The European Commission has cited digitalisation of industry as key to improving competitiveness in the region; regardless of what March 2019 holds for the UK’s position in the E.U., the same applies here in the UK. The transport sector is particularly referred to by Europe as being ripe for more efficiency measures, especially via the application of digital tools at every stage of shipping operations. Not only can this add productivity and efficiency to business resources, but beneficially impact the end customer too.
The Digital Transport and Logistics Forum
To roll out the digital agenda in the transport sector, in 2015, the European Commission launched the Digital Transport and Logistics Forum (DTLF). The role of this EU Forum is “fostering more efficient exchange of electronic information in transport and logistics, with the objective of removing technical, operational and administrative barriers between and within transport modes.”
The forum is made up of a variety of interested parties, from statutory and regulatory bodies, to established freight forwarding companies with a strong presence. Sharing of professional and technical expertise is driving forward how businesses can adapt and benefit in a rapidly transforming digital landscape.
The Forum is helping:
- electronic transport documents to be accepted “…by all stakeholders, in particular national authorities”;
- “To contribute to better harmonisation of … transport documents across modes”;
- “… facilitate electronic exchange of information in transport and logistics.”
Information Is Everything in T&L
As international freight forwarding companies, local and national couriers, brokerages and their supply chains know, the information environment is constantly changing, between regulatory changes, new players on the scene, moves towards best practice and the myriad mercurial elements that make up the transport and shipping world. Staying ahead of information formats, requirements and data transfer platform choices is itself a logistical minefield.
There are three types of documents for shipping handlers to manage:
- goods related:
- contracts of carriage: functionality and legalities
- other documents that accompany goods in transport
- means of transport information for safety management
- nationality: country of origin, where approved and registered
- vehicle registration
- insurance, personnel
- utilisation of transport infrastructure
- other information
- personnel related data
- formal qualifications information can be checked against rulings to ensure safety;
- nationality of personnel offers security in terms of movement of transport operators or personnel handling cargo
Given this massive array of administration, mapping of stored documents and data in transfer is another complex challenge for anyone involved in the shipping supply chain (and their end customers) without effective digital systems. It is vital, therefore, to have a thorough review of your own business process needs by professional digitisation partners with significant experience in the sector.
TMS Increasingly Rolling Business Forwards
Digital transport management systems(‘TMS’) are increasingly the strategy of choice for transport and logistics businesses seeking to compete in an already crowded and fast-moving industry, where online data systems are also in flux.
A key digital efficiency tool in the arsenal of the transport and logistics industry is modular TMS software that allows for flexible scaling. While this absolutely serves the purposes of the DTLF, this digital application does much more than that for the individual, forward looking businesses who adopt this technology.
The automated processing of data that online TMS systems offer speed up negotiations and transactions, make businesses more compliant, help them save on costs and increase loyalty via effective tracking, build a sustainable brand through greater clarity and accountability and much more.
Digitisation of the shipping industry is an inevitability. According to the E.U.,
It is generally accepted that it is “…necessary to move towards a digital, paperless freight transport environment” across all modes of transport. Another certainty is that the E.U. will intervene “to facilitate and ensure acceptance of electronic transport documents by MS authorities, courts, and more widely all transport and logistics companies”. Regardless of whether the UK remains in the E.U. or leaves, the more UK T&L brokerages and operatives build in resilience via increasing preferred systems of data transfer the better equipped they will be to keep border transfers smooth.
Businesses wanting to learn more about the increasingly online e-document environment should look to partner with agencies who have a strong background in the T&L sector already and understand the frustrations in minute detail and can offer solutions to match the complexity of your operations. A modular, flexible digital TMS system offering can help transport start-ups scale up and established businesses can vastly improve on what they do already with more tailored solutions.