Digitizing documents makes it easier to automate processes and helps clear up the paper clutter.

Digitizing documents makes it easier to automate processes and helps clear up the paper clutter. 

Photo: Gettyimages.com/SilviaJansen

When looking for ways to reduce costs and save time in work truck fleet management, digitizing your documents should be one of your first stops. Technology is coming to the rescue to save fleet managers from drowning in the mountains of paperwork that need to be kept on hand and easily accessible. 

“Document digitization technology enables cost and time savings while boosting data capture accuracy. As a point of reference, an organization can expect to save 50-80% in costs and 60-90% in processing time per document. Additionally, manual data entry often leads to errors in about 5-8% of the total document volume, which is often the root cause behind customer satisfaction issues,” said Ashutosh Prasad, CEO of KoiReader Technologies, Inc.

Digitizing documents makes it easier to automate processes. 

“Once the processes become automated, the benefits include improved cash flow, more productivity, better visibility and collaboration, and fewer errors and rework required,” said Brian Belcher, co-founder & COO for Vector.

According to Rajat Rajbhandari, CIO & co-founder of dexFreight, some of the top benefits of document digitization are “the reduction of the administrative cost of reconciliation and verification and ease of sharing accurate data with other parties.”

Not only are you eliminating paper and the related costs, but the most significant benefit of document digitization is the ability to provide real-time access to information about a shipment’s status at any point along the supply chain. 

“For example, instead of having to wait for a paper bill of lading to be manually processed, everyone who requires access to that information now has it in real-time. Other key benefits include empowering operations staff to know, in real-time, when a driver has made a delivery and is now available for another route. Drivers benefit in picking up more routes and increasing their earnings potential,” said Justin Newell, chief operating officer of INFORM Software Corporation.

Additionally, Newell noted that since drivers aren’t paid until their documents are provided, the immediacy of digital documentation also speeds up their payment and, in turn, improves their cash flow. 

“The ability to leverage a digital supply chain platform to generate reports on key performance metrics, which can be used to improve operations and make more informed decisions, is another important advantage of a digital platform,” he explained.

Some of the most talked-about benefits of document digitization are reducing the time to create or duplicate documents and reducing or eliminating human errors. 

“Both benefits have a direct and visible impact on a company’s bottom line and therefore have critical value. There are also indirect benefits of document digitization, such as improving employee engagement. After all, most of us won’t feel accomplished after a day of entering and communicating on identical data in two different platforms,” said Matt Goker, chief operating officer of ATA Freight.

Additionally, with the coronavirus pandemic still very much front-of-mind for fleets, digitization helps reduce touchpoints. 

“While digitization has always enabled contactless and touchless workflows, due to the pandemic, we are seeing customers value the health and safety benefits more than the business benefit,” Belcher noted.

Some of the top benefits of document digitization are “the reduction of the administrative cost...

Some of the top benefits of document digitization are “the reduction of the administrative cost of reconciliation and verification and ease of sharing accurate data with other parties.

Photo: dexfreight

Digitize it All?

Should everything be digitized? The subject-matter experts all agreed with a resounding, yes, but did have some caveats and warnings. 

“All documents should be digitized, as long as their authenticity, source, and integrity can be verified. For example, contractual documents with a hand signature can be replaced with documents with electronic signatures if the signatures can be time-stamped and electronically verified by a third party,” said Rajbhandari of dexFreight.   

Any document can be digital and scanned or printed on-demand to create paper documents where regulatory compliance requires hard copies. 

“With a digital document, you don’t have to worry about the document becoming lost, damaged along the way, or potentially placed in the wrong hands,” said Newell of INFORM Software Corporation.

Additionally, document digitization increases the efficiency of documents; therefore, according to Goker of ATA Freight, it would be ideal to digitize the entire document flow. 

“Having said that, it is not currently feasible to use this technology for all documents. Due to security reasons, in some cases, document originals are required. Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the playing field, making it possible for any documents to live in digital form,” Goker said.

Documents are a great template to leverage as a starting point for digitization and automated workflows. 

“The document has a purpose and is considered an acceptable format for how information is communicated and shared between stakeholders. By digitizing it, all we are doing is changing the format and how people fill it out and share the information. Now the information on the document can be parsed, analyzed, shared, etc., all in real-time,” said Belcher of Vector. “It doesn’t matter which industry it is or what the use case might be. I can’t think of any good reasons for why a document should not be digitized.”

There is tremendous benefit in using this technology for all document types.

“We tell our clients that document digitization, like any other technology, should be evaluated based on true value delivery,” said Prasad of KoiReader Technologies, Inc.

According to Prasad, the value can especially be realized in a rapid manner when the following criteria are met:

The vendor you are working with offers technology that delivers either at par or near par accuracy levels when compared to what an operations user can do manually. This is when document digitization technology can massively boost operational efficiency. 

The technology requires minimal touch to the digitalized output. If the operations team must draw rectangles around blocks of information to capture data from documents or if the technology is limited to clean and straightforward document templates only, the digitization effort will not deliver value.

There are at least 200 to 400 documents per month that implementing document digitization technology brings in significant value over manual operations.

The digital supply chain arrived a few years back and has been increasing with the advancement...

The digital supply chain arrived a few years back and has been increasing with the advancement in new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), Blockchain, edge computing, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), etc. 

Photo: Koi Reader

Future of Touchless & Digitized Documents

Leveraging technology not just to survive, but to remain competitive and profitable, has been essential since the pandemic began. Impacting much of 2020 in ways we never could have imagined. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed people to try things they may not have been ready to before. 

“The trucking industry’s move toward the fuller adoption of digital, paperless, and touchless processes has been accelerated by recent events. As fleets need to become more agile and flexible and have taken on new lanes and lines of business, they have looked to technology for agility, to keep drivers moving and to utilize equipment more effectively,” said Sue Rutherford, vice president, global marketing for ORBCOMM.  

Understanding challenges is a benefit of this situation because it helps us learn from what we should be doing and what we did right. 

“One example is the realization of how telematics and the automation of fleet technology can play a key role. Through technology, fleets can reduce the points of physical contact between people, continue to ensure trucks are where they should be, monitor truck usage for proactive maintenance, and keep communication lines open,” Rutherford added. 

The business benefits for digitization have and will always be there. Still, now with the pandemic, Belcher of Vector noted that it is even more critical to keep employees, partners, and customers safe to reduce the risk of spreading viruses. 

“We’ve all seen the national headlines on facilities closing, workers getting sick, not enough goods to meet consumer demand, etc. Everyone in the supply chain feels the downstream effects of one kink in the system,” Belcher said.   

There are many theories on how the future looks in the supply chain from an angle of digitization. One thing is clear from talking to experts: the players in the logistics field feel added pressure to put effective digitization practices in place. 

“It almost feels like we are in a ‘digitize or die’ game. Our vision of the future includes a single data flow on each supply chain, where all players can connect at will. We see Blockchain technology taking over, allowing all players to interact on the same platform safely and securely. We see the biggest challenge to get to that point as building a network of quantified information by leveraging technology like Blockchain. We believe the success of the supply chain in the future will depend on the ability of all parties across the supply chain to collaborate on common platforms,” said Goker of ATA Freight.

Digitization of the supply chain is here to stay. 

“With the pandemic, we saw the direct consequences of disruptions to the supply chain, but supply problems were only one aspect of these disruptions. The lack of real-time information also created a host of other problems. Regardless of a company’s size, industry, or geographic market, they will be exposed to more businesses operating on a digital platform that expect real-time access to information so that they can make an intelligent business decision. That’s where the supply chain is heading,” said Newell of INFORM Software Corporation.

Prasad of KoiReader Technologies explained that the digital supply chain arrived a few years back and has been increasing with the advancement in new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), Blockchain, edge computing, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), etc. 

“The touchless or contactless supply chain is one aspect of this digital future, and the pandemic made the implementation of this feature a priority for many organizations. The future of this touchless supply chain is comprised of a move to electronic document workflows. In cases such as electronic bills of lading (eBOL), logistics is a highly fragmented industry, and standardization is hard to drive. For this reason, paper is not going anywhere anytime soon. Document digitization technology-enabled smart solutions are going to enable the digital future,” Prasad added.

The question is now when will the supply chain be fully digitized? 

“The digitization is already happening at corporate levels. It is at the ground level where there are still workflows that require hand signature, physical verification, etc. Some of the field technologies that facilitate touchless verifications are still expensive, especially for small- and medium-sized companies. Over time, the cost of these products will go down significantly, and it will become more attractive for SMEs to transition to digitization,” said Rajbhandari of dexFreight.      

Once the processes become automated, the benefits include improved cash flow, more productivity,...

Once the processes become automated, the benefits include improved cash flow, more productivity, better visibility and collaboration, and fewer errors and rework required.

Photo: Vector

The Bottom Line

It’s clear, the pandemic and the digitization era are redefining businesses and the fleets that support them.  

“Over the coming few years, digitization, automation, and other smart technologies will transform just about every business on the planet. Connected, visible assets are a critical piece of the equation, helping users remotely track and control not just equipment, but equally, operational process flows, across the globe in real-time and generating huge amounts of data to feed advanced analytics and other emerging technologies,” said Rutherford of ORBCOMM.

The industry has made slow but steady progress in digitization. 

“Slow, because one of the requirements of faster adoption of digitization is identification standards. We now have EDI, bar codes, QR codes, UPC, and other standards that help with digitization. The next level of standardization will be in processes, which are still siloed and fragmented,” said Rajbhandari of dexFreight.   

To be competitive in the future, organizations supporting the supply chain will need to go digital. 

“It won’t be long until it becomes a requirement for doing business such as electronic data interchange (EDI) became, but even before then, the ability to make more informed decisions in real-time and optimize assets, both workforce and fleet, will give an organization a competitive edge without which they ultimately will not survive,” said Newell of INFORM Software Corporation. 

Top 5 Mistakes in Digitization 

1. Moving too Fast

Buying and investing in products too quickly without a pilot and early proof of benefits is one common error. 

“Do the homework on the make or buy decisions by comparing the return on investment (ROI). If using third-party products, compare and test these products. Most products these days provide free and trial versions. Buy products that have open APIs that allow easier integration with other products,” said Rajat Rajbhandari, CIO & co-founder of dexFreight.   
The biggest mistake when going from manual to digital processes is not doing the upfront due diligence to map out their business processes to make sure the digital platform they choose is best suited to those processes. 

“Often, when an organization moves from manual processes to a digital platform, there is some modification of processes; however, failing to assess a platform based on your existing business model can mean an investment in a platform that won’t deliver the best results,” said Justin Newell, chief operating officer of INFORM Software Corporation.

2. Not Investing in Training

Not investing in proper user training and education regarding the benefits that the digital platform will deliver to all stakeholders is another issue. 

“Training and education are essential to gaining stakeholder buy-in and deriving the greatest return. Training and retraining should be ongoing. We also suggest creating a digital training manual that can be retrieved from any device at any time. That training can be placed on a secure intranet platform for easy access to drivers, dispatchers, warehouse managers, and others,” said Newell of INFORM Software Corporation.

3. Limiting Vendor Selection Process

Fleet operations often limit their vendor selection process to the sales team that is always knocking on their door or is advertising the most. 

“While there are many vendors in the document digitization space today that claim to offer the same technology, nothing could be further from the truth,” said Ashutosh Prasad, CEO of KoiReader Technologies, Inc.

4. Skipping Steps

One of the most critical and common mistakes is usually skipping steps in the process. 

“For small and large enterprises alike, there is almost always time pressure on these projects, and we tend to sacrifice from the ‘prep’ stage, which is a vital mistake. One other way to refer to this issue is, ‘garbage in garbage out.’ Without ensuring the integrity of the data that drives the entire structure, all other steps are impacted. Eventually, the entire project has a higher rate to fail,” said Matt Goker, chief operating officer of ATA Freight. “Avoid making this mistake by establishing a mandatory testing process that includes testing by internal stakeholders as well as key customers and partners.”

5. Not Defining Your Objectives

Another mistake is not clearly defining the objective.

“Not clearly defining the objective includes not truly understanding how things are being done today and how you’d expect them to be done tomorrow. Having well-documented processes or diagramed workflows is extremely helpful in getting cross-functional teams in sync,” said Brian Belcher, co-founder & COO for Vector.

Internally, leaders need to recruit or develop change agents who can clearly define and communicate problems, processes, and solutions. 

“These change agents carry a certain level of social capital to drive adoption and project success,” Belcher said. “Externally, if using outside consultants or technology vendors, the change agents still play a vital role in managing these relationships and hold everyone internally and externally accountable. “If you have the right people internally, they will find the right people externally and work together seamlessly.”

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

VP of Content

Lauren Fletcher is Vice President of Content. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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