Freight forwarding is one of the oldest and most paper-intensive processes within the supply chain. But the proper use of information technology can help to bring that old-line function into the 21st Century, according to CargoWise edi, a vendor of software and services for forwarders, customs brokers and logistics service providers. Gene Gander, vice president of sales for the Americas with CargoWise edi, says modern IT systems can help to integrate corporate functions and manage them throughout the freight forwarding process. The best solution, he says, involves the use of enterprise resource planning software, or something like it, as a means of marrying disciplines throughout a global supply chain. "This is especially important in the freight-forwarding industry, where accurate and timely data capture is such an integral part of the supply chain process as it relates to running the entire company," he says. The effort should include a wide range of discrete functions, such as sales prospecting, quotes, operations, finance and customer notification.
Gander names seven ways in which IT optimization can boost the efficiency of freight forwarding. They are:
• It provides a consistent sales and operations planning process, fixing the problem of fragmented communications and multiple data entries.
• It makes training easier. One integrated IT system allows for standardized training processes across departments, business functions and company branches.
• It creates deeper customer profiles, allowing for easy changes in customer details, contacts and procedures once a logistics process is under way.
• It consolidates reporting, leading to electronic data mining and the routing of key shipment data and documents to the appropriate functions.
• It improves customer service, providing accurate shipment data and creating a precise customer record to be entered into a customer relationship management application.
• It derives efficiencies from centralized data, while enhancing data quality and accessibility to the entire organization.
• It enables greater visibility, with timelier and more accurate data available to the extended supply chain.
Ultimately, says Gander, a single-source IT infrastructure "can greatly lower hardware and software costs, while streamlining all business functions and improving workflow productivity."
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