Workflow tools automate everyday paperwork, speed cash flow
Commercial and private fleets always are looking to automate the “quote-to-cash” cycle. Most already are on the right path by using transportation management software designed for this purpose. Still, one of the biggest obstacles is how to handle the stream of data coming in from different sources and formats.
Orders arrive by phone, fax, Websites, e-mails, spreadsheets and electronic data interchange. After orders are entered and loads are assigned and delivered, there are even more sources and formats for data and documents involved in invoicing customers and paying drivers.
For years, document imaging systems and services have helped to clear the way, but the early versions did nothing more than replicate the workflow of using paper trays for an inbox and outbox. People still had to view documents and decide what to do with the content.
A growing number of fleets now are using workflow tools to automate the cycle from start to finish. These technologies can capture data from Websites, e-mails and other documents and convert it to a format easily consumed by TMS systems. Many also are using technology to automate the routine tasks and focus resources on clearing the exceptions, such as invoices with missing information.
This so-called “active” or “progressive” workflow has made order entry, invoicing, payroll and other processes become more efficient. Rather than paying people for repetition, companies are using knowledgeable workers to do more productive work that contributes to profitable growth.
EDI has – and perhaps always will be – the standard for automating business-to-business commerce in the transportation industry. Increasingly, however, more shippers and third-party logistics firms require carriers to visit Websites to retrieve and send information that used to be done through EDI, such as receiving load offers and updating shipment status.
For shippers, Websites can eliminate the legacy costs associated with EDI, such as a trained staff, as well as the setup and testing costs to connect with carriers. But for carriers already accustomed to using EDI, Websites can drain efficiency – especially for customers with a large volume of transactions.
Fortunately, the process of sending and retrieving data from shipper Websites can be automated just like it is with EDI.
“The goal is to take away physical paperwork and the process of sending information around to different departments.”
– Michelle Ramer, project manager, Pegasus TransTech
Intelek Technologies offers an EDI Transportation Suite for carriers. Its Software-as-a-Service model can automate the workflow of converting data from Websites, e-mails, spreadsheets and other nonstructured processes into the standard EDI messages consumed by TMS systems.
“Instead of having to monitor a couple of Websites, an e-mail box or spreadsheets, dispatchers and customer service representatives can do their jobs,” says Terry Wood, vice president of business development for Intelek.
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