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Simple Data Access To Quality Electronic Freight Bills: Here Is How To Make This Less Painful For Shippers

In today’s shipping industry, being data-savvy is crucial. It’s not enough to get simple data access and collect it. Most importantly, shippers must also harness this data to refine their processes and enhance services. Crucial to this is freight bill data, which does more than settle carrier payments—it’s a gold mine for optimizing shipping operations. However, accessing high-quality freight bill data can be tough, often hampered by external partners rather than internal IT issues.

With this growing trend of using carrier billing data for analysis, shippers face two main hurdles. First, getting hold of this data can be exasperating. Second when they do, its poor quality hampers effective auditing and analytics. In this article, I’m going to give you three tips to easily access top-notch electronic freight bills. Plus, I’ll explain why it’s vital to have such data access and point you towards resources to discern good freight bill data from the bad.

Why Shippers Need Easy Access To Quality Freight Bill Data From Their Supply Chain Partners.

tips to data access of electronic freight bills

Easy access to quality freight bill data is crucial for shippers to maintain efficiency and accuracy throughout their supply chains. Indeed, freight bill data is not just for an auditor to review and discard. In this age of business intelligence (BI), freight bill data is a gold mine for shippers to use for post-diagnostics of their shipping operations. This data is key for improving shipping operations and the customer’s delivery experience.

Positively, with accurate freight bill data, shippers can better understand their shipping costs, monitor carrier performance, and optimize their logistics processes. For more on the importance of simple, quality electronic freight bill data, see my article, Freight Bill Processing: The Preposterous Challenge And The Insidious Ways It Can Make Your Shipping Operations Go Blind.

What Does Simple Access To A Carrier’s Quality Electronic Freight Bills Look Like?

All shippers need easy data access to their carrier’s invoices and that the data be of high quality. Indeed, every shipper’s goal should be to have their freight bill data easily available and easy to understand. Further, the ideal situation is for shippers to integrate their freight bill data into their existing systems without delay or difficulty. 

Now, this could involve carriers providing digital invoices or standardized APIs that enable seamless data transfers between systems. Additionally, simple data access means that the information is up-to-date, accurate, and complete. This is key to eliminate the need for shippers to chase after missing or incorrect information. The faster a shipper can access and analyze freight bill data, the more effectively they can both manage and optimize their supply chain operations. For more detailed discussion on the importance of achieving data interoperability in supply chains, see my article, Let’s Breakthrough The Data Interoperability Nightmare: It Is The Best Way To Unlock Supply Chain Innovation.

Tips For Shippers To Stop The Pain And Streamline Data Access

To streamline data access and reduce pain points for shippers, there are several actions they can take. Unquestionably, there are many technology solutions that can improve a shipper’s ability to access and leverage their freight bill data. Obviously in this day and age, supply chain leaders should have on-going programs in place to keep improving their operations. This includes using emerging technologies and methods to improve data interoperability

However, it takes more than technology to assure a shipper can get easy access to quality freight bill data. A shipper cannot solve this problem by technology alone. This is because shippers do not, nor their systems, actually generate carriers’ invoice data. Indeed, it is the original carrier that transported the goods that normally generates the freight bill data for the shipper. 

So besides technology, there are quite a lot of things a shipper can do working with the right supply chain partners to get easy access to quality invoice data. When I say supply chain partner, this can include the transportation carrier, a 3rd party logistics (3PL) provider, an auditor, or any other 3rd party partner that may work with the shipper’s raw freight bill data from the carrier. Below are 3 tips that will go a long way toward helping a shipper get easy access to quality freight bill data from their supply chain network.

1. Favor Carriers That Provide Uncomplicated, High-Quality Invoice Data.

High-quality invoice data enhances both post-diagnostic shipment analytics and reduces disputes by ensuring all parties have access to accurate, up-to-date information. When feasible, prefer carriers that provide straightforward billing practices with minimal adjustments, accessorial charges, and fees. Also, the shipper can help by keeping freight bill terms simple.  For more ideas on streamlining freight payment terms, see my article, Freight Payment Terms: A Painful Money Game, Its Purpose, Is There A Better Way?

2. Favor Partners That Have Streamlined Authorization Policies To Access Billing Data.

Shippers should prioritize carriers and partners that offer easily accessible, high-quality data. Favor carriers, 3rd party logistics (3PL) providers, auditing firms, and shipment visibility companies that can provide complete, accurate, and timely data. Having worked with thousands of shippers, I’ve observed countless times where shippers have had unnecessary difficulties accessing their own raw invoice data. Regrettably, obtaining detailed invoice data is often near-impossible for shippers. 

Therefore, be cautious of transportation carriers, 3PLs, and 3rd party firms with restrictive policies for shippers accessing raw, detailed invoice data. Now, not all carriers and shipping partners restrict a shipper’s access to their freight bill data. For example, ShipMatrix, a 3rd party shipper analytics company offers shippers easy access to both raw and normalized invoice and shipment data. Shippers remember, you own your freight bill data. So, if you need it, ask for it and expect to get it.

3. Favor Carriers That Have Frictionless Technology Access To Invoice Data.

Additionally, choose carriers with a straightforward technology approval process that allows shippers to access detailed invoice data. Specifically, opt for carriers that offer easy access to Application Programming Interfaces (API), EDI, or simple file download processes. Be cautious of financial data not well-suited for automation purposes or difficult to import into your databases.

For instance, MS Excel or XML file formatted invoices are conducive to importing into a database. If that is the only type of file format a carrier can provide, it is next to impossible for a shipper or third party provider to automate invoice processes. This is because in many cases the data files will not import into a database at all. If the data files do import, there will be frequent import errors or data will become corrupted during import. For more ideas on data integration, see my article, Want To Integrate Data For Better Business Visibility? Here’s How To Do It.

For more articles from Supply Chain Tech Insights, see topics of finance, shipping, data, and information technology.

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