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How digital freight forwarding is building a reliable, responsive supply chain

The Suez Canal blockage crisis has been the centre of attention for the entire global transport community for past few weeks. Accounting for over 12 percent of global trade valued at $700 billion, the disruptions from the closure of the Canal had huge impact on world trade. While the issue at hand was resolved and the blockage was removed within a week, the knock-on effects of the crisis is expected to continue for the next few months.

How digital freight forwarding is building a reliable, responsive supply chain
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The Suez Canal blockage crisis has been the centre of attention for the entire global transport community for past few weeks. Accounting for over 12 percent of global trade valued at $700 billion, the disruptions from the closure of the Canal had huge impact on world trade. While the issue at hand was resolved and the blockage was removed within a week, the knock-on effects of the crisis is expected to continue for the next few months.

Jonas Mascarenhas of Freightwalla argues that the crisis has not only set the stage for international dialogue on safety issues pertaining to the industry but also showcased the fragility of global trade infrastructure and various inadequacies stretched across supply chains.

The past year has seen a significant volatility in the shipping industry owing to the pandemic and created an acute cargo shortage, impacting global trade. With people shifting towards online shopping due to lockdown restrictions, e-retailers have seen a huge rise in the demand across the globe. To deliver goods internationally with efficiency and convenience, retailers are now increasingly relying on digital freight forwarders. Here are a few ways in which digital freight forwarders are building a more reliable and responsive supply chain:

Enhancing real-time control of deliveries
Real-time tracking of shipments inclusive of the exact location, coupled with details of the condition of goods etc. is necessary for all parties involved in the supply-chain process. The expected delivery time is especially vital for both importers and exporters as the further on plans or decisions heavily depend on the timely receipt of shipments. Therefore, any unexpected disruption can have disastrous consequences. From a retailer’s point of view, besides refunds, supply chain reliability issues could even make them lose their clients.

Digital freight forwarders generate minute-by-minute information about an ongoing shipment, through constant notifications to retailers about their goods in transit. They thus offer retailers with enormous transparency and responsiveness. Basis the information, retailers can thus paint the exact picture of the shipments for their buyers. This in turn helps buyers to adjust their plans or decisions to accommodate any disruptions in the supply chain. Digital freight forwarding can thus seamlessly mitigate problems associated with uncertainties in the shipping process.

Simplifying processes
Freight booking involves a host of documents such as payment invoices, airway bills for aerial shipments, certificate of origin, shipper's instructions, bill of lading among others which makes the documentation procedure very cumbersome. Excessive paperwork makes it very taxing for retailers and they end up having a tough time especially in case of exports for larger orders and complex trade routes.

Digital freight forwarders provide the option of auto-generating important shipping documents (such as a bill of lading) over their online portals.

Moreover, in case of overseas trade, each nation has its own rules to regulate imports and exports thus eliminating the possibilities of pilferage or other fraudulent activities during shipping. Digital freight forwarders eliminate complexities involved in the procedure through sharing of documents and offering buyers and sellers immediate access to information, thereby offering retailers greater ease in operations.

Multiple carrier options
Often, companies in the retail sector grapple with issues related to finding the best transportation provider, the lowest price, the route of delivery, and the right time of the week to ship their goods. In this regard, traditional freight forwarders may generally give retailers fewer options to select. Digital freight forwarders on the other hand present a host of options thus helping retailers to avail the best services at best prices.

Additionally, multiple carrier options offers a host of other benefits too. Besides enabling retailers to choose their preferred transportation company, they can also save time if the shipment routes availed are shorter.

Upscaling efficiency and putting check on costs
Digital freight forwarding enables retailers to avail multiple permutations and combinations in case of routes, service providers and even available prices to suit their preferences. This in turn can help retailers upscale their efficiency in delivery of shipments besides putting a check on the costs involved.

For instance - Selecting the shortest transportation route can help eliminate the need for a package to make multiple pit stops during the shipping process. Usually, retailers suffer shrinkage of goods if their shipments need to stop at multiple checkpoints owing to sheer distance between the buyer and seller.

Customised offerings
While retailers may depend on freight forwarders to assist them with their shipments all retailers may have different requirements and priorities regarding their respective shipments. Traditional freight forwarders may not be able to offer the level of personalisation for each customer. Digital freight forwarders on the other hand can help with customised offerings while catering to a combination of aspects such as transportation providers, routes, and prices, among others which are tailor-made for them.

For instance - Retailers who sell fragile and potentially dangerous goods need to take certain added measures to ensure their shipments make it to their destination safely. Artificial Intelligence (AI) backed digital freight forwarding systems ‘study’ patterns as these and enlist the most optimal (and customised) options for shipping them. Higher levels of personalisation can thus save a lot of time and money for retailers.

Improving demand forecasts for better planning
From a retailer’s perspective, it is challenging to predict market demand as one needs to factor in multiple aspects while making long-term budgeting, procurement, and production plans. Digital freight forwarders closely analyse the international trade market dynamics to understand how demand and supply patterns emerge at different times. Based on the analysis retailers attain forecasts which can then be used for ---

  • - Minimise shipping expenses
  • - Produce or procure only the right amount of goods to be sold
  • - Optimise positioning of shipment fleets
  • - Price goods more intelligently
Digitisation offers deep visibility and insights across levels while ensuring clarity of expectations. Besides transparency, it also helps eliminate roadblocks while building supply chains that are nimble and can act with agility in the face of a sudden change. Digital freight forwarding can thus offer the industry with a technological face-lift that can go a long way in building resilient supply chains benefitting trade and economy.

 Jonas Mascarenhas is vice president-sales at Freightwalla

Jonas Mascarenhas is vice president-sales at Freightwalla

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Indian Transport & Logistics News

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