Freight brokering has come a long way since the early days of trucking. Once transacted on literal load boards, freight can now be booked instantaneously on a smartphone.
Automation, real-time visibility and data aggregation have ushered in a new wave of transformation in the ever-evolving freight landscape.
If 3PLs and brokers haven’t already gone digital, now is the time, according to 3GTMS. Even the smallest shippers are expecting their logistics partners to use some sort of digital process.
Carriers have largely done away with manual processes, embracing digital quoting, booking and tracking, said JP Wiggins, co-founder and corporate development leader at 3GTMS, adding that shippers are following suit, which is why every freight broker and 3PL should consider a digital transformation.
“Put yourselves in the shoes of the shipper,” Wiggins said. “They’re putting together fully electronic, fully digital supply chain ecosystems that you’re either going to be a part of or be left out.”
Evan Armstrong, president of Armstrong & Associates, reports that $1.4 billion of private equity and venture capital has been invested in digital freight-matching technology through March of this year — and $4.2 billion since 2011.
The pandemic rocked nearly every supply chain with uncertainty and inconsistency, but it did accelerate the adoption of FreightTech by those willing to try something new.
Preet Sivia, co-founder of Parade, said the industry has become less averse to digitalization.
“I see thousands of brokers booking double-digit percentages of their freight completely online,” he said, detailing the shift from phone calls to online bookings. “Since the pandemic, a double-digit percentage of our customers are already doing that.”
Wiggins said the pandemic set in motion a great deal of disruption that will mar supply chains for years to come. As inventory shortages remain common amid ongoing production delays both domestic and abroad, he said knowing the location of your assets and the time and place of exceptions is more important than ever.
“We had a very reliable supply chain before the pandemic,” Wiggins said. “Exceptions were the exception. Now exceptions are the norm.”
What’s more, shippers are expecting quicker responsiveness, according to Dawn Salvucci-Favier, CEO and chief product officer of Greenscreens.ai. She explained that shippers’ patience is growing thinner, driving even small and midsize brokers to invest in or create digital solutions themselves.
Salvucci-Favier said that data science and pricing intelligence upgrades have allowed mostly larger companies to become more responsive in an increasingly connected environment. API-driven spot market freight has also given brokers an advantage over those still using a phone- or email-based process.
Until recently, a digital transformation was available only to those with the deepest pockets.
“Those that have invested in digitalization are some of the largest, most well-funded venture capital-backed companies … but your everyday broker doesn’t necessarily have the in-house expertise or the capital to make that investment,” Salvucci-Favier said.
She said that for the industry to fully embrace a digital transformation, technology must transcend competition between the haves and the have-nots, adding that democratizing data and technology is key.
Wiggins said the industry has passed the early adopter phase, noting that digital freight brokering is now cheaper, faster and better than ever.
“Digital TMSes and digital pricing and capacity management tools can now be bought, which actually have very significant ROIs, making your business processes not just cheaper but better and more integrated,” Wiggins said.
Sivia suggests that shippers also are having better experiences with carriers when brokers have intelligent carrier management systems in place.
“Brokers now have systems that can aggregate data on all of its preferences, including what they want to move, when they want to move it and which stakeholders can accept their loads,” Sivia said. “With capacity management tools, brokers now have the technology to aggregate all that information in real time without manual intervention.”
But Salvucci-Favier explained that digitalization isn’t necessarily about taking the human element out of freight brokering, it is actually strengthening it. She explained how technology is allowing brokers to make better decisions faster as the organization can deploy its human capital to more value-added strategic activities. The broker’s role becomes less transactional but more relationship focused.
Said Armstrong, “As a freight broker, you should want your customers and carriers to have the best experiences.” He added that creating flexibility within freight brokerages to address what customers and carriers want should be a top priority.
“Brokers can still have human customer interaction — that could still be part of the secret sauce behind what makes a company good to do business with,” Wiggins said, adding, however, that a system that automatically identifies a problem and tells the customer in real time versus waiting for someone to pick up the phone is something that customers greatly appreciate too.
3GTMS continues the conversation on June 16 as it hosts the Freight Brokers’ Tech Transformation: The Human-Technology Balance webinar with FreightWaves. Click here to register.