People generally don't associate trucking with sophisticated software solutions. It's a stereotype, of course, of blue-collar and white-collar work. But it's hard to imagine these two stereotypes, a long-haul driver with jeans and a trucker hat and a programmer with khaki pants and eyes glued to the newest tablet, drinking at the same bar.
But like many stereotypes, there's more there than meets the eye – look a little deeper, and you'll find something very different. In trucking, the rise of Electronic Data Interchange has made a big difference in how trucking companies manage their logistics. There are software companies out there that specialize in designing trucking software to make use of EDI.
What Is Electronic Data Interchange
A lot of information is involved in trucking, and that can lead to a lot of paperwork. But even if a company moves from paper to electronics, they still have the same volume of work to deal with – like manifests, location and shipping updates, orders, delivery documents, and invoices. EDI is a way of standardizing these documents, making it easier to share them between companies, different parts of the same company, and clients. This allows for greater automation and less manual data entry.
How EDI Works
When a logistics manager assigns a shipment to a carrier, for example, he or she has to send the order to the carrier and be sure that the carrier received it. If they are using EDI software, this communication is simple. When the carrier sends back a message that the order has been received, the manager doesn't have to then turn around and enter that fact manually in a database because the software understands the EDI standards. It can automatically update the status of the order in the system.
And as the order progresses, the database is always kept up-to-date. When the driver picks up the order, he or she can send an acknowledgement through the system that automatically marks the order as picked up. On-board GPS on trucks can keep the system updated on the status and location of the delivery. All of this means lots of information without lots of reading and filling in forms.
Advantages To Shippers
Using EDI can help a trucking company, like Bobby Hoelscher Trucking Inc, streamline many parts of its delivery process. But if you're the client, looking at freight shipping, does it matter to you whether the company you choose uses EDI?
In fact, there are definite advantages for clients. Trucking companies that use EDI have a much easier time giving you status updates about shipments. For single shipments, this can be helpful – if you ship in volume, it's even better. Automatic reports can be generated, keeping you constantly updated about the status of your shipments. If a huge blizzard in the northeast, for instance, is delaying part of your supply line, you'll know it and can adjust production.
EDI makes it faster and easier to exchange information, and that's a definite plus no matter what you're shipping.