While back office documents certainly aren't the most exciting part of your business, they're an incredibly critical element to its success. They capture imperative shipping details, provide legal proof, and produce figures used to create viable billables.
But what documents are we referring to exactly, and what happens with the information on them? Let's look at some of the four most commonly underrated back office documents that are patiently waiting atop a not-so-obvious launchpad of serious growth power.
1. Proof of Delivery (POD)
The proof of delivery document helps you prove delivery of packages, and it helps your clients understand the necessary details of the delivery. Both the deliverer and the consignee will dictate any missing or damaged items upon shipment in the POD form — which may be a delivery receipt or a copy of the freight bill.
Ensuring that information is correct on all aspects of the POD is crucial. Not only does the POD act as proof-of-delivery, but it functions as a document of title, an important piece of compliance paperwork, and as an insurance form that shows quantity, weight, and manufacturing information.
This means that carriers have to process a POD for every single delivery. Processing, analyzing, and categorizing all of these forms can be a painpoint in itself. Filling them out incorrectly is pure nightmare fuel.
2. Freight Bill/Bill of Lading (BOL)
The bill of lading is the agreement between a LTL carrier and the shipper that spells out the details of the delivery. It includes a variety of fields, including:
- The freight terms
- Any additional charges (e.g., liftgate charges, etc.)
- Type of cargo being shipped
- Bill of Lading number
- Detailed instructions
- Details of the cargo itself (e.g., weight, class, etc.)
- C.O.D. request
All of these pieces of data need to be 100% accurate. The Bill of Lading is a legal document that is admissible in a court of law, and incorrect data can lead to significant consequences. The bill of lading also dictates the costs associated with the cargo. So, having any issues in your Bill of Lading fields can also directly impact your ROI. That's definitely something you want to avoid!
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of BOL formats and templates. This can cause friction with your in-house staff that leads to data entry issues. And these issues can increase turnaround time, reduce workflow fluidity, and even send packages to the wrong place.
The manifest is the form that outlines the details of the shipment for customers and other authorities. Not only does it detail critical cargo information like weight, the value of goods, size, etc., but it also lets customs know where the shipment is going and who is receiving the shipment. Typically, many of these details are taken from the Bill of Lading. So, if a mistake was made on the Bill of Lading, that mistake may carry over the manifest — creating further logistical chaos.
Since this document is directly used by customs, making sure that it is accurate and free-of-errors will ensure that your packages get delivered to the right place and customs doesn't take any issues with your shipment — which can cause some serious headaches for you and your drivers.
4. Freight Claim
Whether it's for damages, lost items, or shortage (or even concealed shortage), freight claims play a valuable role in the shipping ecosystem. But, ensuring that you fill them out and process them correctly is vital. Since claims are legal documents, accuracy becomes a compliance issue immediately. And, inaccurate data or filing of these forms can lead to penalties and fines from regulatory bodies or even the court of law.
In-house vs. Automated Form Capture
There are three primary methods of filling out all of these incredibly important LTL documents. You can fill them out in-house with your internal billing staff. You can automate the process to ensure that all data is inputted rapidly and accurately. Or, you can use a hybrid approach where you automate specific data fields and use manual pour over for more detailed fields (like cargo details or specific customs instructions.)
In-house data entry processes are prone to error. Simple billing discrepancies can become accounts receivable nightmare, which can stop your revenue potential dead in its tracks. You make promises to your customers that you will deliver their freight to the right destination, at the right time. Why should your reputation be threatened by poor data entry?
According to a recent McKinsey report, up to 45% of current paid activities (especially when it comes to data entry) can be automated. Humans are amazing at solving complex problems and dealing with unique situations, but we're typically not the best at manual data entry. It can be boring, drawn-out, and, well, we make mistakes. Unfortunately, these mistakes are magnified when it comes to freight back office processes.
The transportation industry as we know it is at a crossroads. Remaining competitive requires agile strategies and about as much cost-cutting as you can possibly find. A single incorrect field on a BOL or POD can cost thousands to rectify, and multiple incorrect fields over multiple documents time will be noticeable and painful.
Benefits of Automated Freight Data Capture
Many less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers and third party logistics providers (3PLs) still rely on in-house, manual processes to process data. In fact, some companies have full-time employees solely dedicated to data entry and quality control (QC). For years, this has been the go-to model. But, with the rise of automation technology, does it still make sense to spend your staff's valuable time on these business processes?
Our DDC Intelligence solution gives you the flexibility to create customizable back office processes powered with artificial intelligence that best serves your exact needs.
1. Increased Efficiency & High Accuracy
With automation, you can eliminate costly errors — giving you the ability to set up machine-learning workflows that improve overall efficiency while producing higher accuracy. DDC Intelligence leverages template-based and template-free routes to process data rapidly and accurately. With better data out means faster money in.
2. Higher Overall Productivity
Freeing up workers from the chains of in-house documentation processes allows you to focus your people-power on more critical tasks — like driving, problem-solving, and customer service. DDC Intelligence eliminates data entry as a touchpoint while increasing your overall business agility and cashflow simultaneously.
3. Cost Reduction
Not only does automating your data entry reduce your overhead spend on employee time, but it eliminates expensive mistake-correcting costs and improves your overall recurring revenue with stronger client retention based on a better customer experience.
4. Rapid Turnaround
DDC Intelligence's incredible matching and validation power turns around your freight bills at an unprecedented rate. As you bust through bottlenecks, you'll see an increase in happy customers and a reduced days sales outstanding (DSO).
Our DDC Intelligence system was built from the ground-up to handle freight data entry. It's fast, scalable, reliable, and ultimately intelligent enough to streamline your data entry processes and reduce your overall errors. According to long-time DDC partner Estes Express Lines, the core benefits of DDC Intelligence that will move the needle for their LTL operation are speed, accuracy and cost containment.
"We all need to be automating more and increasing efficiency levels," said Tad Blackburn, vice president of administration for Estes. "DDC Intelligence allows us to achieve these goals."
Are you ready to join the AI revolution?