I’ve spent years studying and sharing best practices with peers in transportation revenue management circles. It will come as no surprise that one common sentiment we all share is: If we’re not going to get paid, let’s not haul the freight in the first place. I think that rings true in any industry. We all want to make sure we’re compensated for our services. In transportation, there was a time when non-payment of an invoice was primarily due to financial issues like a cash flow constraint or something directly related to a customer’s ability to pay. Today, so many of the challenges we face in the payment cycle are related to data requirements and invoice disputes, and much of that is impacted or influenced by the application of various technologies to these processes.
Freight Audit and Payment companies play a significant role in the transportation payment cycle and represent some very large shippers. As service providers in a highly transactional business, these companies are investing in technologies to automate and extract cost from their internal processes. They have increased investments in automation, while at the same time creating more of a self-serve interface for shippers and carriers. Most, if not all, have built portals for all parties to access. One of the challenges is that these portals are not flexible enough to map to the needs and workflow of the AR (accounts receivable) processes of all carriers, which may involve very different models. So carriers do the best they can to self-serve, but it can be time-consuming and cumbersome and often does not offer sufficient information to resolve the issue. This prompts a phone call or email, but those critical human resources are getting harder and harder to reach. Thus the situation creates pain for all parties.
On the carrier or provider side, there is also an interest in reducing cost and increasing speed and accuracy in these highly transactional back offices. We are seeing more data integration with multiple systems, investments in RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and BPM (Business Process Management) software, and even outsourcing to companies that employ these technologies. Many of these systems require the development of APIs (Application Programming Interface) to make the connections. Those APIs rely on the underlying quality of the data and the real time availability of that data. We are seeing a great deal of focus and investment in shoring up the underlying data and processes that newer technologies rely on to be effective.