To ship internationally, businesses need to ensure they have the right paperwork and documentation in order. Slight errors, misplacing information or delays in providing certain pieces can result in significant complications when moving through customs borders. A report showed that ocean freight forwarders generally exchange around 12 billion documents every single year. With each of these and the manual submitting process, there is an increased risk of things going wrong.

Technology has stepped in with the introduction of Automated Document Processing. As the name suggests, this removes the manual process and provides a host of benefits. As a business owner, deciding whether to work with a certain freight forwarder generally comes down to the services they offer. And, whether they have implemented an automated service may be enough to tip your decision. In this guide, we’ll look at the benefits and why you may want to take this technology into account.

What Is the Difference Between Manual and Automated Document Processing?

In the world of international trade, information needs to be clear and concise. Not only are you working across a language barrier, but you’re also challenged with the physical distance between the shipper and recipient. Therefore, documents need to have all the right information, laid out in the agreed format. As a freight forwarder working with a manual system, they need to:

  • Receive the documents from the customer
  • Read through and make sure information isn’t left out
  • Chase any outstanding information and ensure documents are filled incorrectly
  • Manually input this information into the relevant carrier system
  • Check the data
  • Submit the data

This manual process increases the chance of human error. It also eats into time, reducing the amount of energy that could be focused on finding the best rates.

Automated processes are shown to make savings of more than 80%, allowing freight forwarders to focus on more essential tasks. They make use of AI (artificial intelligence) technology which takes the information from documents and extracts it into its machine learning model. This works to understand the information it has collected and highlighting any errors it finds in seconds. With this, the freight forwarder can become aware of additional information needed more quickly, speeding up the entire process and helping to support the swift runnings of your logistics.

Benefits of automated document processing

There are many reasons why a freight forwarder may choose to implement an automated process over a manual one. These include:

  • Speed – Freight forwarders regularly work with many different clients at a given time. An automated system allows them to work through documents quicker, speeding up the process for them and their customers.
  • Accuracy – Automated services reduce the risk of error. This helps to minimise the chance of delays or fines as a result of poorly input data.
  • Saves money – Anything that saves time will also save money. This goes for both you as a business and the freight forwarder. Having to digitally submit documents helps to keep overhead low and reduces the employee labour needed to manage paperwork.
  • Cloud storage – Automated services allow cloud-based storage which means the documents can be accessed globally.
  • Supports expansion – You can only scale up a business when you have the tools to speed up sections of your business. Automating the documentation process is one way to help you grow to your global levels.
  • Accurate data – It’s easy for automated systems to collate information together, giving you access to heightened analytics. With this, you’re able to get a better understanding of the shipping process and make decisions to benefit your business.

How Long Does Manual Document Processing Take?

You may be wondering whether the time saved is really beneficial to a business?

Research has shown that:

  • Invoice attachments can take 10 minutes for information to be extracted.
  • This can go up to 60 minutes if the document is larger.

An automated system runs this information through its processor, analyses it and gets the right data over to the carrier in minutes.

Should I Consider a Freight Forwarder With an Automated System?

The biggest thing to consider when choosing a freight forwarder is how effectively their range of services works for you. If you’re a smaller business, you may feel more aligned with an individual with whom you can build a one-on-one relationship. Alternatively, if you’re scaling quickly over the next few months and want to take the business global quickly, choosing a freight forwarding company with numerous agents may help to support these goals.

Whether or not a freight forwarder uses an automated documentation system will come down to cost or requirements internally. However, you need to work out whether the added benefits of this technology may significantly help your own business. If you expect to send vast quantities of work their way and want to ensure the process is streamlined, an automated service will support this. If you expect shipments to be complicated and diverse, requiring multiple documentation and paperwork specifications depending on the country, the automated system will bring a host of benefits.

As a Freight Forwarder, Do I Need an Automated System?

Again, the decision will come down to the demands and requirements of your specific business. Automated systems relieve workload and help to speed up remedial tasks, freeing up more time for high-value tasks instead. You can easily process hundreds of invoices in less time and in a matter of minutes. Additionally, if you have a data entry workforce, research from found that 70% of these individuals would welcome an automated tool for their job load. Not only will you free up time and reduce errors, but you’ll also build a happier team too.

At Radius Warehouse and Logistic Services, we strive to stay ahead of technology and ensure you get the most comprehensive international freight movement service available. If you would like to speak to a member of our team or request a quote, please get in contact here today.