Rod Agona, Managing Director, Electronic Invoicing, INTTRA explains three reasons why it is time for ocean carriers and shippers to say goodbye to paper. This follows the recent announcement by IATA on the introduction of its eAWB initiative.
In a digital age where a delay of seconds or one human error can be the cause of lost revenue, wasted resources or unhappy customers, good technology becomes critical to run a business.
Twelve years after the ocean shipping industry adopted e-commerce tools that resulted in an average savings of $100,000 per year and hundreds of thousands of labor hours per week, the final step in the shipping process – invoicing and payment – are still catching up. Surprisingly, invoices are still largely processed by hand in the ocean shipping sector. Considered the most tedious and costly step in the shipping process, manual invoicing can take days to complete and is often riddled with disputes and errors. And the amount of time it takes to manage disputes is more than anyone is comfortable admitting – knowing each delayed payment impacts carrier cash flow and creates dissatisfied shipping customers.
With electronic invoicing (e-Invoicing), there is a potential 50-80 percent cost savings according to the E-Invoicing/E-Billing 2012 Report from the international e-billing firm, Billentis, and the payment process is significantly shortened with DSO (days sales outstanding) typically decreasing by up to 10 days. Error rates are also greatly reduced, and customer satisfaction increased.
Although e-Invoicing as a trend has picked up rapidly in government and commercial sectors in the past three years (growing at a rate of 20 percent last year, according to the Billentis report), many in the ocean shipping sector are just catching wind of the benefits. Popularity among players is expected to grow this year – both on the biller and payer sides. Three reasons for the industry’s recent e-Invoicing surge are:
1. Demand Is at a Record High
At least 81 percent of the world’s largest shippers are requesting electronic invoices from their carriers in 2013, says a 2012 global shipping study conducted by INTTRA, the world’s largest ocean shipping network. The demand to move away from paper invoicing has never been greater, with shippers claiming to be “ready now and actively seeking e-Invoicing from their business partners.”
2. Proven to Lower Costs and Speed Internal Operations
Shippers’ biggest complaints with paper invoicing are 1) managing disputes, 2) the time and costs required to process invoices, and 3) correcting invoice inaccuracies. e-Invoicing is proven to alleviate these concerns by streamlining the entire settlement process, improving accuracy, and reducing the costs and labor required to process manual invoices. Payers end up happier as a result, receiving faster and improved communications and lowering the true total cost of doing business. For carriers, e-Invoicing is proven to cut costs and improve cash flow and working capital – and investments are often gained back within six months.
Both shippers and carriers want a solution to better manage high-volume transactions. Imagine spending millions of dollars on a global SAP (or equivalent) rollout and still manually keying in a half-million invoices per year. There is a better way.
3. It May Soon Be Mandatory (if it isn’t already)
Shipping companies are trying to keep up with rapidly changing local and international trade regulations, and e-commerce shipping is the smart way to stay compliant. Countries like Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have already made electronic invoicing mandatory for all business-to-government transactions. Most others in Europe, North America and Australia are increasingly adopting electronic invoicing due to its cost-saving benefits.
Companies that act today put themselves at a competitive advantage as they are able to put their savings back to work and redirect employees engaged in manual processing to higher value tasks.
Looking Forward – 2013 and Beyond
The tipping point for when a technology ‘best practice’ becomes a ‘must have’ is never clear-cut – until an industry struggles as much as ours has. Change is hard, but for an industry with few proven solutions to remove costs, e-Invoicing is a viable, must-have solution.
2013 is a critical year for the ocean shipping industry. It is expected to be a year of major change in the way carriers and shippers do business. Competition is growing fiercer, and the industry continues to consolidate. e-Invoicing is one way to cut costs and reallocate dollars to where they are needed most in today’s challenging environment. Source: Maritime-Executive.com
For information, visit http://www.inttra.com/e-invoicing.
Hi Mike, reminds me a lot of this: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trade/Trade_Facilitation_Forum/BkgrdDocs/UNPaper_DataPipeline.pdf… Basically a step to upfront submission of data, amongst invoices. Cite the case in this paper from Sitpro in the fresh produce industry.