Freight forwarding is a heavily regulated, paper-intensive industry. Organizing worldwide cargo shipments requires generating and submitting many documents, including shipment confirmations and booking requests. Here is how Compass Forwarding uses Laserfiche Workflow to save staff time while complying with regulations.
Processing Booking Confirmation Letter
Compass Forwarding arranges a large number of ocean shipments. After a booking agent calls a shipping company to book space on a specific vessel, the carrier provides a booking confirmation. The booking agent enters all the information from the confirmation into the Integrated Export System (IES), which generates a booking confirmation PDF.
Previously, Compass Forwarding had to manually attach this PDF document to an email, select the correct addressee from a list of contacts and type a personal message before sending. All of this took a considerable amount of time and was prone to human error.
With Laserfiche Workflow, this process has been completely automated. Here’s how:
- The booking confirmation document is sent into the “Booking\_Inbox” folder in Laserfiche using Laserfiche Snapshot. The following template below is assigned.
- Once the letter is in Laserfiche, Laserfiche Workflow retrieves the document and uses the Pattern Matching activity to extract certain vital information such as the file number (the shipment’s unique identifier), the booking number (the number that identifies the shipment at the carrier’s level) and the name of the person to whom the confirmation will be sent.
- Laserfiche Workflow uses the Custom Query activity to look up the email address in the IES database based on the customer’s full name. This email address is then used to populate the “Person booking email” field.
- Another custom query uses the booking number to retrieve more information from the IES database such as the vessel ID, sail date and carrier ID. This information is used to populate the remaining fields in the template.
- After this, Laserfiche Workflow begins quality control. It is extremely important that all vital fields (such as the NRA – Net Rate Applicable) are filled out correctly in order for this shipment to be fully booked and processed. Laserfiche Workflow performs a series of checks for empty fields and emails the initiator if such a field is found. If certain vital information is missing, the workflow is terminated.
- Finally, Laserfiche Workflow creates a new folder based on the file number in which all of the documents related to that file number will be stored.
One such document is a “Note” sheet, which includes information that a booking agent must be aware of but that is not specified on the booking confirmation document.
Sometimes a booking may be revised and a new confirmation document will be saved in the same Laserfiche folder. To prevent duplicate Notes documents, a Conditional Sequence activity in Laserfiche Workflow searches this folder for any existing notes, and if it finds some, does not create another set. Therefore, even if a folder contains multiple revisions of the confirmation document, it will still only contain one set of notes.
All the metadata from the documents in the folder is copied into the folder to help with the organization of work. If an employee searches for a particular file number, for example, the entire folder will be returned, not only the single documents.
Lastly, Laserfiche Workflow sends an email to both the initiator of the workflow and the person included on the booking. This email contains the original booking confirmation letter as an attachment.
Occasionally, a customer may have a recurring shipment (i.e. a shipment of the same goods that goes out weekly). Such a shipment will have the same rates and charges applied as the previous shipments. In order to simplify the booking agent’s job, Laserfiche Workflow checks to see if there has been a previous file number for this shipment, and if so, launches another workflow that copies the booking charges from the previous booking confirmation letter to the new booking confirmation.
Sharing Information With the Sister Company
Compass Forwarding has a sister company named Falcon Maritime, an ocean shipping carrier. If a shipment is a Falcon shipment, then the “FALCON Shipment” template field is filled out when the booking confirmation letter is first imported into Laserfiche. Laserfiche Workflow copies a shortcut to the booking confirmation over to Falcon’s repository. If Falcon does not receive specific instructions from Compass Forwarding for this shipment within a couple of days of the confirmation document being copied to their repository, it can alert the company that something is wrong.
Occasionally, a shipment may be a Falcon shipment but the “FALCON Shipment” field is left blank. This happens when there is a document revision but the metadata is not updated. Laserfiche Workflow uses a Search Repository activity to locate previous versions of this same booking document to check if Falcon was originally the selected carrier. The “FALCON Shipment” field is then updated and the document shortcut copied to the Falcon repository.
“What’s cool about Laserfiche Workflow is that it makes it easier to enforce quality compliance. We no longer have to depend on a person.” Vincenzo Minino, Director of Quality Compliance, Compass Forwarding
Here is what the whole workflow design—for both Compass Forwarding and Falcon Maritime—looks like:
Signing Air Cargo Documentation
In addition to arranging cargo shipments by sea, Compass Forwarding also contracts with airlines to ship cargo by air. To arrange air shipments, an eight-page document must be hand delivered to the carrier at the airport. As a Federal Transportation Authority mandate, this document must be signed in eight different places by a Compass Forwarding agent. If there is no signature, the agent can refuse the cargo.
In the past, this document was printed on a Documetrix printer in carbon copy, which was very expensive. Then Compass Forwarding started using a laser printer, which was cheaper but forced booking agents to go through each document and physically sign it in eight places.
Sometimes signatures were missed, and employees would waste time driving to the airport only to have to drive all the way back to get the missing signatures.
By automating the signature process with Laserfiche Workflow, Compass Forwarding saves 20 hours of staff time a month.
The automated process works as follows:
- The required form is generated in IES by an agent and printed to Laserfiche with Laserfiche Snapshot.
- Each booking agent has his own personal signature stamp, which is basically a scanned copy of his signature. Based on the value of the “Initiator” token, Laserfiche Workflow applies the correct stamp in 6 different locations on the document. Since each of the documents has the same format, the stamp location is configured based on the page coordinates.
- Since the last two pages of the document are exact copies of pages five and six, Laserfiche Workflow copies both those pages along with the stamps and appends them to the end of the document. Here is what the final workflow looks like:
Benefits of Laserfiche
Implementing Laserfiche at Compass Forwarding generated major benefits:
- By automating the signature process with Laserfiche Workflow, Compass Forwarding saves 20 hours of staff time a month.
- Air freight cargo is never returned from the airport due to a missing signature. Shipments go out on time, every time.
- Multiple template fields and the ability to save different column profiles in the folder browser allow employees to better prioritize their work.
- If certain fields are left blank, Laserfiche Workflow catches this and either emails the initiator to provide the correct information or updates them itself. This helps fix mistakes due to human error.
Client story contributed by: Laserfiche and Vincenzo Minino, Director of Quality Compliance, Compass Forwarding