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HubTran helps freight forwarders navigate ocean of shipping documents

Using OCR and AI, HubTran automates 90% of the load and increases productivity tenfold

Photo credit: Jim Allen / FreightWaves

As freight forwarders work to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive, global landscape, more are embracing technologies designed to boost productivity, minimize operation costs and improve customer service.

Chicago-based software company HubTran, which has had strong success with technology that automates work for North American freight brokers, recently introduced a cloud-based solution for forwarders. This platform leverages HubTran’s expertise in optical character recognition (OCR), artificial intelligence (AI) and workflow to automate document processing for forwarders.  

On any given day, hundreds of thousands of freight forwarders around the globe read, sort, index and assign a multitude of emails, messages and documents related to shipments they manage for their clients. It is a labor-intensive and time-consuming job. HubTran has direct experience solving this problem for transportation companies. The company boasts over 1 billion processed documents, 99% accuracy and $50 million saved by its customers to date. 

“Freight forwarders bear the cost of people to perform this work. At the same time, their profit margins are getting squeezed by intense competition and rigorous requirements for low-cost, on-demand service levels related to growing e-commerce volume,” said Matt Bernstein, CEO at HubTran. “This is not sustainable.”

According to the World Trade Organization, world merchandise trade growth is expected to rebound to 7.2% in 2021, which will increase the volume of shipments by air and ocean, as well as the wave of documents to manage.

Amna Shah, a senior consultant at AHS Consulting, noted, “Previously as a forwarding CFO, I saw firsthand the cost and inaccuracy of handling all these documents manually. At AHS we know that our forwarding clients are still struggling with this challenge, which is why we have partnered with HubTran.”  

“HubTran incorporates leading-edge OCR and AI technologies to read, index, sort, assign and send shipping documents to popular transportation management systems and also to extract data for use in logistics processes,” added Rod Talbot, vice president at HubTran. “The value promise is what we call ‘lights out’ – full automation. HubTran can read documents, index them and extract all data required by a freight forwarder with 99%-plus accuracy.” 

With its seamless integration to logistics platform CargoWise, HubTran is live and operational within days, streamlining a forwarder’s back-office processes and cutting cost by 90%.

“And HubTran does not require ⁠the thousands of carriers, agents and customers in a forwarder’s network to change how they invoice or communicate,” added Claus Jensen, director of forwarder operations at HubTran. “Rather than replacing email, HubTran works on behalf of the forwarder to digest and make sense of the emails and the plethora of shipping documents that are typically attached. We do this for all sizes of forwarder — small, medium and very large.” 

In the challenging environment created by COVID-19, global logistics enterprises, such as Yusen Logistics, have initiatives in place to increase resiliency, take out cost and create differentiating value by implementing practical, modern technology solutions. 

“As a leading global supply chain provider, our customers trust us to deliver our services with excellence,” said Cheryl Reynolds, portfolio manager for Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc. “We are continually streamlining our supply chain capabilities by leveraging technology, people and business process knowledge. And HubTran’s technology makes them a natural partner.”  

Talbot said HubTran is proud to be working with Yusen “to support this endeavor by automating the daily processing of thousands of emails and shipping documents. Industry leaders understand the criticality of utilizing AI technology to drive productivity and complement their existing teams.”     

Reynolds said, “As we move to straight-through processing, our organization and customers will benefit from faster processing times, reduced errors and improved customer service. The HubTran user interface is easy to understand and use – and the HubTran team has been very responsive throughout the implementation of the application within Yusen Logistics’ operating systems for our international freight forwarding and domestic transportation groups.”

As we all look forward to a brighter 2021 and the prospect of rebounding global trade, HubTran is continuing to invest in automation that enables forwarders to navigate the ocean of shipping documents and increase their productivity and profitability – essential elements for survival in this competitive global landscape.

Corrie White

Corrie is fascinated how the supply chain is simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. She covers freight technology, cross-border freight and the effects of consumer behavior on the freight industry. Alongside writing about transportation, her poetry has been published widely in literary magazines. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.