Logistics processes and procedures are complex, and it’s common to still see physical documents shipped by express service providers to points of receipt, including your accounts payable, accounts receivable, and customer service departments – domestically and internationally – which carries a significant cost factor. These printed documents are still handled manually, which creates opportunity for some serious efficiency gains and cost savings.

Distribution is an industry benefitting from enterprise content management (ECM). The driver: logistics documentation. Shipping paper-based originals is fraught with expense (time and money), not to mention risks.

You move goods on a very large scale. Having a clear picture of your distribution operations of those goods is critical for business. However, a challenge to this is managing logistics operations that are driven by paper, restricting the movement of every inbound and outbound shipment. Paper-based processes are slow and create bottlenecks in productivity, making important data contained in shipping documents — bills of lading, manifests, delivery receipts, and more — difficult to process and track.

If you’re storing and managing paper files, you know how much space your filing cabinets take up. You also know your staff’s time and cost to file and retrieve each document, each and every time. And while it may simplify things to use a records management company, your real price is high: fees from outsourcing the job, lack of immediate access to information, and the inability to link information to your core systems.

Capabilities have expanded to encapsulate capture technology, electronic processes, and workflow to streamline tasks related to shipping and receiving goods, as well as enhance the functionality of your existing systems – ERP, SCM, WMS, TMS, accounting, and other business applications you use.

ECM enables you to automate capture of all formats of shipping documentation in paper and electronic formats – bills of lading, manifests, delivery receipts – assembling complete document collections per transaction. Accuracy is validated with vendor and customer information stored in your ERP or SCM, and automated workflow with all departments involved in each transaction. Detailed visibility is provided throughout your distribution channel.

This document management capacity makes information easy to access and retrieve with electronic organization for faster and more efficient content management. You’ll have instant access, with improved responsiveness to your customers, directly through your ECM-integrated screens, both onsite and mobile.

ECM facilitates an ideal solution to ensure accuracy and security for distribution, as the foundation for building transactional trust and transparency, while also streamlining business processes across company boundaries. Global trade logistics relies on a web of disparate systems across freight forwarders, brokers, port authorities, ocean carriers, and trucking companies. Imagine if you could digitize the process to collaborate across companies and authorities, reduce the paperwork, streamline cross-border movements, and reduce fraud and errors, with tracking (visibility and reporting analytics) providing real-time information on each shipment, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions.

In an ECM-enabled logistics environment, these advantages occur:

  • Quicker outbound turnaround – leading to improved delivery time and stronger customer (and vendor) relationships.
  • Documentation security – nothing is lost with ECM, and only people who need access to your distribution documentation do so.
  • Ensured accuracy – with ECM syncing with your business system databases, all information is verified in real time, alerting users of discrepancies. Otherwise, it’s simply straight-through processing into automated workflow.
  • Lower document distribution costs – automation negates physical document shipping and all associated costs.
  • Faster notifications and approvals – with ECM’s automated workflow, everyone in your supply chain who needs to know does so quickly through automated notice, hastening processes, and fulfillments.
  • Document append abilities – as amendments, updates, and approvals need to be added to original documents, they can be while maintaining the document’s original information’s integrity. Users can enter notes either in a pre-set field or a digital post-it note placement adjacent to the information being addresses. The document’s original data doesn’t change, though helpful information may be added and tracked by ECM and line of business system users throughout your organization.

These are particularly useful with accounts payable, orders processing, and customer service departments, which are all areas of document’s origination and destination.

There’s an appreciated side benefit. You know the considerably time-consuming task of manually keying data and how it weighs on your employees as well as your business. Repeating this process daily can result in your team’s disengagement, processing errors occurring (reflective in fiscal and time costs), and manifesting frustration among your staff. By automating much of the data entry work and repurposing your employees to do higher value tasks, they’re happier, more engaged, and more all-in (which translates to less turnover and training).

Tim Nissen is Marketing Manager at IntelliChief ECM, providing enterprise-class business processes document management and workflow automation solutions for any IT platform. He can be contacted at tnissen@intellichief.com.