Traditional freight forwarding methods involve making several phone calls throughout the life of the shipment, and often relying on less-than-transparent information. This is especially true in the time-critical logistics space, where every minute matters.
Integrating technology into the forwarding process can provide a never-before-seen level of transparency, paving the way for faster and safer shipping. The right technology can empower forwarders to react to potential trouble sooner and allow customers to know the status of their shipment every step of the way.
Tech-enabled freight forwarder Airspace Technologies has seen the impact the right software can have first-hand.
“We were built from the ground up with proprietary, in-house software,” Airspace Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Ryan Rusnak said. “We use machines to calculate optimal routes in seconds and identify the best drivers in the area. We even automatically dispatch the drivers by sending push notifications to their mobile device.”
There are several factors that need to be considered when quoting multi-modal, time-critical shipments. To determine the quote, a person or machine must identify the closest airport to the origin and the closest airport to the destination, then find the optimal flight. They also have to calculate the drive distance, look at the shipment’s dimensions and find drivers in the area.
This whole process takes a person about 20 to 30 minutes, while leaving plenty of room for error, according to Rusnak.
“When an order gets placed at Airspace, we have a machine calculate all of that in a few seconds. The company feeds traffic, flights, location, mode and even customer preferences into a neural network to calculate the best route for the shipment. After a second, we come back with a route and a quote down to the cent,” Rusnak said. “Automated routing is the thing that is going to set everyone up for success through the rest of the shipment. Saving twenty minutes in routing and dispatch might result in saving hours at delivery because planes are taking off every minute.”
The right technology can help eliminate human error, but Rusnak said integrating software and machine learning into the workflow is not about replacing people. It is about augmenting them.
“There are pieces where people are way better,” he said. “If you have a client who is concerned because they have an organ that needs to go, it takes a professional to address the issue and reassure them that it will make it. Let a machine dispatch drivers and do what machines are good at so people can focus on what they are great at.”
Humans also remain an integral part of sorting out issues that arise during shipment. All the technology does is allow employees to pick up on a problem as soon as, or even before, it happens.
“We know if we don’t have a driver assigned five minutes into the shipment, an employee needs to get on it because the machine can’t find someone for some reason. If the driver is only going 30 mph when he should be going 60 mph, we know there is traffic, and we should consider changing the flight,” Rusnak said. “Since we have visibility into the original route, we can then calculate deviations from that route and notify a human that the shipment could be at risk.”
Freight forwarding companies should not expect to see improvement from integrating any random software solution on the market, according to Rusnak.
“Companies are using off-the-shelf software and expecting it to be different,” he said. “They are starting new companies and doing things the exact same way, with the exact same network, with a big call center.”
Rusnak said shippers choosing a freight forwarder should consider how innovative the company is, how many software engineers it employs and if they are using off-the-shelf software or building their own.
Integrating the right technology solutions into the forwarding process can cut down on intrusive phone calls and make hiccups easier to navigate, but integrating the wrong solutions can have the opposite effect.