International Trade

Hard cargo in a Cloud based world

In Norway there’s a company called Nimber which offers a unique courier service. You might call them the UBER of goods movement. The firm matches people who need to send things with people willing to “bring” them. They claim to accept everything from Cakes to Couches and initially, all this takes place in the cloud! Creating a cloud network Firms like Nimber and UBER act as “match makers”. They develop support groups willing to move goods or people for money. This becomes their base of service providers, in essence their underlying carriers. The actual transaction and transportation doesn’t involve the match maker. They simply utilize the principle of shared economy to put people with similar interests together. Within their respective environments and given the type of service they offer, they are highly effective. As match makers, there’s nothing further they need to do. Shared Economy and customer support In the examples above neither UBER nor Nimber can assure that you will be satisfied with the move. That’s not their job! The transaction is between you and the service provider. Cloud based interaction is a perfect platform for establishing that connection. Let’s take this one step further however, to the movement of freight. When you think about it, utilizing a 3PL or truck broker is really just an extension of shared economy. You have freight to move and these entities have underlying carriers willing to move it. They match cargo to carriers going where you need them to go. The difference is, that when you tender them freight they offer you a bill of lading. They take responsibility for your goods and become the service provider. What ever the interface, a good forwarder will have the knowledge and experience to move your cargo efficiently. Commitment to service, cloud or otherwise Normally you have a direct relationship, one built upon a mutual understanding between cargo owner and freight forwarder. Traditionally you call your forwarder and they track your freight and help when problems occur. In many cases you have met a representative and have a physical relationship with the people who move your goods. If you’re savvy you’ve spoken to the “right” logistics manager who knows how it all works and can help through the toughest traffic problems. Support is immediately accountable! The cloud is ubiquitous, it doesn’t immediately offer you the same sense of expertise. Knowledgeable yes, knowing, no! “Moving” into the cloud Purchasing goods or services over the internet has become a way of life. In the realm of freight handling, today you can request a quote, book a shipment and track your goods all without talking to a soul! Web based platforms walk you through every step of the way totally on line. Global logistics delivered in the cloud! The appeal of course is that all this can be done at your pace any time anywhere. This advantage is sold as real time answers to your transportation questions. Charts and logs show you what stage your shipment is at and who’s got it now. Chat rooms support your every question, connecting you to team members who can answer all your logistic questions or direct you to appropriate parties. Pages of web based Q & A explain everything from less than container load to loadable weight. But is this freight management? A cloud can be helpful but don’t let it put you in a fog. Today all smart forwarders domestic and international use some form of cloud based assistance. Whether it be a rate portal or on-line tracking logs. Remember these are only as good as the people who enter the data. Choose your forwarder wisely and trust their knowledge of the business. You might for example want to know how much hands-on experience senior managers have, what their background is and how much knowledge they have in dealing with problems. Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain Cloud assisted logistics is fine and it adds a measure of flexibility. It certainly allows for information as needed. But is this what you really want? Do you really maintain control of your freight? In a cloud based environment it’s easy to have data input piecemeal by employees who only know their piece of the puzzle. Customer service representatives who can answer basic questions but need to refer you on for deeper answers. Or better yet customer support which asks you to outline your question on an e-mail form. Look beyond the curtain and get to know your service providers on a personal level. When you have a problem which wizard will you turn to, the one on the screen or the one on the phone?
Matt Guasco
Matt Guasco


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