Why Digital Transformation Matters in Transportation

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Editor’s Note: Bruce Orcutt is Senior Vice President of Product Marketing at ABBYY.Digital technology is changing many industries and the transportation and logistics industry is no exception. Whether you are a traffic coordinator at a carrier, a shipping clerk for a manufacturer, or an invoice processing analyst at a 3PL – you have experienced the benefits of digital transformation in your personal lives and expect the same type of transactional experience in your professional roles.
However, 3PL vendors continue to deal with issues such as manual data entry, driver shortages, proliferation of data from Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, warehouse and on-truck capture devices interfacing into legacy systems, and the rise of emerging geographic markets with antiquated paper-based systems.  Simultaneously, relationships are becoming more transient and volatile as competition heats up. Google’s same day delivery, Amazon’s drone package delivery testing, self-driving trucks, and the inevitable Uber for Trucking with supply chain load sharing are examples of disruptions. The influx of new market entrants are armed with new technologies and unburdened by legacy systems.
In addition to new market entrants, smart trucking applications threaten to level the playing field with driver matching, driverless autonomous or semiautonomous freight trucking, real-time asset maintenance tracking, capacity load sharing and instant payment. Innovation is continuing at a rapid pace.Customer Experience is your Secret WeaponYour existing business processes are the backbone of your business. You’ve worked hard to support a high volume of digital transactions and likely can support a diverse set of documentation sources through self-service portals which can handle fax, email and various formats such as EDI, ANSI X12, EDIFact, Web Services, spreadsheets, and CSV. The goals of your IT investments were to achieve speed of execution and agility to reduce existing business latencies and inefficiencies. However, there are still remnants of the analog world that don’t quite fit with your new digital strategy.Documents still drive and support most 3PL business processes. Bills of lading, customs declarations, claims documents, proof of delivery, driver logs, catering and fuel receipts, carrier invoices and expenses all have to get captured in order to commence a process. Even if a relatively small percentage of your logistic data inputs are still paper, it slows the process, increases errors and will require people to execute the mundane and repetitive tasks of manual data entry, scan, track and trace, monitoring shipment schedules, invoicing validation and credit collections.Your workflows may often start with a physical document that needs to be converted into a digital file so it can be processed, validated and inserted into your business process. Mobile capture is a natural channel for initiating a process. Most customers have the ultimate capture device in the palm of their hands in the form of their smartphones. Customers can be empowered to capture and submit logistics documents in their preferred channel whether that be their smartphone, a self-service web portal, email, fax, scanner to an FTP site or the cloud.Critical to a dynamic workflow is incorporating intelligent capture that automates the process of classifying document types. Being able to automatically recognize, separate and distinguish between different document types (invoices, contracts, orders, delivery notices, split POs, etc.) is an important step. Once automatically classified, your business process will be able to orchestrate where the document needs to be routed.Acting on InformationReal-time data can be a competitive game changer for 3PL practitioners. Your customers will benefit by using data from your business processes to give them context to make better decisions about their supply chain to accelerate shipments and minimize costs.  Real-time data helps make logistics management decisions on carrier selection, load optimization, centralized track and trace, and claims management. Management of costs and visibility are important to your customers as well.  Armed with metadata, your customers have granular visibility into shipment and on-time delivery validations, duplicate billings, GL coding for multi-shipment purchase orders, granular detail on surcharges for fuel, residential delivery, “Customer/Address Not Found” surcharges, class of service confirmation and exception handling analysis.Digital Transformation is about innovating processes, connecting the supply chain, launching new and innovative digital products and services and evolving your organization with the goal of transforming the customer engagement experience to drive more business value. Digital transformation in the transportation industry is a competitive weapon to improve your ROI.

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