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A firsthand perspective on the struggles in a logistics company.


Some of you may be reading this as if I am going to complain about the carriers, the customers, and the processs associated with shipping. I’m not. In an age of instant gratification, it is still difficult to have a seamless shipment in an industry that is slow to adopt new processes. Here is a list of what I’m talking about:

Sales quotes: A majority of ocean carriers have yet to adopt an online system of obtaining pricing. One company that I can praise is Sealand. If I need a quote instantly, I can enter the information directly onto their online tool and have a quote ready to go. They also offer door to port and port to port rates which can help take the guesswork out of the process. The old way of emailing a contract with the rates on an excel document is an outdated process. For example, Sealand provides all of the charge, including destination charges, to you when you enter the information. It will also offer select tabs for tri-axle so that you are aware of any additional cost associated with moving the freight. For another not named carrier, I have to get my inland freight rate from an online tool that also tells me that during peak seasons, I am supposed to add 12-16% to the cost of the inland charges. Then I have to read through my excel spreadsheet to get my ocean freight charges. You want to double and triple check your math when quoting this way. Any additional charges associated with the shipment and your customer is going to recommend that you absorb those charges. Some other carriers ask that you email them for quotes and that can take a couple of hours up to 24 hours for a response. How do you explain this process to your customers? It’s quite difficult and mostly time consuming.

Air Freight shipments: The process of submitting documentation for air shipments has yet to catch up to the 21st century. Need to ship cargo via air? You’re going to have to submit that documentation when you deliver the cargo. Oh and also, make sure the weight associated with the shipment is spot on or some of the air carriers will tell you that you need to submit new documentation. Maybe I don’t understand the need for physical documentation when shipping air cargo. What I can tell you is it is infuriating being the person behind the guy that has multiple AWB’s and they need to be individually processed.

Submitting Shipping Instructions: One thing that seems to be redundant to me is submitting shipping instructions before and after the cutoff for documentation. Submitting your documentation beforehand is typically called “dummy” instructions or instructions before the correct instructions are submitted. So if cargo is loading on Friday morning at 8am, I have to submit instructions Thursday before 5pm. I can’t imagine what the cost associated with this practice are but I can’t imagine it’s negligible.

These are just some of the issues that strain the industry. There are multiple redundancies that make the process of completing shipments that much more difficult. Being a “millennial” some will say that I am just spoiled. What I see is an industry that is slow to change. I see an industry that can streamline processes, remove redundancies, eliminate costly overhead expenditures, and most of make the process of shipping cargo a little easier. I am also fairly new to the industry, and I have seen some of these changes be initiated. The industry is just slow to adopt some of these practices and that makes me wonder when, and if, these changes will ever happen.