The ultimate nightmares of information sharing via email for logistics and SCM

Imagine waking up with 200+ emails sitting in your inbox waiting to be handled, daily. It sounds like a nightmare, but it is the reality for logistics service providers. People who work at freight forwarders and NVOCCs, are going through this struggle every day for ages.

Each day, I have to spend more than 3 hours organizing my inbox: allocate 200+ emails to the right shipment, add labels, flag the ones that need more attention.

A freight forwarder client from Ireland shared his experience with us, but they are not the only ones sharing the same pain. No wonder that the Founder & CEO of Flexport, Ryan Petersen, could not agree more on this, when advising us with: I call it freight email forwarding.

What does it look like for exporters and importers? Commonly, around 20 to 50+ emails were sent back and forth for each shipment, with a set of shipping documents that fly in from different parties at different times. They often end up with scattered documentation and data that causes a lot of frictions both externally and internally.

It is not difficult to draw this conclusion: emailing as a traditional communication channel limits the extent and speed of logistics information sharing on a deeper level. Such information-sharing practice is causing nightmares for your business:

Nightmare 1: Poor customer service level

If you have ever worked with a freight forwarder, you might notice that their email texts to clients are minimal, with only a few words that are must with greetings missing. That is not because they do not care about the customers or are impolite. It is simply because they do not have enough time to write massive amounts of emails, even with basic communication etiquette. Sometimes, the communication style can appear rough and crude to customers, and the service could be perceived as poor by the customers.

With the long and multiple email threads your customer receives, about the shipment, there would be several people from each party included in the email conversations to manage and coordinate the shipments. The email threads could get jammed very quickly, and in such cases, customers often got confused by a double reply or duplicate responses.

In the long run these problems would easily cost you customers and businesses.

Nightmare 2: Custom penalties

With each shipment there is a set of documentation that needs to be complied with between the export country and import country. Each document is critical and requires a high level of accuracy since, they are going through the customs of both exporters and importers. The missing documents, or mistakes on the documents can cause a delay in customs clearance and what is worse - penalties.

Using emails to send documents with many revisions makes it hard to find the latest version, if the old version was mistakenly taken from the email threads and submitted to the customs, a costly bill can be potentially awaiting from the customs.

Nightmare 3: Demurrage charges for importers

Demurrage charges - a fancy word for container storage fees at the port. Each year, many importers suffering from thousands to the millions of dollars of demurrage charges because of:

  • delays in customs clearance
  • missing, incorrect, or late receipt of the documentation
  • poor visibility on tracking of shipment arrival

As mentioned earlier, email as information-sharing practice can cause delays in customs clearance and documentation issues that generate huge unnecessary costs for business.

Nightmare 4: Cash flow problems for exporters

In the international trading, the buyer will usually pay the seller based on different milestones. The shipping milestones are critical because the buyer will pay the remaining amount upon the recipient of the goods, and very often, the final payment amount is the largest one. Any delays in notifying the buyer or custom clearance caused by documentation issues will block the seller from receiving the final payment, and it can easily lead to cash flow problems.

Nightmare 5: It’s simply costly and draining your operation resources

A big company with 23k+ employees, who we spoke to, ran an analysis, and they found out that the logistics team spends 10%-20% time on organizing emails each day. It typically costs 30% of operating resources for trading companies on inbox, data, and communication management. For logistics service providers, it’s even much more.

Internally, from the exporter side, the sales and finance department would need to coordinate with the logistics team on collecting payments from the importer side, the procurement, and finance department, also works with the logistics team on releasing the payments. However, emailing nearly provides any visibility and team collaborations internally. People either run to each other’s office asking about the shipment or start another internal email thread. And if the logistics team member is on holiday, no one would know what’s happening with the shipments s(he) manages.

Your best opportunity:

Emailing appears like an easy and cost-effective practice for information sharing, yet, it is the opposite in reality, and the hidden costs are high. Many companies are getting aware of it and adopting new digital solutions but freak out by the costly software, heavy integrations, and weeks of training.

The as a lightweight solution is cost-effective and easy to plug in new team members from Outlook & Gmail with a few clicks. Within couple of minutes, your email inbox will be transformed into a powerful TMS, which provides you with one single source of truth. It allows your team to efficiently manage all documentation, tracking, shipment progress, contacts, and team collaboration from the inbox. Ultimately, releasing a significant amount of time which you could focus on the core business and growth.

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