The logistics and supply chain industry continues to have tremendous paperwork challenges. Let’s explore how the industry’s approach to document management has evolved, and where it’s headed.
1. Late 80s – 90s: client-server document management systems
Traditionally, logistics companies would hire a large number of clerical staff to deal with bills of lading, proofs of delivery, freight invoices, and international logistics documents. In the 1990’s, some of the larger logistics companies adopted client-server document management systems, which allowed them to automate and save on clerical staff. The cost to get in the game with these solutions was high, though, so typically these technologies were adopted only by the larger players.
2. Later on, document outsourcing companies started offering their services
Another document management option that logistics companies could pursue was scanning and document management outsourcing. Typically, smaller players took this path. Regional document management service providers would perform document scanning and storage, as a service. The customer couldn’t really achieve a high level of automation using this approach, but at least they’d tame their paperwork and store it electronically.
3. Hybrid cloud document management options have emerged
Today, there are improved cloud options for logistics companies. These options allow small and mid-sized logistics companies to have access to more sophisticated document management technology. One example is Transflo, which is a kind of hybrid between an outsourced imaging service, and cloud software. Transflo can image hard copy documents and make them available in the cloud. You can get a URL back from Transflo and use this to link out to your document from an external system, like a TMS. These solutions are a bit pricey, but at low shipment volumes they make sense and cost a lot less than a traditional document management system.
4. Pure cloud document management is the future
Another emerging option is cloud storage from leaders like Google, Microsoft, and Box. It’s very cost effective, and eliminates the need to buy expensive, on-premise storage systems. These services also provide built-in disaster recovery, since your documents are stored in multiple data centers, transparently to you. However, out of the box, services like Google Drive can’t provide everything a logistics company needs to manage documents. You can’t easily define your document types (BOL, Freight Invoice, Proof of Delivery, etc.), enforce metadata, and search based on metadata fields.
But DocuGain provides an additional software layer that turns Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Box into true metadata-based document management systems, that are ready-made to solve the logistics document management problem.