The complex nature of the shipping and logistics industry combined with the fierce competition that exists in this sector brings unique challenges to the small and medium-sized operators. This makes it imperative that freight forwarding firms, non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs), custom house agents, international freight brokers, shipping agents and cargo agents streamline their multifarious business operations to remain competitive. Deploying the right ERP system dedicated to logistics and freight forwarding can help firms efficiently realign and scale up their activities whilst being adaptable to the rapidly changing regulatory environment.
Whilst an ERP framework can go a long way in helping you integrate diverse business and operational functions, choosing an ideal freight forwarding software that allows you to manage, access, and share information coming from and going into various departments is not easy. Before planning and deploying an ERP system, it is important that businesses analyse their potential keeping the following factors in mind:
Integration of all operational and accounting elements within a single platform
The most important factor to consider is the degree of integration your ERP allows. For instance, a small and medium-sized freight forwarding agent who uses different applications to manage functions, including freight management, customs brokerage, documentation, container tracking, shipment tracking and compliance services would benefit more if all the applications are integrated into a single master application based on Tally ERP 9 platform. This customised Tally solution makes the operation more efficient, cost effective and provides the owner with real-time visibility of in-bound/out-bound shipments and their corresponding payables/receivables.
Avoiding duplication due to centralization of multi-branch tasks
The second parameter to consider is to what extent the ERP system allows the centralization of key multi-branch tasks. Consider each branch of a multi-location shipping agency using a separate business accounting application. This will result in disconnected pools of data independent to each other causing unnecessary delay, disruption and data re-keying whereas the business owner needs real-time business and operations data monitoring. On the other hand, if the same agency decides to partner with a Tally services provider and deploy a centralized software application, it has a greater predictability of its operations. Since this scenario allows the master application to read, write and edit data to and fro from each of the branch offices, it helps business owners track shipment-wise payment, performance, profitability and outstanding details.
Enhanced financial control and greater visibility
The ERP system that you choose to implement should provide a greater financial control by cross-integrating data from operational tasks and data from actual transactions. The system should allow the owner to calculate the expected profit per shipment and then compare it to the shipment’s actual cost and profit (using the data from transactions, receivables, payables and brokerage expenses). This helps the owner to track each job’s profitability which in turn can help them to focus on future shipments/jobs that have a greater profitability ratio.
Quick information access, report generation, and data archiving
Information reporting, data archiving and data storage are all important aspects of the logistics and shipping business. The ERP system should be able to generate and archive reports, including balance sheets, shipping-related MIS reports, packing lists, purchase orders and multiple invoices for different chain partners and quotations. Furthermore, cargo documents, including Cargo Arrival Advice (CAA), Cargo Arrival Notice (CAN), Delivery Order (DO) and House Bill of Lading (HBL) should be directly generated from the application. This helps business owners not only to retrieve but send these documents directly from the system to the logistical chain partners.