The major challenges with any delivery, particularly when dealing with consumers, are efficiency, timing and customer care. Not too long ago, the collecting of one payment on delivery (POD) involved, at a minimum, four people: the driver, the dispatcher to manually record the date and time, a station employee to scan the signed copy, and a quality assurance (QA) employee to visually inspect the document. The driver was given a manifest or a stack of bills to get signed, hopefully receiving all of the information he needed, hopefully not losing a bill along the way. Any update to the route meant multiple calls between the driver and dispatcher, creating multiple points of failure in which information could get lost, misinterpreted, stuck, etc.
All of this back and forth was cumbersome and inefficient—but necessary at the time. Today, smaller companies can create robust mobile applications that can simplify and streamline the entire process.
For example, Pilot Freight Services created an app that our drivers use, which puts all of the information they need in their pockets, on their mobile device. Now, drivers aren’t worried about scrambling around in the truck for the right papers or checklists, but instead are focused on the care of the package they are delivering. The operator at headquarters isn’t worried about taking calls regarding signed and delivered packages, because that information gets sent back to the system instantaneously. Instead, they can concentrate on taking calls from customers and serving their needs.
Being able to eliminate paper, phone calls, and the constant back and forth has allowed us to truly focus on what matters. We have cut down on the cost of human error because all shipment entries, shipment updates, and invoices are taken care of the second they are complete and sent to us electronically.
In addition to improving the paperwork process, driver apps can determine the best delivery routes, taking into account the location of each drop-off, traffic, roads that don’t allow trucks, etc. This optimization can mean savings in time, money and fuel, as well as the ability to give a customer a more accurate delivery window.
How This Helps Freight Forwarders
Most freight forwarders utilize a system of partners, making it more difficult to implement any universal technology measure that requires proprietary devices. However, advances in mobile technology allow us to not only streamline deliveries and go paperless, but to also perform like the big guys. Using an app system like the one we created—which can be downloaded by all of our partners’ drivers on their own phones—allows us to track a package at every milestone, using universal barcodes.
Previously, it would beunrealistic for a freight forwarder to have that level of exposure once a shipment was transferred to one of a network of partners. But by using this technology, we ensure that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Pilot employee or an employee of another carrier; you’re able to still communicate with Pilot in a seamless manner.
What’s on the Horizon?
We have seen more advances in technology in the last five years than in the 30 years before that—and I can only imagine what the next five years may bring. The freight forwarding industry lagged behind in utilizing technology, but there are no longer any excuses for not innovating and offering better services to our customers, and their customers in turn. The far-reaching availability of mobile technology sets a solid platform for an endless list of possibilities for shipping and logistics companies.
Even still, there is much more that can be done. In the industry as a whole, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit as far as information technology (IT) is concerned, but we now have the ability to take those opportunities and run with them. Technology has the potential to present a wide range of new opportunities for smart companies. But the time is now, because even though everyone is moving in the same direction, those who are innovating and are ahead of the curve may have the most success.
Lou Cortese is the president of Pilot Freight Services.