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Timely Data Access: How to Make "Real-Time" a Reality

Apr 28, 2022 9:00:00 AM

In the transportation and logistics industries, timing matters — and that’s especially true for data access. 

Accuracy is important, but even accurate data loses value when it can only be accessed several hours after it’s collected. Customer expectations for visibility and transportation costs are both higher than ever, so immediate data access is vital for earning recurring business and maximizing operational efficiency.

With traditional data capture methods, real-time data access may seem like an impossibility, but with the right tools, it’s actually very achievable. In this article, DDC’s freight billing and data processing subject matter experts dig into what you can achieve with immediate access.

Why does timely data access matter?

Your back office team is hard at work with dock operations and logistics planning, but if they’re dealing with outdated or delayed information, they can’t do their jobs efficiently. At best, they’ll need to jump through hoops to track down the latest data, moving between multiple software platforms and manually contacting people in the field to locate freight. At worst, they’ll have very limited access to business intelligence, and will therefore only be able to make educated guesses as they plan — making it that much harder to adjust to inevitable changes as they occur. 

Often, drivers need to manually key bill of lading (BOL) data, which then has to be transmitted to and validated by the back office. Until that validation occurs, the data cannot be used for decision-making. Joseph Klikas, Chief Experience Officer at The Custom Companies, Inc., explains: “All it takes is one driver to miskey a zip code, and that could cost you thousands. You tend to overlook that information just because you don’t have the confidence level that you’d like.”

Similarly, your front office team can’t provide customers with up-to-date tracking information if they don’t have access to that information themselves. Knowing where a shipment was ten hours ago doesn’t do customers much good, and they’ll be more inclined to switch to a company that can provide more timely information. 

What can you achieve with instantaneous data access?

Ensuring that your teams have access to accurate, near real-time data has numerous benefits, including:

  • Prepared agility – Proactive planning for disruptions (accidents, natural disasters, customs delays, etc.) gives your organization a significant competitive advantage. With business intelligence derived from near real-time data, you can build resilience via smarter load planning, dock operations, logistics decision-making, and workforce planning. 
  • Faster payments – immediate data access enables shorter turnaround times and faster bill processing. The sooner you can get bill of lading (BOL) data captured by your freight billing software, the sooner you can get paid.
  • Higher valuation as a strategic partner – The ability to share up-to-date data makes your organization more attractive as long-term business partner for shippers and even as an integration partner for freight technology companies, such as TMS providers, as it enables better communication and collaboration.
  • Profitable visibility – End-to-end transparency — via driver tracking, instantaneous reporting, and automated alerts — makes for more profitable operations while also reducing workloads for all teams.
  • Better customer experience – When your front office teams have easy access to accurate, up-to-date data, they can provide timely status updates to customers without the need to do extra work.

How to enable immediate data access

Some carriers experience a significant delay between data capture and data access with their current process. Enabling timely data access largely comes down to technology: Which platform(s) are you using to collect, transmit, and access your data, and what does that process look like?

If you’re leveraging a number of disparate platforms and data capture services and/or have to wait several hours for data to become available, it may be time to explore other options.

One way DDC's carrier partners are decreasing the length of time between data input and data access is by mobilizing the BOL scanning process. For example, rather than waiting to scan BOLs in the terminal or requiring drivers to manually key data, you can leverage intelligent image capture technology that empowers drivers to capture BOL images in-cab, automatically crops and enhances the images for maximum readability, and gets the data into your systems as soon as possible. 

Conclusion

Timely access to accurate data reduces uncertainty, increases visibility, and empowers your team to make better-informed decisions. The best way to achieve this is to leverage freight technology that reduces the delay between data capture and data access.

For example, with features like intelligent mobile BOL capture, driver tracking, GPS tagging, and automated alerts, DDC Sync helps carriers access to data on average a minimum of six hours sooner for fully optimized freight operations. 

The Custom Companies, Inc. has greatly benefitted from this lead time improvement. “Prior to DDC Sync, our operations team would create a load optimization plan based only on destination zip code and tonnage from the driver at the time of pickup,” Klikas says. “Now we can make more efficient and profitable routing decisions.”

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