Trains, Planes, Trucks and Information

By Bob Larrivee posted 07-09-2010 10:20


There is no doubt that transportation companies know how to move materials in an efficient and expeditious manner, but moving freight also requires moving information. Since this is their business focus and principal source of revenue it stands to reason that many transportation companies have typically spent the bulk of their budgets on personnel, fleet maintenance, and fleet upgrades to ensure reliability and return business. Economic downturns, insurance rate increases, and fluctuating fuel costs are pressuring the transportation industry to seek additional ways to maintain their profitability and a competitive advantage. Couple this with sluggish retail sales resulting in fewer shipments and less overall revenue, the option being looked at now by transportation organizations is in administrative operations.

Through discussions in my classes and at various lectures, I often hear that today these organizations are looking to their IT departments for guidance in streamlining administrative operations. Efficiency in moving freight is there but it is the paperwork associated with that freight that is now becoming the focus. There is an increased recognition that benefit can be gained by lowering operational costs and shortening the billing process using information technologies to decrease the receivables cycle and increase cash flow. Some are even seeking ways to lower customer service costs by leveraging customer facing applications using portals for clients to access their records and shipment status 24/7 online.  

Strong information management practices can help transportation organizations get control of their administrative operations by scanning paper documents like Bills of Lading, and moving it through the system electronically Not only can they scan at the home office, but using remote scan capabilities, drivers or administrative personnel can capture the bill of lading at satellite locations and begin the receivables process before the driver and original paperwork arrive at the home office if retention of the original is a requirement. Some companies are incorporating tablet technology allowing electronic signature rather than paper and ink which eliminated the need to scan. Leveraging technology in this way means that invoices can be sent to clients within hours rather than days or weeks as in the past. Imagine being able to issue an invoice for delivery within 24 hours rather than five to seven days.

Typical applications within the Transportation sector include but are not limited to:

Bills of Lading                         Driver Records                       Fleet Maintenance Records

Purchasing                             Driver Logs                            Trip Information and Receipts

Human Resources                  Accounts Payable                   Accounts Receivable

In my view, the transportation industry has a lot to gain from the use of technology to improve information and process management practices. Not only can they benefit an organization from a cash flow perspective, these same technologies and practices will also provide a strong means to maintain compliance with the stringent record keeping requirements they must address.

Our commercial infrastructure depends upon the transportation industry to move materials across the country and around the globe so that we, the consumer, can have access to those goods we need and desire. Moving these materials not only require the skills of experienced drivers and the use of well maintained vehicles, it requires efficiency in the management of all the information or paperwork as well. Large or small, transportation companies need to efficiently and effectively move information through their organizations in order to move the freight throughout the world.

Establishing a strong information management environment requires careful planning, change management and ongoing improvement efforts. In some cases the expertise you need may be available in house. For others a third party with the expertise you need may be brought in or training may be sought to assess what is needed to move forward. Efficiency in moving information is like efficiency in moving freight, it takes experience, dedication and focus.   

What say you? Do you have a story to tell? What are your thoughts on this topic? What is on your mind? Do you have a topic of interest you would like discussed in this forum? Let me know.

Email: Bob Larrivee, Director and Industry Advisor - AIIM

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