Logistics in general is a very overlooked and under appreciated industry. Without a properly functioning logistics industry, our supply chain would be inefficient, and we would not get all the goods we rely on for survival.
The cold supply chain is even more sensitive. When shipping perishable goods such as frozen or chilled food, pharmaceuticals or electronics the temperature and humidity within the shipping container need to be held at certain levels and monitored throughout the time the shipment is in transit. If the refrigeration unit within such a shipping container fails for some reason, and as a result the temperature within the container spike up, then by the end of the journey the contents inside the container will spoil or become unusable and destroyed.
For decades many shippers of such perishable goods have relied on freight forwarders to process and schedule such shipments for them. Processing such shipments can be a very frustrating, time consuming, unreliable and expensive ordeal; especially when these shipments are international rather than domestic. So, shippers opt to pay freight forwarders to deal with these headaches.
The problem is that the traditional freight forwarding industry is old, outdated and technologically challenged. Freight forwarders are processing shipments today as they have for decades. To process one shipment can take as much as 4-5 days of constant phone calls, emails and even faxes. Rarely can a traditional freight forwarder provide real time information regarding a shipment’s GPS, temperature or humidity. If there is a problem with a shipment, then the traditional freight forwarders can do no more than simply convey the bad news to the shipper if and when they are notified of an issue. This industry is in dire need of technological advancement and automation.
Enter automated freight forwarders.
As stated earlier, traditional freight forwarders rely on outdated technology such as fax machines for communication with the shippers and vendors such as ocean carriers and trucking companies. Traditional freight forwarders also are reliant on manual labor to process and schedule shipments. This leads to long processing times as well as inefficiencies. In recent years, there has been an influx of startups in the logistics industry. Real time tracking devices, API (Application Program Interface) and blockchain technology are just a few of the innovations that have come to market. These new tools have really helped take the logistics industry out of the dark ages and improve the efficiency and visibility and accountability of all shipments. Putting all these new tools under one roof to provide a much better shipping experience is what automated freight forwarders are doing.
By automating the entire processing and scheduling of an international shipment of perishable goods, the time it takes to process such shipments is reduced from as much as 4-5 days to 5-10 minutes. Having systems communicate via API rather than manual labor leads to a dramatic decrease of time and manpower required in the process. Shippers as well as vendors can opt to allocate labor from non-revenue generating positions in logistics to revenue generating positions in business development such as sales and marketing.
When shipping perishable goods overseas, there are many documents that need to accompany such shipments; bills of lading, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Health Certificates, Certificates of Origin. Many times, these documents are misplaced, lost or damaged. A shipment cannot be released from the port of destination without such documents. If the documents are missing or inaccurate, then the shipment will not be released by the local authorities and this will lead to delays as well as warehousing expenses until the proper documents are presented to the local authorities. The blockchain technology solves these issues. Shippers simply upload the required documents and certificates for anyone on the blockchain to see and use.
As stated earlier, when shipping perishable goods, monitoring of temperature and humidity are extremely important. Tracking devices provide that information now in real time, as well as GPS of the shipment. Now shippers can know if and when there is an issue with a shipment and flag it at the port of destination upon arrival. As a result, the shipper can avoid any inconveniences with their customer.
Automation of the freight forwarding industry is a natural progression. The business model of the traditional freight forwarders is based on manual labor. It would take a nearly impossible change of course for them to automate entirely. That is where startups are filling the void and revolutionizing how international shipments of perishable goods are processed and scheduled.
Guest Blogger – Amit Hasak
Amit Hasak is the Founder and CEO of Transship, Corp. Transship is an automated freight forwarding platform specifically designed for international shipments of full container loads of perishable goods.
Header Image: metamorworks – Getty Images
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