Time is money. When it comes to responding to large shipper Requests for Proposals (RFPs), whether a few hundred or even thousands of lane requests, it can be quite daunting for Non-Vessel Operators (NVOs) or Freight Forwarders. Sorting through thousands of carrier buy rates in multiple spreadsheets and making the right choices quickly can be a significant undertaking. Many NVOs will just not bother. Even worse, taking the time to manually create an RFP could mean that the quoted rates might be out of date, or subject to higher Bunker Adjustment Factor (BAF) or Peak Season surcharges, meaning the NVO or Forwarder could be making less or losing money even before they send in the response.

Now, there is a better way. In version 10.3 of the Descartes Rate Builder application, we introduced the new RFP module. By tying together the Descartes Rate Builder’s excellent price management, search and calculation functionalities, we have developed a solution that helps automate the way RFPs, for ocean transport, get addressed.

Imagine taking the lane information, provided by a shipper, and importing it into a spreadsheet or quickly adding lanes using a convenient web form. Do you want the lowest cost rate? How about the fastest transit time? Or, do you want to compare everything? No problem. Just set the criteria and run the RFP. The system searches, calculates and evaluates the results, building a quote ready for review. Add your margins automatically and you are able to instantly view your estimated profit. With Descartes Rate Builder’s powerful quote management tools, users can quickly review, adjust and present the RFP quote to the shipper in either an Excel spreadsheet or PDF format.

Here’s how it works.

The user takes the information, provided by the shipper, inputs the lane information into either a spreadsheet to be used for importing, or directly into Descartes Rate Builder via a web form.

The system automatically takes the lane information and other criteria, searches through all of the buy rates in effect. The results are added to a quote document with any optimizations the user selected (i.e. shortest transit time, least cost, preset margins, etc.).

With the new quote, the user can review, edit, adjust margins, trim rates and present to the customer in Excel or as a PDF document. If the quote in the RFP is rejected, the user can go back, adjust and rerun the RFP or just update the existing quote in the current RFP and resubmit.

It’s really that simple. What used to take days or weeks can now take only minutes. The system does the bulk of the work, enabling the user to respond to RFPs more efficiently. RFP automation, in Descartes Rate Builder, is an important next step in simplifying the quoting and RFP response process for NVOs and Freight forwarders.

Written by Jim Alemany

Director, Rate Management Solutions at Descartes