Software Integrations In Logistics Technology Made Simple
Software integrations, such as TMS integrations (transport management systems), have traditionally been drawn-out and expensive challenges for freight companies. Fast forward to 2023 and software integrations are no longer a burden on logistics service providers or their customers. Read on to find out how a bootstrapped logistics technology company founded in New York during the Covid-19 pandemic is setting the new standard for logistics software connectivity.
Software integration in the logistics industry was unnecessarily complicated and expensive
Software integrations are complicated by default. It is an unfortunate reality of the logistics industry and how software has been designed over the years. The problem of integrating software is made infinitely more complicated due to the vast number of logistics technology solutions out there. What does this mean? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of types of logistics software:
- Freight Management Systems
- Transport Management Systems
- Customs Compliance Solutions
- Data Entry Automation Solutions
- Real Time Visibility Solutions
- Warehouse Management Systems
- Port Management Systems
- Yard Management Systems
Each of these logistics technology solutions needs to integrate with third party platforms, including each other, but also government platforms, carriers’ systems, customer platforms, marketplaces, and more. To add an extra layer of complexity to logistics technology, rarely do two companies use the same solution the same way.
Why did software integration processes remain unchanged for the longest time?
Integrating logistics technology solutions between each other, or with third party solutions, was far from a priority. The fragmented nature of logistics technology also comes from the way that same technology has been built. We’re talking about a mindset of gathering data, protecting said data, and not sharing anything beyond the bare minimum in order to get the job done.
This archaic way of approaching logistics technology has made areas like freight forwarding unnecessarily fragmented. Forwarders have a vast array of platforms to choose from when looking for an FMS. Some manage to run their entire operations on Salesforce, while others choose the more expensive industry leading platforms such as CargoWise.
CargoWise is a great example of not playing well with third party platforms when it comes to software integration. If your partner agent uses CargoWise, and you’re on another platform, chances are you’ve been rekeying shipment job data. The same can be said for tracking data from third parties such as FourKites. CargoWise doesn’t come with a simple way to build software integrations, meaning that using a third party real time visibility provider used to mean having to work in multiple systems.
Software integration in logistics: an ad hoc approach that kept prices high and connectivity low.
Logistics software integrations didn’t have a go-to vendor for a while. Most connections were built by specialists such as platform service providers, development houses, or third-party software developers with some past platform experience. This model contributed to keeping the space highly fragmented, and the work expensive. A single integration between a platform like CargoWise or Magaya and a third party such as a BCO’s (Beneficial Cargo Owner) main operations platform could take months to build and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
This model was able to exist because FMS and TMS data architecture is unexpectedly complex. This is especially true for the older platforms which are due a structural overhaul sooner rather than later. A topic for another article.
Thankfully, recent global events mean that connectivity is at the forefront of shippers’ minds. Logistics service providers are left with little choice but to improve customer experience. Which leads to software integration becoming a need, not a want, for shippers and LSPs alike.
As a logistics service provider you’re going to need to be at the forefront of customer experience in 2023. Prompt are building solutions that keep your customers happier through transparency and oversight, while improving your operational efficiency.
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A changing landscape of software integrations in logistics technology.
Connectivity between software platforms is one of the biggest changes to come out of pandemic-era logistics. During the Covid-19 pandemic, global supply chains were challenged in ways yet unseen in modern times, leading to an implosion of services and an explosion of costs. Shippers whose goods were being left dockside as higher bidders came in willing to pay more expensive “voluntary surcharges” had to proactively start policing their LSPs. This proved a gargantuan task without proper software integration, meaning that getting a clear and transparent picture was next to impossible. Not wanting to relive this scenario, shippers have been the driving force in 2023, changing the way platform connectivity works from here on out. Their goal? End-to-end supply chain visibility.
Software Integrations in logistics fill the gap between customer experience and customer expectations.
Shippers’ expectations have changed drastically in recent times. Freight forwarding and logistics in general has been a “done for you” service, with few shippers attempting a “do it yourself” approach. The disappointment experienced by shippers during the insane freight bubble of pandemic supply chains has changed mentalities in a big way. Shippers now want more granular oversight over the logistics portion of their supply chain, and are willing to contract their own software for increased visibility and data availability. Even though logistics remains firmly a “done for you” operation, shippers are trying to control more.
Prior to the likes of Flexport and project44 bringing many eyes onto the logistics technology space, software was built to do certain things. And connecting with third party platforms was not one of them. In fact, what we may call legacy logistics technology solutions today are so difficult to interface with that the software companies simply do not bother trying to make it work. This creates voids in the customer experience, as shippers now expect seamless data passthrough and enhanced visibility as part of their standard experience, but the old and new systems simply don’t talk to one another.
This has left forwarders with two options: look for a modern solution with built-in connectivity, or find a third-party solution to build the bridge.
Enhancing customer experience through software integrations.
Shippers’ needs remain the same: they want to move their goods from A to B. The big difference today is that the trust between LSP and shipper has been broken. The core goal remains the same for a forwarder: move the goods from A to B on behalf of a shipper. But customer experience is now a pivotal part of what makes one forwarder stand out from the pack, and is becoming a deciding factor for many shippers when selecting who they work with.
A key ingredient of customer experience in 2023 is visibility. We’re currently exiting a real time visibility trend and heading towards something more meaningful – insight. What is important to the shipper isn’t seeing a dot on a map. They want to know when their goods pass through key milestones and when delays happen. A fancy map should be nothing more than one of multiple ways of delivering that information.
To meet the heightened expectations of shippers for an enhanced customer experience, software integrations have become essential. When a forwarder’s software is integrated with a shipper’s platform, it goes beyond a mere connection. Once the milestones are achieved, the information must flow seamlessly to the next platform, and this is where things really get interesting. Software integrations not only facilitate real-time communication through immediate data transfer, but they also allow for customization that was previously impossible with complex forwarding solutions alone.
You may have seen the recent announcement of the FourKites integration built for CargoWise. This reusable integration is available to all CargoWise users and will provide levels of visibility customization not available through CargoWise alone.
Let us know if you use CargoWise and want to explore adding FourKites, or any other third party data, to your operations through our Integrate product.
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Customization enabled by software integrations will empower the future of customer experience
Forwarders using freight management systems or TMS know how hard it can be to adapt their processes and communication to that system’s functionality. There is no one fit all solution for forwarders. There are hardly any standards in freight forwarding software to begin with. The likes of CargoWise have set their own standards, which some are choosing to accommodate, but do they really work for all forwarders?
Through software integrations between third party data providers, FMS/TMS, customer platforms, and other solutions, forwarders are able to reach levels of customization that improves both customer experience and operational efficiency. Without software integrations, forwarders are left using multiple disconnected interfaces to get a full picture. They then struggle to share that picture through various channels to their shipper customers. This reality is no longer acceptable for any stakeholder. Thankfully solutions such as Prompt’s Integrate make software integrations the new normal, in ways previously unthinkable.
The one to many and many to one software integration problem.
In the logistics industry, there are numerous interconnected components, making straight one-to-one software integrations impractical. By the time an integration is built for a customer, they may already have four more integration requests, and as new customers come onboard with different platforms, the need for integrations multiplies. The dynamic nature of the logistics space demands a more flexible and scalable approach to software integrations.
As a freight forwarder, keeping up software integration requests can distract you and your team from your core business. It also prevents you from taking your own process initiatives and running with them in a meaningful way. How can you build a scalable business with meaningful connectivity when you’re always answering customer software integration questions?
Reusable software integrations need to be built first.
If the FMS platforms are not going to build connectivity natively, then it falls to you, the forwarder, to find other solutions. CargoWise is a great example of customer-facing connectivity done wrong. Sure they now have native software integrations with most ocean and air carriers, as well as some great customs connectivity. But they make it nearly impossible to share anything with your shipper customers in a meaningful way.
Magaya has taken a different approach to this problem by building their own “digital freight forwarding portal” that can be used with any FMS or TMS. A great path to take, and one that we’ve implemented for our customers across multiple platforms with our customer experience boards. The problem is, a front-end does nothing without the meaningful data behind it.
Prompt Global’s model focuses on reusable software integrations as part of a greater actionable data play. Forwarders collect, use, passthrough, and analyze so much data. It is difficult to quantify as each shipment is potentially different, as are the events, the milestones, and what can and does go wrong.
You can benefit from an approach that allows both one-to-one and many-to-one software integrations with data simplification built in. This means that if a software integration is built for a forwarder using CargoWise to receive FourKites tracking data, all CargoWise using forwarders will be able to use this same integration.
If you’re looking to provide your shippers with the visibility they want, and the customer experience they need, check out our customer experience boards. Customize as many boards as your customer needs, down to the individual user, and redefine how they view their shipments.
Take the customer experience boards for a spin with a free 30 day trial and let your customers decide if they want to go back to less visibility.
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What is software integration, really?
In freight forwarding, software integration is a conduit. A conduit for actionable data and valuable insights that can be used by both your operations team and your customer. By having simple software integrations between your FMS/TMS and customer platforms, you are creating a competitive advantage for yourself, and for each customer. You will gain operational efficiency and have an unrivaled overview of your shipments. Your customers will unlock increased levels of information, providing them with a greater understanding of their shipments in progress. This actionable data is what allows your customers to proactively make decisions based on your services, rather than having to react to your results, however good or bad they may be.
Beyond this huge operational advantage that your shippers will love you for comes an even bigger advantage. Software integration in freight forwarding unlocks your data, especially the way Prompt Global has built it. We’re aiming to be the new industry standard for software integration, and that cannot be achieved without data transformation. Prompt’s Integrate won’t just enable your FMS or TMS to communicate with third-party platforms. Combined with Prompt Data Warehouse, the combination of all a forwarder’s data sources, including your own, is simplified in ways you can understand. You’re then free to use Prompt’s Operator Dashboards to view the data and take action, all the while sharing the data with your customers through Prompt’s Customer Experience boards, where they can take action themselves.
We’re convinced that the future of freight forwarding lies with improved customer experience. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t benefit as a forwarder from software integrations.
About Prompt Global
Prompt is a logistics technology company based in the US with employees and users around the world. Our products are designed to work with your existing FMS and TMS systems. For forwarders and LSPs we target productivity increases by improving the way existing tech stacks work. For your customers we enhance customer experience by improving visibility and data transparency.
You can try any of our products for free for 30 days. Both your team and your customers will want to continue the relationship after that.