Forwarders have more than doubled their share of the container market in the last 20 years, from 15% in the ’80s to 35% in 2009, according to this Logistics Quarterly article by George Kuhn. Forwarders’ share of the air freight market has risen too, albeit by a smaller margin. An eyefortransport report also indicated that almost 70% of American shippers outsource logistic operations to 3PLs.

When they’re done celebrating, freight vendors need to ask themselves where the rise came from.

For the freight world, globalization is a a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because more people are shipping larger amounts of goods across the world. The curse is that the standard shipment may now traverse multiple countries, racking up more surcharges. Also, despite goods being moved on the biggest ships ever, like the Maersk Triple E-class, individual shipments are getting smaller and smaller, increasing aspirin consumption for LTL and LCL-induced headaches.

Maersk ship. Photo taken by Salows and uploaded to Wikipedia Commons.

A Maersk 18,000 TEU ship. More TEUs, more LCLs and more aspirin for freight vendors.

As shippers look to improve their supply-chain, relying on lean inventory philosophies, just-in-time delivery and other methods to increase razor-thin margins, they are increasingly aware of how necessary it is to bring in external experts to make things work right. Quite simply, forwarders can provide smarter and more cost-effective ways to move freight. 3PLs can also provide other services, beyond the standard transport, warehousing and distribution services, like reverse logistics.

For a freight forwarder, this is good news. No, it’s great news. People need 3PL services more than ever, creating a cut-throat, competitive environment. To stick out, to be brilliant, to attract new shippers, you need to think like a shipper. You need to be attuned to their customer-facing approach and you need to provide almost-instantaneous service. At the end of the day, if you are speeding up the supply chain, shippers will come back. If you are slowing it down, expect the shippers to shop for freight vendors elsewhere.

Speed up your internal processes and you’re effectively increasing sales. Freight software is a great first step to accomplish this. Most of your freight quotes probably take somewhere between 6 hours to 2 days to generate. With platforms like Freightos, you can generate multi-modal, multi-leg quotes in literally sixty seconds. You can even pull rates online from your agents for legs that you don’t have service for. Looking to get even fancier? Let your customer pull fully-priced quotes directly from your website.

Of course, faster quote generation means faster procurement, which means a faster supply chain for your shippers. Which means a happy customer that will keep on coming back.

Check out this short video to see how Freightos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQTNvGy1SqU) can automate quotes…or head on over to the Freightos website now – http://www.freightos.com!