Talking to our forwarder customers over the last few months or so, I am seeing a trend in the way forwarders are being asked to work with their customers and hence the types of solutions we’re being asked to create. It’s a phenomenon we call collaborative forwarding.

Simply put, collaborative forwarding is the trend towards an increased shipper involvement in the logistics processes that, until recently, were the sole domain of the forwarders. Increasingly, forwarders are being asked to open up their processes to the shippers. Purchase order management and consolidations are two examples where we are seeing this type of collaboration. We are also seeing shippers partner with forwarders to manage their ocean transport spend.

So, why is this happening? The changes in the economic and logistics environment over the last 12-18 months have made it critical for shippers to access details earlier into their supply chain processes. Cost pressures are only one important factor in this. The extreme complexity of the modern supply chain, the myriad of factors that can impact them, and the consequences of any disruptions are compelling shippers to be more involved, aware and collaborative. Costs and visibility are the keys. Do I have space for my containers and how much will it cost me, are very important questions in today’s logistics environment.

Recently, Descartes has added just such a collaborative workflow to our ForwarderLogic product. ForwarderLogic is a forwarder back office system that we are extending to enable shipper and vendor participation. It’s a win-win scenario. ForwarderLogic forwarders become more integrated into the shipper procurement process, while at the same time shippers gain valuable visibility and oversight into their logistics processes. Both gain from the integration and participation of the Vendors who help streamline the PO fulfillment process and enable the reuse of key information and documentation. Greater visibility, tighter integration and less wasted effort.

Written by Jim Alemany

Director, Rate Management Solutions at Descartes