Today’s supply chain arena is full of third-party logistics providers (3PLs) that are offering nearly identical services, making it complicated for your customers to clearly see value in their commitments. The partner that provides the greatest advantage whether through superb, around-the-clock customer service, better IT integration, cheaper prices or faster data- will ultimately beat out their competitors.
The next-gen supply chain will serve as a forcing mechanism for the adoption of faster analytics and interconnected processes. To stay on top of the market, companies must make technology investments that keep up with the rapid advancements other 3PLs are making.
When it comes to achieving competitive operations with back office innovation, one of the most critical documents ripe for modernization is the proof of delivery (POD).
The most widely used POD is a paper slip that your driver hands to receiving personnel for a signature. The next step in the POD process is the scanning of that manual proof of delivery into a digital image. Once this is completed, your organization can either go two routes:
- Maintain an in-house process where various stakeholders scan and receive images, capture the data and relay as necessary. This option is historically viewed by some as “flexible”, but it typically lacks standardization, as well as mechanisms for archival, indexing and visibility.
- Grab the low-hanging fruit and modernize. Use proof of delivery (POD) processing and retrieval as an opportunity to improve insights and operational efficiency for benefits that will carry over into each point along the shipping journey. This is typically done with technology, an outsourced team of experts, or a mix of both.
3PLs who keep POD processing in-house experience these recurring issues that prevent them from getting ahead:
When companies exhaust resources on back office functions that are not the core competency of the business, their costs and issues are on a continuous climb. During peak season, carrier drivers are managing hundreds of documents that can easily go missing. As the 3PL, you may run into problems receiving payment due to misplaced documents and a fragmented data structure. Shuffling through logs to access certain delivery information will generate bottlenecks and launch a domino effect of inefficiencies.
The top 50 3PLs as ranked by revenue over the next five years won’t be wasting time chasing down PODs.
3PLs with modern POD systems have an entire arena of capabilities that are driving an increasing divide between the top market performers who are most highly sought after by shippers and the rest. Without the in-house capacity, they are unable to build and rely on standardized processes, foster a tech-agile environment with integration scalability and activate their data with uncapped functionality.
Expediting the scan, capture, and indexing images that are searchable and downloadable provides:
- Increased efficiency
- Reduction of errors = faster payment, happier customers
- Easy retrieval of documents and information (downloadable POD images)
- Up-to-date statuses on your shipments
- Streamlined administrative operations
- Greater insights lead by data visualization
- Free-flowing nature of digitized POD empowers global commerce
So, how does the “modern” POD system work?
- Dedicated freight process specialists log into your client’s POD retrieval area
- Bill of lading number is entered into POD tracing tool
- POD receipt is automatically generated into a digital image
- Each image is saved by PRO number and date
- All images are saved into one zip file to ensure no POD receipts are missed
- Full POD status report is generated into an excel spreadsheet
- Zip file and report are sent via secure P2P connection to carrier’s database/FTP site
Moving Forward: Leading 3PLs will maximize the big data flowing in and out of their organizations with modernized processes - like POD retrieval - to predict challenges before they happen.
With business intelligence (BI) and strategically interconnected systems, challenges become opportunities that permeate throughout the business. For example, identified route consolidation opportunities can create fuel-efficient driving habits. Volume forecasts will enable you to offer competitive rates. Data regulation acts such as the FDRA place strict protocols that are easily complied with smart AI. Your BI system should serve as a weapon to fight for the modern market.
What’s more: POD processing will only become faster, better and cheaper with blockchain technology.
While typical money remittance costs might be as high as 20% of the transfer amount, blockchain may allow for costs as low as 2%, as well as guaranteed and real-time transaction processing speeds. DDC’s Global Director of Technology and Co-Chair of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) BOL Working Group, Richard Greening, is currently working with several industry leaders to define what blockchain-compliant documents look like and create normalized data structures, so that all the stakeholders in a supply chain are working with the same, high-fidelity data about components like party, shipment information, and location.
“If we can even get close to setting standards across industries, then it opens up a world of potential,” Greening explains in his recent interview with Craig Fuller, CEO of FreightWaves (see video above).
Blockchain can prohibit the tampering of transactional data, which is a growing need in today’s economy, and hacking attempts are easily identified because of its complete privacy and user control. For back office operations, from freight billing to PODs, rate audits, track and trace and more, Greening hits the nail on its head: “We are still in the infancy of what this technology can provide.”
The effective modernization of the POD process may seem overwhelming due to the perceived required technology stack and applied subject matter expertise. This is when DDC’s experts advise 3PLs (who want to go from simply “keeping the lights on” to turning the lights up) to outsource it to a dedicated team of data processing professionals. With the right partner, you'll gain agility and real-time transparency that empowers you with actionable insights. You can combat an ever-evolving series of logistics challenges, and rise above your competition.