It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has accelerated technology adoption within the transportation and logistics industry. In March 2020, the sharing of office equipment, workspaces and paper documents began to incite acute fear around the spreading of infection. As a result, entire companies transitioned to working from home.
After the supply chain disruptions spurred by the pandemic, companies trying to remain solvent have turned to automation solutions to reduce overhead. Similarly, companies wanting to make their current workforce more efficient to handle growth without hiring more people also turned to tech solutions.
Before COVID-19, Georgia Tanker Lines, a petroleum hauler out of Georgia and Alabama, was accustomed to manually scanning drivers’ paperwork, attaching it to the loads in the computer system and then emailing the paperwork to the customer.
“Then COVID-19 came and we were not letting drivers come into the office for their own safety,” said Deborah Latham, owner of Georgia Tanker Lines. “So the paperwork was not getting here for days and days and days. And of course the customers were complaining, so we reached out to Microdea.”
Georgia Tanker Lines teamed up with Microdea and implemented an end-to-end back-office platform that captures documents with a mobile capture app. Since all their drivers have smartphones, they could easily capture images of the paperwork and instantly attach those images to the customer’s load. By the time the driver leaves the delivery location, the customer and the back office both have a copy of the paperwork.
Furthermore, with Microdea, Georgia Tanker Lines was also able to streamline its workforce. While its administrative team is small, with only 15 employees, they’re accustomed to managing the paperwork for nearly 200 loads a day, each of which traditionally generates four pieces of paper.
“It was a full-time job for somebody to sit there all day long and scan in paperwork and figure out which load goes with what paperwork.” said Latham. “So it was a manual linkup job that we don’t need anymore.”
“We can set up a process that goes to a mailbox, takes the data from the email and automatically puts it into a workflow,” said Darren Sesel, VP of Solution Architecture at Microdea. “People in disparate locations or home offices are able to then go and process work in the queue, instead of it being in an inbox on their desk. The documents now being stored there are also easily viewable from within a TMS, where billing can happen instantly. ‘We put your TMS on steroids’ is something our sales team says often because of these integrations and automations.”
Microdea is a document management and back-office automation software solution provider that has been serving the North American transportation and logistics industry for 25 years. In October, Microdea was acquired by Transflo, a leading mobile, telematics and business process automation provider to the transportation industry, that will now be able to expand its supply-chain digitization into the Canadian market.
Over 400 companies used Microdea’s Synergize platform before COVID-19, but since the pandemic’s onset, the company has expanded and implemented the document-management and workflow-automation platform more than any other solution. By automating manual processes previously reliant on the filing and collation of paperwork, Microdea helps companies eliminate missing documents, improve cash flow, lower costs and shorten billing cycles.
“COVID-19 pushed us to utilize our software to the fullest,” said David Rienstra, IT manager at the Kriska Group, a user of the Synergize platform. “We’re using Synergize across our entire business operations. Our customers typically want an invoice as well as a signed BOL or a copy of it. We’re able to provide that immediately. It’s something that we want to deploy to all our other locations.”
Obviously, the needs of logistics companies vary, depending on size, mode and where they sit on the supply chain. Craig Zeller, owner of Zeller Transportation, told FreightWaves that Microdea created a custom solution to help satisfy the request of two customers who want resequenced bills of lading.
“The old way was we would print out the bill of lading, resequence it, rescan it, then send it off to the customer. They were able to write a script that’s all just done in the background. If it’s 1 through 7, we can now make 7 the top page. They created some out-of-the-box options. We told them what wasn’t working, what our vision was, and two weeks later it was installed.” said Darren Sesel, VP of Solution Architecture at Microdea.
In an interview with FreightWaves, Sesel emphasized that no solution covers all the bases, which is why partnerships, integrations and customizations are fundamental to an industrywide technology revolution.
“The transportation industry is full of laggards, so it’s our duty to bring awareness to those opportunities for efficiency, allow for growth and help existing employees deal only with situations that require human input,” said Sesel.
The pandemic has created a great deal of hardship for everyone in the supply chain, but it has also created an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of automation solutions. And that’s a move in the right direction.