|A competitive market, increased client expectation, and the need for seamless, visible, and more efficient work processes are some of the factors prompting traditional freight forwarders to take the digital stride. New technologies like blockchain, IoT, TMS, Digital Twins, and Big Data are reshaping the future of the freight forwarding industry. The digital transformation is happening at this very moment in the transportation and logistics industry. Independent freight forwarders are racing to adapt to the big changes and come up as digital freight forwarders. In this background, the companies that don’t adapt to the changes necessitated by Logistics 4.0 are running the risk of losing out their businesses to their competition.
Our topic for this week is a special report on the beginnings of the Coop’s member-exclusive TMS FreightViewer where Mr. Manual Cardona, the IT Manager of The Cooperative Logistics Network and the Developer of FreightViewer has provided us with valuable insights.
The factors that motivated The Coop to create a Transport Management System
The need for a digital transformation
Back in 2018, The Coop’s President and Founder, Antonio Torres, understood the importance of the digital transformation for small and independent freight forwarders. After exhaustive research on the up-and-coming technologies setting new standards in the freight forwarding industry, he concluded that investing in a digital tool would allow hundreds of Coop members to increase operational efficiency, cut down costs and explore new avenues of business.
In that very moment, Manuel Cardona, the IT Manager of The Cooperative Logistics Network, starts developing a software that applies the more than 20 years of Antonio’s experience as a freight forwarder. “The freight forwarding industry introduced technological innovation at a much slower pace than the other industries. It has been stuck for decades in outmoded customer interfaces, and age-old manual processes. Nevertheless, the situation was rapidly transforming. We understood that forwarders were risking getting weighed down with ineffectual resource utilization, and slow response time. These are two crucial factors that can erode the customer base of freight forwarders. This encouraged Antonio Torres to figure out a way to allow The Coop members to initiate the digital change. This was when he got in touch with me”, explains Manuel Cardona.
The digital strategy
However, digitization is not just about investing in expensive software and creating an IT team for automated workflow. It is more about creating a foolproof digital strategy that is sustainable over the long term. The process requires exhaustive research, preparation and continuous customer engagement to invest in the right tools and obtain the desired outcome.
After years of diligent effort and considerable private investment, The Cooperative Logistic Network came up with FreightViewer in 2018. “It was a very exciting moment for me! We knew that we were taking a very important step that would transform the mode of operation of independent freight forwarders. Above all, we were allowing more than 320 members to create an online showcase of their door-to-door freight rates, instantly send a quotation and share shipping documents effortlessly in real-time… and all on one professional platform!”, continues Mr. Cardona.
FreightViewer: from an idea to a ground-breaking TMS
The Coop’s 5th Annual Meeting was the first time where FreightViewer was first presented to members. It was held in Abu Dhabi in March 2019 and it broke an attendance record. “In the first few months since the launch, we had to put in a lot of effort. FreightViewer was going to be presented in the Annual Meeting to more than 180 members and everything had to be ready. I remembered the nervousness I felt in the months leading to the Event. Andrea Martin, The Cooperative’s FreightViewer Coordinator, was the person responsible for the FreightViewer demonstrations and for instructing members about the utilities and features of this platform. However, everything went well. She came back with some positive feedback from members which encouraged us to keep improving”.
After the Meeting was over, FreightViewer was already a reality and more and more members started doing tests in the platform to see how it could create quotations instantly. “We devoted considerable time explaining to members how to use it, its advantages and features. They began realizing how it could improve their day-to-day tasks. However, there was still some reluctance. It was then that we started to realize that there was a lot of space to improve the tool. I must say that Andrea was the key in the development and update of the software. She was -and still is- in constant touch with members who helped us to make FreightViewer more convenient and practical, and easily adaptable to the work reality of forwarders.”
The next step for the Cooperative’s team was to look for industry-leading companies to partner with. The first one happened in 2019 when FreightViewer established an agreement with SHIPCO, one of the world’s leading neutral NVOCC’s. “This was a huge move since it enabled the agents to access the LCL rates in over thirty countries right from FreightViewer. Thus, this meant that they could automate a considerable chunk of their day-to-day paperwork”.
After this, the Coop’s team decided it was time to expand FreightViewer’s accessibility and offer as many opportunities as possible to all users. That was when in January 2019, the Coop’s IT department added a new feature to FreightViewer that enabled members to send and receive quote requests to any of their partners both within as well as outside the Network. This update allowed them to store all quotes provided by any freight forwarder on a unique platform. Afterward, came other partnerships in project, such as the one with Onus Cargo Services, an insurance broker or BlueX an API developer.
A TMS can be defined as a tool that manages and optimizes the daily operations of logistics companies. That is exactly what FreightViewer does. Its primary aim is to process all the freight forwarding operations within a unique channel. This enhances visibility for all the stakeholders of the shipping process. In a sector when an instant response is absolutely crucial, FreightViewer could add operational efficiency.
FreightViewer is reducing The Cooperative’s members’ expenses, saving their time, eliminating manual error, augmenting visibility and security, and minimizing the steps involved in shipping operations.
“FreightViewer not only helps members with instant quote generation. It can also help them to simplify the tasks of an extremely complicated business. Furthermore, it can improve their customer service by enhancing the response time they give to their clients”.
The future of FreightViewer
The updates and projects
Presently, The Cooperative is negotiating new strategic partnerships with other industry-leading companies. “We have initiated conversations with Webcargonet to enable us to upload and update more than 14 million buying airfreight rates to FreightViewer. We are also working on the process of reaching competitive insurance rates for members. Furthermore, we are planning to find a way to help members upload their rates without any effort”
Every year, The Coop’s IT department works hard to improve the tool. This will greatly enhance its potential as a mighty online tool to accelerate the operations of freight forwarders.
Why digital transformation is the need of the hour?
At the moment, it has become imperative for logistics companies to enhance the level of customer engagement. By minimizing the response time, FreightViewer will give freight forwarders the required capacity to meet their customers’ expectations. It allows them to effectively manage rates and profit margins, create personalized quotations, and send them instantly through email or PDF. Additionally, they can set up a customizable quoting webiste to offer to their clients.
The rise in the number of digital freight forwarding service providers
More than 14 years back, Maersk launched Maersk Spot Booking, their online booking platform. In the present competitive scenario, eight out of the top ten carriers have created their personal quote generation platform. Digital freight companies like Freighthub, Flexport and Freightos came into the picture in the last few years.
According to a Freightos report, only 25% of the world’s top 20 logistics companies are providing LCL online quotes. Customers wait at least two days before receiving a freight quotation. This shows the lack of visibility and transparency in the operations of most forwarders even today.
The freight forwarding industry is evolving very fast. There will be more and more digital freight forwarding service providers. One of the prerequisites of the implementation of technology is hefty investments in software and an IT team. However, independent freight forwarders often lack the enormous assets needed to implement a digital change. This is why The Cooperative decided to offer members a highly useful online tool that allows them to start the digital transformation without any investment.
“Our TMS is a dynamic tool with upgraded capabilities which is adapted to the freight forwarders realities. Moreover, it has an unbeatable advantage over any other software. Unlike the rest, The Coop is a network with more than 320 members across 135 countries. This allows our members to have rates from almost every corner of the world. We really believe that in FreightViewer rests the future of freight forwarders and our own future,” explains Mr. Cardona.