really focused on servicing your business? Do you really know the answers to these questions?

• How do their rates and transit times rank against other vendors?
• What is their booking completion ratio?
• How often is their rate quote late by hours…or days?
• Are they suspiciously “always off” on their pricing?

Unless you have a person or a team devoted to this kind of tracking, you wouldn’t know. In fact, many companies simply rely on their vendors to report their own “on time” stats without ever knowing when the clock truly started ticking.

Transitioning your business to a digital platform eliminates uncertainty about such things by tracking and reporting all the variables involved in a transaction — from quote request to service completion. It is critical that this platform puts analytics at the center of its functionality, because the insights you receive lets you hold your partners accountable. Data gives you the granular insights that can’t be duplicated by the old ways of doing business.

If you can’t track it, you can’t evaluate it

It’s not just about adding more rows and columns to an existing spreadsheet. If your platform is truly integrated, it will automatically mine data from your business operations, and you will effortlessly receive analyses that would otherwise require hiring a data-science PhD. You don’t even need to formulate questions to ask…all the analyses are right in front of you. Armed with these facts and figures, you can decide for yourself if your vendors are delivering on their promises…and performing up to your standards.

We all know how powerful personal relationships are in business. But sometimes, the bonds we’ve created over the years can lead us to ignore the truths that numbers are telling us. Don’t put your business at risk because you are reluctant to challenge your own assumptions. Data will keep your partners honest, and that’s very important. But just as importantly, it’ll inform you enough to recognize the truths of your own business.

 


Sign up with CoLoadX today to see how a digital solution can help your business grow with data.

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Why Data is the Lighthouse for Ocean Freight Logistics

Whether you have a Quote Management System or you track your success rates in a spreadsheet, the fact is you have no clue what happens the minute you send out a rate request or quotation for a shipment.  

Why? Because email, FAX or even phone quotes can’t be tracked. You have no idea if your rate was too high or your transit time was too long.  You don’t know what your true response time was, and what effect that had on your ability to win the business.  You don’t even know if you requoted the same shipment multiple times!  As we mentioned in this recent post, the entire process of figuring out what your rate should be is practically a soap opera unto itself.  

To keep our customers from getting adrift at sea, CoLoadX was built with robust analytics to make you better at quoting. We like to think of our data tracking as a lighthouse, guiding your business to safety.

Here’s a look at some of the key analytics you need to be aware of. CoLoadX is constantly adding the ability to check these in real time, with analytics upgrades to be unveiled in the near future. 

How Analytics Help NVOCC’s

  • Don’t Leave Money on the Table – You know you have a great rate, and you know you’re in a competitive market, but you have no clue just how competitive, so you only add a $50 mark up per container.  But did you know that your price was $300 cheaper per container than the next competitor?  So yes, you left $200 on the table.  CoLoadX provides the benchmarking data to help you maximize your yield, and we do it WITHOUT revealing your competitors’ identity to you or vice versa! Contrast that with quoting by email, where you have no idea how much money you could have made.  Even worse, your customer emails your rate quote to your competitor just to get a better deal.  
  • Turnaround Time Our research shows that NVOCC’s who quote fastest win the most bookings, even if their rate was HIGHER than subsequent offers received by a Freight Forwarder. CoLoadX tracks your company’s turnaround time so that you can figure out if your success is tied to pricing or performance.  And yes, this too is done anonymously so that no two NVOCC’s are ever played against each other. 
  • Rate vs. Transit Time – Conventional wisdom says that a shorter transit time is supposed to come with a higher freight cost.  But have you ever actually measured or tracked it within your own business?  Does it hold true in a market where discounting prevails?  Do your customers even care about transit time or are they totally price driven? CoLoadX compares quotes in real time to show how your rate compared to competitors in terms of both rate and transit time.

 There’s no way to build a successful, scalable sales process without data.  Why shouldn’t that apply to your quoting?  

How Analytics Help Freight Forwarders

  • Savings – There are a few ways that CoLoadX can track your savings rates, but the easiest one is to simply analyze the quotes you receive in our marketplace.  What’s the average rate?  What’s the range?  What’s the value decision you’re making about the rate you chose to accept and book?  Right now, we bet you’re doing this with a pencil and calculator. CoLoadX makes this decision process faster and visible in one online dashboard enabling you to actually track your savings.  
  • Aggregate Response Rate Right now you probably shop for rates with about three NVOCC’s…the ones who happen to send in sales reps. It makes sense. How many emails can your staff send, sort, print and save? And do you know how many of those reps are actually replying to all of your quotes at all? CoLoadX allows you to track vendor quote completion and success rates in real time. We use our proprietary technology to make sure you can identify your vendors and not have them exposed to each other. We respect your time: The last thing we want is for a barrage of competing quotes to come your way every time someone drops a rate by $25.  
  • Geographic Concentration – Does it feel like you’re always looking for rates from Tupelo, MS?  Is it true, or is it just so time consuming to find rates from that origin that it simply feels like that’s all you ever do? CoLoadX tracks and reports your most frequent origins and destinations in one map-based dashboard so that you don’t have to guess about the difference between your quote volume and booking volume. Now imagine using that data to negotiate better deals for other parts of your business.  That’s something email can never do. 

Nobody knows freight forwarding like we do. We’ve been through all of these scenarios and many more. That’s why we decided to build a technology that keeps you from getting lost in the wide ocean of cargo logistics. Let CoLoadX be your lighthouse.

 


Did You Know…?

The CoLoadX Success Team has over half a century of combined experience in the import/export and logistics management industries. Our expertise and commitment to the logistics industry is time-tested.

We invite you to come explore all the features on our site or, if you already have an account, log in and participate today!

How Much Time Does it Take to Close a Sale in Freight Forwarding?

The sales process in logistics and freight forwarding is hard. With over 400,000 competitors around the world, and global players meeting customer needs far beyond simply moving freight, the sales cycle is excruciatingly long and competition often boils down to a few dollars per shipment.

 

Even with value propositions clearly laid out and defined, and every possibility, angle, and objection addressed, you still might not get the business at the end of the day. It happens. What’s worse than simply not getting the job is the “consolation prize”: the “chance” to participate in the next RFP or bid. The plain and simple fact of the matter is that RFPs, RFQs, and bids are often a “race for second place”. It is usually a frustrating ending, resulting in a waste of considerable time, effort, and of course, money.

 

close-a-sale-in-freight-forwarding

 

So why the disconnect? Why is there such a vast gap between your bid and what the client ultimately accepts, even though you know your business so well? The problem is in the value proposition forwarders convey to potential clients, and that value proposition is usually rooted in expertise and relevance. Instead, it becomes a matter of price. However, in today’s market, shippers are looking for far more than just a low cost bid.

 

Visibility is Always Key

 

Closing a sale as a freight forwarder can take time, sometimes upwards of two years just to close a single sale. That’s two years of effort, bidding, negotiations, and concessions made on both sides, and even then there’s no guarantee of getting the business. The problem lies in the fact that sellers and buyers often confuse price with cost. Price is actually a component of cost. They are not one and the same. Consider a trip to the supermarket. You go and buy groceries, only to come home and see an advertisement for a different store offering what you just bought, cheaper. It’s a different option. If you had this information from the beginning, you obviously would have gone to that store for cheaper groceries, right?

 

Not necessarily – if that store is out of the way, or surrounded by roads that are notorious for traffic jams, you’d waste more time in travel, and more gas for the trip than you would by simply buying the more expensive groceries. That loss of time, gas and excess effort are the other components of cost above and beyond the price of the goods you bought. While it’s a simplified analogy, accepting a bid for business really isn’t that much different. It’s a matter of convenience. Sure, you might offer a better rate than another company, but if your service isn’t convenient to work with, the client will choose a better service provider, even at a higher price than yours.

 

This is where visibility comes into play. You can stay visible to the customers and prospects you already know and keep on trying to “catch a break”, or you can look beyond your current space into a larger pool of prospective clients where you are likely to find a better match for your services. Today’s technology, in the form of B2C and B2B eCommerce, allows companies such as freight forwarders to expand their visibility beyond current markets into new geographic areas, or new verticals where they can make an impact but may not have the sales and marketing infrastructure to identify relevant opportunities. While this may not address your value proposition itself, it does absolutely increase the number of potential customers that align with your current value proposition.

 

Using the Tools of the Trade

 

One of the best moves any business can make is to adopt the right tools to enable efficiency. You wouldn’t use a hammer to drive a screw, and why should procurement be any different? With the rise of industry platforms, companies can connect with highly relevant sales prospects, making growth easier than it’s ever been before. It’s just a matter of finding the right tool for the job. Think of platforms like Amazon and Uber. Neither of them eliminated or reduced the number of online sellers or taxi cabs. Instead they created a new way for online merchants and drivers to realize revenues, get paid faster and access more customers than ever before. The same is happening in the freight forwarding and NVOCC markets. It’s time to figure out your company’s growth strategy and how a platform for logistics can accelerate it.

 

Have your say, we would like to know. Leave your comment below:

 

How Do Freight Forwarders Add Value to the Global Supply Chain?

A freight intermediary (also known as an OTI or Ocean Transportation Intermediary) is someone who assists an exporter or an importer in securing competitive freight rates while providing the most efficient routing for their cargoes and also preparing and processing the documents related to these shipments.

Freight forwarders and/or NVOCCs would fall in the above category. Their success depends on having a growing database of clients and the ability to secure and provide optimal pricing and cargo routing.

 

 

Sounds easy, right?  In reality, however, managing the procurement and routing that comes with shipping goods is quite complicated. So what does it take to manage the complexity that comes with international shipping in a way that makes it easy for importers and exporters of goods?  Here’s a list of key freight forwarding services that make the world’s goods move:

  • Offer Comprehensive Solutions – Successful freight forwarders provide the best deals across multiple modes of transport – ocean, rail, road, warehousing, etc. This is essential in order to offer customers the best combination of services to meet their supply chain needs.

 

  • Optimize Customer Value – Buying in bulk reduces costs.  So does good old fashioned bargaining for the lowest price.  And of course every transporter wants to offer freight forwarders their weekly discounts and promotions.  Where freight forwarders add tremendous value is in managing the balance between price and value.  The lowest priced option is rarely the best service option for a shipper or receiver of goods.  There is a difference between price and cost.  Forwarders manage this trade off daily.

 

  • Understanding – Understanding a client’s business requirements and goals is the most important value added service a freight intermediary can provide. Knowing when “get it there now” means “now”, and what “later” truly costs a customer, is the hallmark of a successful freight intermediary.

 

  • Transparency – Shippers always want need to know 2 things: “where are my goods?” and “what does it cost me to get them to my customers?”.  Freight forwarders answer these questions daily, and the ones who have the ability to answer accurately are the most valuable to their customers.  Tracking & tracing, price forecasting and the timely delivery of such information is crucial to shippers and receivers.  Great freight forwarders make this transparency a core part of their service offering to clients.

 

  • Accountability – A lot of freight intermediaries will focus on “personalized service” as their competitive advantage.  But what exactly does that mean?  Customers don’t care about the “person” per se.  What they are looking for is an understanding of their business needs and a solution to their problems.  Successful freight intermediaries are the ones who realize this and proactively solve problems like price changes, capacity contractions, trouble spots and above all hold themselves and their vendors accountable for the results a customer needs to succeed in international business.

The common thread to all of these attributes is visibility.  It takes visibility to recognize the value of each mode of transport.  It takes visibility into market conditions to make the call between price and cost.  It takes visibility to understand client business goals and to be responsive to those needs.

Technology is the enabler of visibility.  Technology enables forwarders to move from a tracking spreadsheet emailed to customers daily, to a cloud based dashboard that enables real time status updates.  Technology enables forwarders to stop sending multiple emails just to get a competitive rate or to keep NVOCC’s from re-quoting the same shipment over and over again.  But in an industry where net profits are typically only 5% of gross sales, where’s the money to deploy better technology?

That’s where digital platforms come into play.  Platforms enable visibility in vital freight intermediary functions like quoting, booking and tracking of shipments.  They create visibility that benefits freight forwarders, NVOCC’s and their customers and vendors without actually trying to eliminate anyone’s profitability.

 

How does a digital freight platform work?

A digital freight platform provides access to competitive rates for FCL and LCL shipments, allowing a shorter turnaround time for accurate pricing.  System checks allow detection and avoidance of duplicate quotations while the access to competitive rates provides greater cost savings and better integration with the clients.

The global reach of a digital freight platform allows a customer base to be significantly widened while improving product offering and minimizing infrastructure costs.  Quite simply, a digital platform enables freight intermediaries to access more orders at a lower cost of customer acquisition.  In fact, digital platforms can totally eliminate the cost of new customer acquisition.  That means more business realized for less money spent on sales or marketing.

By combining core service offerings with the visibility and speed of a digital freight platform, a freight intermediary can make strategic and tactical decisions required to succeed at their core competencies.  This frees up valuable time and resources to pursue new opportunities, grow business and perhaps even get back to building relationships through personalized service.