As of Monday, November 7, 2016
The days of calling your ocean freight forwarder every time you need information about your cargo should be long gone. A good global freight-tracking system can save you hours on the phone and help boost your business’s productivity.
But what features should a good freight-tracking system have? Here are five things to look for when considering an ocean freight-tracking system:
1. Notification System
If there’s a change or delay to your ocean freight shipment, shouldn’t you know right away? Look for a tracking system that sends you notifications via email to inform you of any changes that might require your immediate attention.
2. Detailed Order Information
Some ocean freight forwarders only provide you with a tracking number and an ETA for your cargo, and that’s it. You may have no clue what’s in the shipment, which can make keeping track of when certain goods will arrive very difficult. A good tracking system not only gives you an ETA and a tracking number, it should also list purchase orders (POs) down to the item/SKU level. This can be especially helpful when your salespeople call asking when a particular item will be in. All you have to do then is look it up in the tracking system, and you can give them an answer right away.
Another feature your tracking system should provide is the ability for you to store documents in the system such as a commercial invoice, packing list or bill of lading. That way, if you ever need to look up a past shipment, you have every document related to that order at-hand.
3. Customization and Flexibility
Multiple team members often access the ocean freight-tracking system, such as a manager, warehouse staff or an accountant. They are often looking for particular information and don’t need to see all the available data. A good tracking system is customizable so each user has a unique login and only sees the information he or she needs to see.
A good tracking system should also allow you to generate reports and filter shipments based on specific data points, like the purchase order number or the SKU. That way you’re not generating reports that have information you don’t need, saving you the time of manually removing that information in a program like Excel.
The ocean freight-tracking system should also be PC- and mobile/tablet-friendly, so wherever you are, you can easily log in and see the status of your shipments.
4. Data Integration
A good ocean freight-tracking system can be integrated with other software, such as your business’s ERP system. That way you don’t have to enter information about your shipments either manually or through a third-party system. The tracking system can seamlessly push the information to your software, keeping your own system up to date at all times.
5. Support System and Automatic Updates
Some tracking systems provide customer support, but if you ever have a question, you may find yourself spending hours on the phone trying to get an answer from your ocean freight services partner. Look for a tracking system that provides a way for you to contact your freight forwarder within the system itself via a message box or internal support system.
An ocean freight forwarder should also be looking for ways to improve its tracking system. Look for a provider that takes your needs into account for future development of the system. Also, ask how often it makes updates or adds new features. You’ll want a system that can grow with your needs rather than remain static.
Stephen Dedola is the chief operating officer and chief financial officer at Dedola Global Logistics, a freight forwarder and logistics provider since 1976. Stephen is the architect of Dedola’s internal workflow applications and Web-based customer-facing tracking system TrakIt.