Transport and logistics is a fraught business for most companies, who simply do not have the in-house expertise and trust against luck that their cargo shipments will not encounter disaster.  Between decisions on cheapest transport routes, selection of multiple freight forwarding companies on route, insurances, regulatory environments and substantial compliance documentation, it’s easy to see why import and export companies outsource their freight handling.

So what can shippers expect with the different modes of transportation services? In this article we suggest what to look for from ocean freight services.

Ocean Freight

When seeking freight brokerage services, their networks should be substantial enough to be able to meet your budget and schedule constraints, as well as capacity for matching your market reach.  Reliability will depend upon their having good working relationships with the top ocean cargo carriers across all major industry alliances in the countries and regions you operate in.

Extensive localised presence and pre-established networks gives your company the best chance of reliably securing you shipping container and warehousing space at competitive rates and ensuring your shipment arrives as it needs to.

Internationally expanding companies should check if your shipping handlers have coverage in many of the major ocean thoroughfares around the world and what connectivity with other modes is available. Transit options should fit your business needs.

The ocean freight market can be volatile, with ever-changing geopolitics. A professional freight forwarder will ensure you’ll be able to secure carriage space as local disruption arises, even during peak times. The ability to offer multiple sailings each week with a range carriers can give you peace of mind that your cargo will continue on its route, or circumvent anticipated difficulties when it matters most.

Flexible sea freight services mean you can benefit from consolidated shipping provision, via less than container load (LCL) shipping services, where your cargo is shipped alongside cargo belonging to your provider’s other customers.  This potentially reduces costs for your business.  Alternatively, you may require a full container load (FCL) shipment.

Sometimes, journeys may need to be split between destinations, so LCL shipments simplify logistics for your brokerage, but add to complexity of tracking. Those freight forwarding companies whose systems are digitised mean you can receive push notifications for every piece of cargo at key milestones, such as entering customs, clearances and when nearing arrival at their destination.  Integrated communications via networked T&L partners make it easier for customers to see exactly what is happening in real time for peace of mind.

Choosing between express and deferred delivery services can be straightforward, but where dilemmas arise, your freight partner should be able to advise on the solutions that fit your supply chain management requirements, based on data available for the whole route your shipment will take.

Favourable Freight Rates and Consistent Clarity Via TMS

The advent of big data into the freight forwarding industry means that brokerages and carriers who operate online transport management systems (TMS software)have access to previously untapped capacity.  Their systems provide apps to connect with individual carrier owner operators. A wider network of third party delivery service providers means more ability to negotiate competitive freight rates for brokerages and ultimately, customers.

Until recently, the traditional forwarding company would simply reserve more space than needed with larger carriers.  Unfortunately, securing space in advance on the off-chance of demand fulfilment has often led to under-used sea cargo capacity.  Customers have unknowingly carried this cost, by those losses being factored into carriers’ quoted prices.

Having clarity of exactly what load is where and when means that those sea cargo services who are digitally connected have insight into where there is spare capacity in less than load (LTL) shipments and consolidate cargo.  Using proprietary procurement software in conjunction with supporting more automation via core service TMS systems enables shipping companies to plan better plan more efficient allocation management and in turn, this allows for cost savings to be passed onto customers.

The combination of dedicated client support from expert staff via flexible communications platforms, plus cargo management via data integration means that customers get the best of both worlds: human and artificial intelligence collaboration.  Any business needing more insight into their supply chains, wanting openness with customers and desiring more cost savings should look for a transport service partner who offers both comprehensive digital support solutions combined with expert people for smoother, more efficient operations.

Finding LCL Shipping Opportunities for Smaller Shipments

For traditional brokerages and freight forwarders, less than container load (LCL) shipments may not always be a priority, being perceived as lower value shipments, which can result in poorer customer service for smaller businesses.  Those companies who value clients moving smaller volume as much as their large corporate clients will tend to apply the same professional focus to small and medium sized companies who ship less frequently and in smaller volume. It can be difficult to know which operators will give quality of service regardless of shipment size.

When using software to plan and deploy resources, however, the process of co-ordinating small shipments puts no extra ‘inconvenience’ on human resources and even maximises asset use.  Software automatically optimises shipment handling, bundles similar categories of products, thereby managing customs clearance without any extra administrative burden.  This is another reason to work with partners whose teams are supported by comprehensive TMS systems.

These smart systems also automatically provide clients with updates at every point of a cargo’s journey, eradicating the need for continual phone calls to check on progress.  Freely downloaded freight service supplier apps illustrate easy to follow cargo tracking in real time.

End to End Freight Services Save Time and Costs

When contracting out shipping operations, if new to finding cost effective services, it isn’t always obvious what comprehensive freight forwarding services are necessary or available.  Finding carriers who also own warehouses, or sea freight brokerages that have port storage capacity available at favourable rates should be on your checklist.  If they have access to local infrastructure that easily connects to alternative transport modes, such as rail or air, so much the better.

Those who are able to efficiently segregate, palletise, and label your cargo for delivery to multiple destinations, and who can easily translocate to alternative transportation with a digitally inter-connected network of service providers, or offer end to end services in house will save you time and money on transport and logistics.  Managing these processes from the same facility where we deconsolidate your goods saves you days of transit time, while providing a level of control typically reserved for traditional forwarders’ largest clients.

To ensure you are getting the smoothest possible service, it is worth investing in TMS systems that tap into existing networks quickly.  Businesses whose shipments are a regular aspect of business can make huge savings by exploring systems offered by their existing brokers and whether these can be rolled out in your own business to simplify shipping operations.

Whether your teams want the peace of mind of up to the moment cargo tracking, or want the reassurance of reliable data sharing and communications connectivity, TMS modules offer flexible tailored options for making your shipping logistics smoother and help you achieve best value for all freight modes.

For businesses wanting to expand their own T&L offering, more custom designed Freight Forwarding Software software and hardware packages are worth exploring based on a comprehensive business analysis. Digital partners who have background expertise in the industry already will be able to make a full assessment of your processes as they stand and take you to where you need to be in future and within budget.  Flexibility and modularity is key to your digital innovation.