4 Key Ways Freight Forwarders Can Use Software to Optimize Import Operations

Jun 30, 2021 | Industry

As supply chains begin to stabilize and markets start to even out, trade is flourishing. Both imports and exports are now on the rise as nations look to jumpstart struggling economies and get trade back on track.

According to the Journal of Commerce, this has created a unique situation for importers: With volumes rising substantially, most large vessel operating carriers (VOCs) are fully booked for months. As a result, freight forwarders have now become the importers of choice for many companies — particularly those sending goods from Asia to the United States.

And while this business boost is good news for importers and the freight forwarders that cater to them, it also comes with a caveat: Businesses need freight management software with functions and features capable of keeping them ahead of the competitive curve. 

Considering Current Import Challenges

As the import market evolves new challenges have emerged, including:

  • Evolving expectations

B2B customers now expect B2C capabilities. It makes sense: when they’re not at work, manufacturing and production decision-makers become consumers — and they’re familiar with the on-demand service and supply offered by massive e-Commerce retailers. If Amazon can do it, their business partners and vendors should too. Informed by the increasing uptick of anytime, anywhere mobile applications, these expectations have made their way into import and export markets and require shifts from freight forwarders to ensure they’re up to speed.

  • Real-time requirements

Speaking of speed, clients are now looking for real-time reporting and tracking of shipments anywhere in the world. Gone are the days of delayed data or generic updates about shipping progress — with so many logistics options now available, companies are looking for long-term partnerships that stand out from the crowd with real-time import information.

  • Reduced availability

With massive VOCs booked for months into the future, companies are turning to smaller freight forwarding firms to find shipment options and get goods where they need to be. The challenge? As vessel sizes continue to increase even as ports struggle to get workforces back up to full speed, there’s reduced availability for smaller carriers to dock, unload, and have goods verified. While importers can’t control this evolving market landscape, they need ways to keep customers informed of any potential delays anywhere along the import pipeline.

Controlling for Import Complexity

Controlling for import complexity starts with streamlining operations. In practice, this could mean focusing on specific geographic areas or import categories or it could involve creating long-term, high-volume relationships with key clients. Regardless of the approach, however, importers must address one of the most common complexity-causing factors: Legacy freight management tools.

For many importers, these tools were created or adopted to address logistics challenges that relied on manual processes and in-person data entry. Over time, some of these tools were adjusted or adapted to partially meet evolving expectations, while others were largely retired or exist only as backup archives.

The result is a complex and convoluted environment that requires additional time and effort from staff, extra steps from clients, and introduces the possibility of human error. For example, if current tracking tools can’t keep pace with rapidly-changing shipment and port conditions, clients could end up waiting on products that are significantly delayed — but have no idea why the delay occurred, where goods are currently stored, or how long they’ll actually take to arrive. And, while companies are willing to forgive some bumps in the road driven by pandemic pressures, if importers can’t consistently ensure reliable tracking and delivery, prospective partners will eventually turn to other providers.

Capturing Import Market Share

To capture greater market share and ensure clients are satisfied, importers need freight management software that delivers in four key areas:

  • Purchase orders

Every import starts with a purchase order (PO). Inefficiencies in your PO system, however, can start any client relationship off on the wrong foot — especially if POs aren’t accurate or complete. Magaya Supply Chain helps streamline the PO workflow by automating and optimizing key processes. This starts with complete digitalization and normalization of PO data, allowing your teams to quickly create comprehensive POs on-demand and get import processes up and running ASAP.

  • Digital quoting

Accurate rates and quotes are essential to stand out from the crowd, protect profit margins, and earn the trust of clients. Despite best efforts, however, manual quoting simply can’t keep pace with the continually-evolving world of digital freight forwarding. Unexpected issues — such as the recent Suez canal incident — can throw current rates out the window and force companies to start from scratch. Without the right quoting software in place, importers can find themselves on the hook for significant monetary and resource losses.

Catapult QMS by Magaya provides complete control of your quoting process. Your staff can search and compare your entire rate set, manage margins, evaluate surcharges and spot rates on-demand – all this from a single control tower – in turn allowing quick response to RFQs that reflect the most current rate and risk conditions.

  • Compliance concerns

Import compliance is critical to ensure shipments arrive on time and goods don’t incur unexpected charges. But, with regulations rapidly evolving to meet new market demands, it’s easy for freight forwarders to find themselves accidentally out of alignment with specific shipping expectations. ACELYNK ABI by Magaya is an ACE-certified compliance solution designed to help you quickly complete and file all relevant documents including eAWB, ISF, AMS, and more.

  • Network connections

As noted above, many companies are now partnering with non-vehicle operating freight forwarders to ensure their goods arrive on time. For importers, this speaks to the need for robust network connections with other logistics companies that deliver freight services anywhere in the world. The Magaya Network jumpstarts this connective process — with a global community of more than 2000 supply chain companies across 84 countries, it’s easy to broaden your reach and diversify your shipping options to grow your business.

Imports, Improved

Evolving import demands offer substantive opportunities for freight forwarders — but making the most of new markets requires freight management software capable of addressing current challenges, reducing total complexity, and capturing more market share. Ready to take on the next normal of transport and tracking? Transform your business with Magaya.

Learn more about how Magaya can help you optimize your import operations.

Schedule a demo with one of our solution experts!