The freight forwarding market is fraught with inefficiencies. Often described as a “relationship” business, customers have often found themselves waiting by the phone or for the elusive email for several days in anticipation for confirmation on a rate and/or booking.
Numerous start-ups such as Flexport, iContainers and Freightos are addressing these concerns and as a result offer online quote comparison and booking capabilities. But freight forwarding is much more than rates and bookings.
Customs clearance filing, trucking, rail, insurance, special handling and recommended routes are additional components to the freight forwarding equation. The complexities surrounding freight forwarding have led many industry analysts to believe that freight forwarding cannot be fully digitized until now.
Digitalizing Freight Forwarding
Having just recently received a $3 million seed investment led by Global Founders Capital and Cherry Ventures, FreightHub is ready to take on Europe’s freight forwarding needs. According to serial-entrepreneur and FreightHub’s CEO and co-founder, Ferry Heilemann, “FreightHub is the first full-scale digital forwarding company in Europe.”
Indeed, after a three month test period, FreightHub officially began operations August 1. Customers in need of transport services no longer will have to wait up to three days for rate quotes nor up to 2 weeks on average to book their freight. Instead, just a couple of clicks are needed and your freight is on its way.
The Berlin-based startup will initially focus on one of the largest trade lanes, Asia and Europe, and will serve all common ports.
Based on proprietary algorithms, FreightHub’s easy to use portal lets customers select various connections after inputting only sender and destination details. Each suggested connection includes the name of the ship the goods will be transported on – after all we have learned through the Hanjin disaster that slot sharing agreements and alliances make the line that a service is booked with almost meaningless-, estimated time of departure and arrival and all costs of the booking. Freight rates are directly negotiated with the actual goods carrying entities such as truckers, rail lines and carriers.
Partnerships with customs authorities, insurance companies and value added service providers have been established and can be arranged and monitored through FreightHub’s portal as well.
In fact, tracking shipments has never been easier. Customers can not only track shipments in real-time but also visually monitor the journey regardless if it’s a truck or ocean vessel movement via Google Maps overlay and compare planned and actual arrival times.
Another big advantage is the ability for supply chain partners and customers to collaborate, share documents and issue payment with the portal. Any special instructions such as handling and/or storage, required customs documents, the packing list and other such documents can be uploaded, shared and even emailed to third parties. The ease and convenience of all documents and instructions in one spot further allows all those involved in the freight movement more time to focus on other business needs.
“We want to differentiate ourselves by including all offer components from the beginning – we don’t want our customers to get hit with arbitrary surcharges after the fact.”
FreightHub, the first Digital Freight Forwarder
The company sets itself apart by combining the functions of comparison portals with the services of a full-service forwarding company. That is, FreightHub is unique in that it allows for on-carriage booking and handling throughout the complete transportation chain. FreightHub is currently the only provider to digitize the entire logistics process, which creates offers in real-time and providing all in pricing including all offer components based on the customer’s criteria. “We want to differentiate ourselves by including all offer components from the beginning – we don’t want our customers to get hit with arbitrary surcharges after the fact.” Mr. Heilemann said.