There was a time when freight invoice auditing was just an opportunity. It was an option for companies with the biggest revenues and shipping volumes. However, carrier actions and the rapid growth of the supply chain through e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment created a problem where invoices began to succumb to error and inconsistency. As a result, shippers have paid the literal price, paying more for freight when their bills were inaccurate or simply late. Now, the narrative has changed, and it is not enough to simply hope the invoices are right or even leverage a basic auditing program. Shippers want more from freight invoice auditing, and the top freight invoice auditing trends reflect that demand. Consider this additional point made John D. Schultz of Logistics Management:
“The freight bill payment executives add that even though they’ve made progress in eliminating paper from their processes, the rate of changes is stunning. Customers are asking us: ‘What can we do with artificial intelligence and modeling?’ It used to be: ‘How do we get the right data?’ Now shippers want to understand in real-time and how they can predict what’s going to happen in the future.”
To empower shippers, let’s review the top freight invoice auditing trends to expect in 2020.
Supply chains look for ways to do more with less and improve transportation efficiency, the use of big data analytics and artificial intelligence are combining to create further automation of processes. As explained by Tom Taulli of Forbes, the use of robotic process automation (RPA) can provide the child of efficiency needed to maintain a high ROI on supply-chain systems. In fact, the notion of RPA was recently discussed in further detail on a Cerasis podcast, revealing potential to leverage automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning to continuously improve within supply chain systems. This so-called robot worker within the machine has the potential to replace repetitive processes transforming freight invoice auditing. Since auditing is a complex process requiring the matching data between invoices and great documentation, use of RPA is a natural choice.
In addition, Matt Motsick, CEO of RPA Labs, discussed RPA during the podcast. RPA Labs has built software bots to read and interpret emails, generating a response within 30 seconds. This is an excellent way to augment the capabilities of shippers using API-based platforms to automate more processes. Such functions also include dispute resolution and automate processes continuously.
Technology providers are also looking for new ways to increase services for improved freight invoice auditing. Since the freight invoice auditing trends reflect a growing consensus that automation is essential to success, new services must add value through rapid dispute resolution, faster processing of claims’ payment refunds, and more. Technology will become the primary factor in all aspects of both RPA and auditing throughout the supply chain. Moreover, consider the impacts of freight invoice auditing on compliance. Shippers could reduce risks without literally lifting a finger. This is the capabilities of analytics, reducing the instances of overbilling, under billing, incorrect freight classification, poor reporting of freight status by carriers, and endless other data points.
The use of freight invoice auditing provides shippers with an option for improving the resilience and compliance within the supply chain. But shippers also overlook one critical aspect of improved freight invoice auditing. Third-party auditing services can handle needs throughout the supply chain, including replenishment requests, freight quoting requests, aggregation of data, and dissemination of information throughout your organization. As a result, invoice accuracy, timeliness, and issuance of payment is completed faster, improving supply chain collaboration along the way. As a result, third-party invoice auditing software and capabilities will become the go-to practice and standard for small and midsize shippers.
Savings achieved through freight invoice auditing trends alignment within the organization can be reinvested within the company to take advantage of additional forms of automation, up to and including robotic picking, packaging, labeling, and even shipping. In a sense, the path to freight auditing of invoices automatically will be an essential stepping stone toward the full automation of the supply chain. In turn, another freight invoice auditing trend of 2020 will focus on the reinvestment potential of automated invoice auditing software.
Again, it is worth noting that integrated systems via an API and EDI will allow for the conduction of real-time audits before shipments ever leave. Yes, auditing has traditionally been a retroactive process, but imagine the capabilities to audit a freight quote in real-time, ensure the freight is billed appropriately as soon as the carrier portal updates, complete payment upon verification, and even run a second check at a later time to ensure accuracy. It is a model of efficiency that the supply chain desperately needs to survive and keep costs under control.
Invoice auditing has also been largely a process left for less than truckload and full truckload modes. After all, these modes tend to involve the lowest volume of invoices. However, that is impractical in the world of e-commerce. Shippers send more parcels than any other mode, so throughout 2020, it’s like the use of freight invoice auditing software to begin a larger undertaking, and realize that invoice auditing must transcend mode, location, and time.
Lastly, the insights gained through invoice auditing will help shippers make vital spot-or-contract freight shipping decisions. As reiterated by Cerasis and major publications around the globe, the threat of supply chain disruption in 2020 is significant. Yes, the industry remains in a shippers’ market, but that may change at the drop of a pen. As a result, auditing, identifying trends within invoices, as well as carrier availability, can go a long way in helping shippers make these decisions in real-time and avoid the risk of higher freight spend.
While the advancements in technology primarily revolve around the automation of freight invoice auditing, the possible use cases for auditing to benefit the supply chain continue to grow. Suppliers can learn more about which shippers pay invoices on time and vice versa. Shippers can learn why carriers seem to always overbill for certain lanes, and that information holds value by giving shippers more bargaining power when it comes time to renegotiate freight rates and contracts. Invoice auditing is no longer just a differentiator in the market; it must become the standard to maintain freight spend cost control. It’s that simple.
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