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The data collected along the shipment journey plays an integral role in the ability a company has to conquer uncertainties that plague the transportation ecosystem. In this article, we’re going to share how information gathered from freight bills in particular can provide visibility into your operations that will serve as true business intelligence and empower your teams to conduct better decision-making. 

 

One way that companies analyze information found on the freight bill is by pattern extraction. Pattern extraction allows companies to make sense of the mounds of data used in the freight billing process and use it to measure customer satisfaction and identify strategic business goals.  

 

Before the data can be mined and patterns identified, it must be captured.  

This is typically done one - or a mix - of three ways: manually, by template-based OCR programs, or by template-free processing, which is a much rarer form of capture. The methods you use will determine the simplicity of the process and the accuracy of the information being examined and interpretedWhile template-based OCR automatically processebills based on contenttemplate-free models apply machine-learning technology with context recognition to learn, understand, and store new bill templates for future straight-through processing. This advanced method of data matching and validation allows companies to classify, extract, reconcile and, export data in a way to enable full utilization of said data after processing is complete.

 

Put data in the driver's seat.

Logistics is about collecting information - information on where deliveries are, where they must go next, and what is the most cost-effective way to get them to the goal destination. Data collection, analysis, and then application in the most intelligent and effective manner helps companies predict and prepare for where they are headed. 

 

This is critical when making decisions for all aspects of the operation, including retaining a profitable customer base. What does the data tell you about where you land when it comes to meeting customers' expectations 

 

A few questions transportation providers should ask themselves: 

    • Are our turnaround times on par?  
    • Do our customers have full visibility into where their deliveries are at all times? 
    • Are we meeting shipper requirements of delivery?  
    • How often do we audit our freight bills? 
    • How quickly do we rectify billing discrepancies? 

 

Identifying pain points and working towards solutions based on tangible data found along the delivery route helps build customer trust while concurrently pursuing better business health. This is where the bill of lading (BOL) comes into play. First anforemostvalued for being the contract of carriage, the BOL includes a variety of fields that, if analyzed and audited properly, can help you strengthen a strategic approach to deliveries, customer reliability, and cost containment. 

 

Reading the "Crystal ball" – Here are a few BOL fields that you can convert into business intelligence:

 

    • The freight classification and number of units to be shippedCan you add a discount for preferred customers with a certain class of freight, or a number of shipments over a certain threshold? Is there an identifiable theme in class that you transport that can be leveraged for marketing purposes? 

    • The precise weight of the shipment (multiple freight units call for each item's weight to be listed)When tracking weights of your shipments, you may identify recurring discrepancies between order placement and pick-upShould you invest in a tool to prevent this moving forward? Or, you may find that you need to implement minimum weight requirements. Are reweighs and subsequent surcharges impacting your customer experience? 

    • Shipper and receiver names and addresses – Review geographic trends with your routes. Is it possible to improve your loads further by combining cargo  headed in the same geographic direction? 
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    • The date of shipment Besides common seasonality planning, how does your workforce strategy uphold your service commitments? Are there any specific blockers like holidays or inclement weather? It may be time to revisit your staffing plans – internal, external, and all functions- to guarantee dependable service consistently throughout the calendar year.

    • Unique shipment instructions – How frequently are you receiving instructions like these? Should you adapt your shipper onboarding process or BOL template to accommodate for new fields? Are there recurring keywords in these instructions that you can extract and repackage into its own offering and rate? How can you automate this to make your shippers’ lives easier (and accept more orders, faster)? How often are these miscommunicated? Is there an opportunity to improve specificity and accuracy?
       
    • The kind of packaging (ex: pallets, drums, skids, cartons) At what rate or frequency are you supplying packaging materials and what is that cost? How closely are you analyzing how the materials impact your load capacity? 

    • The stated value of the cargo being shipped – How often is this incorrect? Should you amend your disclaimers to shippers in the order interface? Based on claimed value trends - should you revise your liability insurance? Does this reveal a recurring type of customer you can create a new service offering for?   
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    • Account number or PO used for order tracking between companies – How much time is your team spending on correcting this field? Can you automate this to reduce future errors? What is the recurrence of account numbers or POs? Do you have loyal customers that are not being rewarded? Do you have an opportunity to incentivize them for referrals to gain new business?  

    • Notes on hazardous material – If you have an increased amount of hazardous material being shipped, are you able to optimize pricing? Or,, if your hazardous deliveries are on the low end, you might be able to reduce insurance costs by applying account credits.

 

When diving into how much business is being conducted with a particular client and where geographically the deliveries are transported, transportation  providers can determine which markets may offer room for growth, what types of applicable discounts they can provide,  whether not additional delivery accommodations are required, and more. 

 

While the possibilities are endless, there are some questions transportation providers can get answers to with the data at their fingertips now: 

    • Asset utilization: Is space being maximized? 
    • Customer service:  Are shipper requirements for delivery being met? 
    • Marketing opportunitiesCan discounts be applied to specific routes? 
    • Route optimization: Are there regular shipments that can be added to existing loads and be delivered along the way?  
    • Markets of interest: Is there room for expansion to deliver more shipments to a particular geographic area?  

 

As an example, after implementing a DDC freight billing program, The Custom Companies has been able to cut hours out of its linehaul schedule and now promises shorter delivery times for their customers. Estes Express Lines has also reported stronger, more solid customer relationships by providing more accurate data as ‘fast as humanly possible" with DDC Intelligence

 

Whether your core focus for 2021 includes cutting overhead, reducing turnover, digitizing operations, expanding into new markets, diversifying service offeringsor something else, the information you need to make the decisions necessary to achieve your goals is already there.  

 

To learn more about how DDC can help unlock the power of your data to improve operational performancecontact us today. 

 

 

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