Software providers aim to arm Asia logistics network

Software providers aim to arm Asia logistics network

Emergent technology providers catering to the forwarding industry have been combatting the might of established software suites by linking up. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Two logistics software providers catering to global forwarders said Tuesday they will jointly offer quoting and tracking solutions to members of the Shanghai-based forwarding network Ai Logistics Alliance (AiLa).

The solutions, from Boston-based SimpliShip and Rotterdam-headquartered Qwyk, will provide AiLa members with ocean schedules, rate management, branded customer portals, spot quoting, and booking capabilities. AiLa’s approximately 1,000 members are predominantly Asia-based forwarders that have typically lacked access to digital tools, the software providers said in a statement.

SimpliShip CEO Cory Margand told JOC.com that combining access to his company’s marketplace rates with Qwyk’s forwarder portal solves a core problem that small forwarders face.

“Their issue, from a technology perspective, is the same as a [beneficial cargo owner],” Margand said. “They need a rate.” 

The difference is that rather than agreeing on a rate, as a shipper would, the forwarder also needs to pass that rate to its customer through a digital mechanism. Forwarders generally use agency arrangements to get access to rates via the network, but the conveyance of those rates is done via email, phone, and fax.

“It’s process speed, not only forwarder to shipper, but forwarder to forwarder,” Harm Wessels, chief commercial officer at Qwyk, told JOC.com.

The rollout of the solution to the AiLa network leverages a previously established partnership between SimpliShip and Qwyk, and is an example of how forwarding software alliances are increasing as niche providers find ways to build solutions that are more than the sum of their parts.

Technology an incentive

Some forwarder networks have, in recent years, offered access to software through membership. That technology is either developed specifically for the forwarder network, or is off-the-shelf software offered as a benefit of membership.

Rate management technology coupled with the provision of a digital portal is also intended to allow forwarders to reduce their cost of sales, both to existing customers and by being able to reach customers normally out of their reach through an online sales channel.

For SimpliShip and Qwyk, working directly with an alliance “instantly gets us global coverage” through access to forwarders in Asia, Margand said, where neither company has developed as extensive a customer base as in Europe and North America.

“AiLa offered a structured approach,” Wessels said. “They helped us make our solutions digestible for the forwarders in China. They made their members aware just how easy things can be in using technology.”

AiLa has ambitions to grow its network of forwarders to more than 2,500 by 2021. Its Singapore-based CEO, Melvin Law, is a technology investor, and he set out to build a network that empowered members through technology. 

“AiLa was founded on the premises that technology would change forwarder networks forever,” Lu said in the statement. “We believe that the Qwyk/SimpliShip portal will create leverage in the marketplace for our forwarders and AiLa as a whole. It will allow us to grow commercially by scaling globally, decrease our bottom-line costs, and give our customers what they want — a truly end to end digital experience.”

Contact Eric Johnson at eric.johnson@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @LogTechEric.