Artificial intelligence is critical in today’s workflow solutions

For companies operating in the transportation marketplace, speed and accuracy are paramount. Carriers and shippers alike are continually on the lookout for ways to be faster, less expensive and more efficient — to the point where standard delivery seems to mirror expedited shipping.

As the industry moves faster and faster, the documents and data generated grow at an exponential rate. Managing these documents often requires manual processes that are time-consuming and can bring any efforts to maximize efficiency to a standstill. The answer isn’t to work harder but to work smarter. To avoid wasting time and resources on document processing, it is crucial for every transportation company to update document and data management strategies. 

The transportation industry is in the midst of an artificial intelligence (AI) renaissance. Everything from workflow solutions to fleet management and financial decisions can be streamlined using an AI-based automated content management system (CMS).

A CMS is a software application that is used to manage a company’s digital content. Transportation companies rely on a CMS to upload, process and distribute the countless documents and data involved in the shipping process. These software applications must be able to interpret data quickly without compromising accuracy.

“Transportation organizations need to start applying more technology to manage and react to data,” said Larry Kerr, president and CEO of EBE Technologies. “In many cases, having the data and not reacting is worse than not having the data at all.”

EBE Technologies provides automated workflow solutions for the transportation and logistics industry. The East Moline, Illinois-based company’s SHIPS enterprise business process management solution is utilized by more than 600 transportation companies.

It goes without saying that everyone in transportation wants to achieve efficiency, reduce unnecessary costs and improve billing accuracy, but not all believe they have the power to upgrade. The truth, however, is that it’s never been easier for transportation companies to utilize an AI-powered CMS.

Convincing companies to adopt AI workflow solutions is not difficult, according to Kerr. 

“Recently, many of our clients have been affected by rising insurance costs,” Kerr said. “Rates have been softer, which means the additional revenue to cover such costs must come from improvements in operating efficiencies.”

However, simply using any CMS isn’t sufficient to manage workflows effectively. Some transportation companies are unaware of the additional operating costs associated with the use of their current systems. Many such systems lack the ability to provide interoperability among companies’ critical systems. In fact, market research firm IDC estimates that companies lose 20-30% in revenue every year due to inefficiencies related to process and content management.

The use of a CMS does save employees a tremendous amount of time from the often tedious process of manually routing documents and entering data. However, these systems may still require each transaction to be manually processed, ensuring it’s routed safely to the proper department or critical system. According to an EBE Technologies white paper, a CMS with the power of AI workflows allows transportation providers to work by exception. Through this process, only out-of-standard transactions require staff intervention. AI allows providers to staff for exception levels, not 100% of the transaction levels.   

The AI-based work-by-exception process is further enhanced by optical character recognition (OCR) technology that possesses the ability to collect data by “reading” documents. Recognized OCR technology scans and automatically indexes a wide range of documents, including bills of lading, proof-of-delivery documents and invoices. A truly effective CMS, however, is incomplete without unstructured OCR processing, which converts unstructured text and optical marks into data and provides the catalyst for interoperability among critical systems, according to the white paper. 

Utilizing both AI and OCR technology allows employees to focus their attention on completing out-of-standard transactions and determining the root cause for the failure. Once determined, the AI engine can be configured to manage such exceptions going forward. As a result, overhead costs and time to completion are reduced while data accuracy is greatly improved. 

A CMS powered by AI workflows has a dramatic impact throughout the enterprise. As an example, it is not unheard of for companies relying on a traditional CMS to take upward of a week to gather and process the information needed to submit an invoice. The use of an AI-powered CMS with automated workflows has transportation providers benchmarking their invoice processing time to less than half an hour from the time of delivery, according to EBE.  

“With AI managing the required documents and how they should be delivered, the possibility of  human error is eliminated, which improves your billing functions,” Kerr said. “When you provide the right documents to your customer quickly, hopefully you’ll get your payment faster. With many shippers enforcing carrier scorecards regarding document and data availability, AI is now a requirement to meet shippers’ expectations without additional labor.”  

According to EBE, utilizing a CMS powered by AI has advantages beyond improved data accuracy and working by exception to lower costs within a transportation organization. In the accounting department, carriers no longer find themselves paying duplicate invoices, net 10 terms are realized and fees for late payments are eliminated. In recruiting, AI allows carriers to respond to and onboard qualified candidates more quickly. In the safety department, data from disparate systems can be analyzed to identify at-risk driver behavior and provide corrective action automatically. In addition, the expiration of Department of Transportation documents and endorsements can be managed through automated processes. These are just a few examples of how an AI-powered CMS eliminates revenue leaks in operations and mitigates potential incidents and fines within the safety department. 

Many transportation companies have embraced AI as a functional requirement, but not everyone is on board. As Kerr explained, the use of AI in the back office, as well as interoperability between systems, has only become viable in the last couple of years.

According to Kerr, in the past many systems lacked the ability to integrate with one another, resulting in redundant labor tasks. He noted that those barriers have now been broken, thanks to standard API interfaces among databases allowing for interoperability using AI. The API standardization greatly lowered the cost and risk associated with implementing an AI-based CMS.

EBE possessed the foresight to understand the critical relationship between the data within disparate systems. Through the open architecture of EBE solutions, the company was able to develop a robust AI-powered CMS solution, building upon its prior releases. This solution helps carriers achieve work-by-exception staffing levels, improve data integrity among systems and deliver a superior customer experience.