May 13, 2021

Digital Freight Networks: Then and Now

Miles Varghese
Miles Varghese
Helping independent freight forwarders/brokers better stay in-sync, collaborate, and improve operations with their shippers/clients. Co-founder & CEO @
digital freight networks

Digital freight networks represent the modern-day approach to forwarding systems and services.  These networks are primarily built on good old-fashioned business development and a model that’s built to accommodate all the members with certain benefits, guarantees, rates, favorable premiums, and the ability to meet and ultimately conduct business together.  This model has been around for some time.

Fast forward to today, these organizations have advanced and now are starting to embrace contemporary and innovative technology, real-time data, and a network of carriers and shippers to improve the scope and reach of the freight industry. It’s a rapidly evolving landscape of these groups, each aiming to grow their base through leveraging the above technologies as well.

According to Supply Chain 24/7, digital freight platforms and innovations are changing the way the industry approaches virtual shopping and the e-commerce trends of today. Unlike traditional processes that focused primarily on just transportation management, digital freight networks focus on improving operational performance by using ground-breaking services to meet the ever-changing needs and demands of the virtually focused market.  Some of the most effective ways the freight transportation booking process has changed over the decades include the following.

Traditional Networks Relied on Manual Quoting Processes

One of the first ways the traditional freight network was working on outdated processes was securing shipping and carrier agreements. Introductions between the parties also needed to be facilitated, in-person and digitally. Manual quoting was tedious and time-consuming, forcing managers to work one bid at a time – and for many independent players from around the globe, still prevalent even today. 

This approach while “service-oriented,” has become redundant, and very inefficient, leading to decreased productivity among the folks that should be doing the opposite.  That is especially the case compared to today’s digital dashboards and online platforms that focus on meeting market regulations and demands.

Digital Freight Networks Leverage Automation for Instant Quoting

On the flip side, the few modern networks out there operate with more forward-thinking tools that are a step in the right direction. For the networks with larger budgets and formalized tech teams (and often 1000s of members), you can find a more complete acceptance of digitization and automation.  

Near-instant quoting and automated platform updates and communications allow for multiple bid submissions and streamlined management protocols. This shift alone significantly improves capacity and response time, setting the stage for better adaptability to the current e-commerce craze – and keeping up with those mounting, global customer expectations.

Traditional Networks Ran Until Things Broke, With Zero Predictive Planning

The digital freight networks of today operate on the idea of proactive planning and operations. Years ago, this was not the case, and systems forwarders used, deployed, or invested in, often self-sabotaged organizations and ran these operations into the ground regularly.  As IT, cybersecurity risks, physical risks, and equipment maintenance costs increased, these systems also quickly lost flexibility. And unfortunately, while being maybe a little too dependent on them. 

Rather than shutting down for routine maintenance that took a few hours, systems and equipment got pushed to the point of critical failures that could take days to repair. IT budgets and staff increased but still to little avail. This approach was a disaster waiting to happen in many cases, creating delays almost around the clock.

This is not the case anymore, with modern, web-based applications and powerful software that is optimized for mobile-first, easy-to-use saas, and all while functioning on 3G connections and in harsh environments. Now, platforms have capabilities that are “more predictive” than ever and armed with commercial intelligence that can help independent LSP’s differentiate and win more loyal business through proactive management and true service.

Modern Networks Use Data Analytics to Maximize Equipment Runtime and Longevity

Modern examples of the most successful digital freight networks show how vital data analytics and predictive planning and repairs become. With the focus on e-commerce, virtual orders and shipments, along with the demand for fast and reliable shipping, it is more important than ever for freight forwarders to keep the network up and running. Customers demand this and they’ve often experienced firsthand the beautiful Amazon timelines, DHL tracking numbers, and other global forwarding platforms and features once reserved for the largest tech teams and budgets. 

This is not the case anymore. New APIs, cutting-edge databases, access to real-time data and technology keep the digital freight networks fully operational and avoid delays due to equipment failure. 

Traditional Networks Had Hidden Costs Through Increased Inefficiencies

Without real-time data, state-of-the-art tracking systems, and automated communications, traditional networks continually struggle with expenses, fees, and operational costs. Technical debt is a common term in the software world, which basically refers to the exponential workload required to “modernize” and bring dated systems up to speed. Software is like gardening and must consistently evolve and keep pace with new technologies and expectations. The older the language that the original platform was coded in, the harder and more costly it will be to adapt to today’s age.

As a result, freight forwarders constantly struggled to balance revenues and costs to eke out what profits that they could. What worked for years before was no longer proving effective in the modern age of e-commerce. The “ain’t broke don’t fix it,” mantra no longer applies anymore – and even when it comes to a slow-moving, legacy industry like supply chain, logistics, and shipping.

Modern, Digital Capabilities Allow for Total Landed Cost Projects at the Moment of Inception

Current trends and processes also make it possible for freight forwarders and logistics managers to maximize profits as soon as a request for a quote arrives. Many forwarders are still shooting in the dark when it comes to profits, unsure really if that next load or shipment is going to help or hurt their organization’s chances of success.

Securing capacity, maximizing loads, improving rates, and streamlining the bidding processes allow for better cost management and less time wasted, which is increasingly valuable the smaller and more independent you are as a logistics service provider.

Thus, embracing modern advances and modernizations is the way that provides digital freight networks with a significant advantage in domestic and international markets. 

Realize the Efficiency Gains With an Advanced Freight Forwarder Platform Today

Maximizing profits and ROIs is critical for survival in the modern freight forwarding industry. Digital freight networks are becoming the new normal and represent current market trends among shippers, forwarders, and consumers alike. 

Utilizing the networks, leveraging the right customer-facing tools and platforms is critical for continued growth and success in these complex and challenging times. It’s what builds loyalty in today’s economy and drives revenue from repeat clients – in an ever-competitive and rapidly commoditizing space for the undiversified forwarder or broker.

Last, E-commerce has forever changed the way people approach shopping, and shippers and forwarders alike must adjust and adapt to remain relevant in the modern-day market. Managing a strong forwarding system and a collaborative network remains critical for the network today. Sign up for Cargologik today to learn more about the world’s “digital-first” global freight network in the making.

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