Going Paperless Critical in Freight Forwarding

Amit Maheshwari, Softlink Global CEO

Just a few months ago, traditional freight forwarders still relied on paper and human intervention. It had to take the global pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns for the industry to realize the importance of going paperless through digitalization.


The International Air Transport Association had long ago introduced the initiative to replace paper with digital documents throughout all elements of the cargo supply chain, including shippers, forwarders, customs, and consignees, to improve efficiency and bring a positive impact on the environment.


But the industry needed the global lockdown to justify the investment in going paperless. Moreover, the growing demand to make the supply chain more transparent and to share real-time data with supply chain partners is forcing forwarders to rethink the concept of digitalization and automation of their business.


Each shipment generates up to 30-odd different paper documents, and thus the huge requirement for storage and maintenance of documents. An efficient, cloud-based ERP system allows forwarders to provide built-in eDocket functionalities that can store all documents entered digitally on a system once, and eliminate all paperwork to automate and optimize operations and processes.


Storing the documents in a centralized system allows quick and secure access from anywhere, anytime from any devices, and the data is backed up automatically with the updated documents. The freight forwarding software also empowers a forwarding business with all information in a single robust system with complete flexibility and visibility. Customs compliance, a mandate for export/import, involves a lot of paperwork such as tax and duty receipts, eVGM, cargo description, and goods entry. These documents can be easily managed and shared with different parties like customs agents, regulatory bodies, and customers when required.


A cloud-based ERP gives complete control of authorization levels in terms of accessibility and approvals, again saving multiple manual paperwork processes, time, and effort. There are several other advantages to paperless freight forwarding operations that not only boost operations but also significantly reduce the time spent on organizing, labeling, filing, updating, and sharing manual documentation.


During this pandemic, the industry has realized that to survive and to minimize the potential disruptions to daily business operations, an entirely digital documentation or paperless solution is critical. With digitization, freight forwarders can reduce supply chain costs,while achieving faster supply chain transit times, greater data accuracy, improved shipment tracking and regulatory compliance, and increased security.


By the end of this pandemic, hopefully, the industry will have understood the advantages of going digital and moved towards 100 percent paperless freight forwarding operations.