American Shipper

August 2012

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Document drudgery Data accuracy is utmost critical to keeping containers and payments moving. BY ERIC JOHNSON I f you're looking for excitement in container shipping, documentation accuracy isn't exactly the most goose bump-inducing topic. But it may well be one of the more critical aspects of a shipment. Incorrect bills of lading or other documentation can lead to over- or under-billing, customs holds, surcharges, and payment delays. Any of those can force a shipper to have to increase inventory to account for stock that's held up. In short, getting the cargo data entered correctly the first time is the surest way for the shipper, freight forwarder and carrier to cut costs. Liner carriers are increasingly looking at things like documentation accuracy as ways to reduce unneeded expense in an environment where rates are barely cover- ing the costs of operations. For instance, MOL (America) has stepped up its pursuit of reducing documentation errors, and is now regularly reporting its performance to shippers as part of a list of key performance indicators it tracks on a monthly basis. MOL's goals are high – it strives for 99.5 32 AMERICAN SHIPPER: AUGUST 2012 percent documentation accuracy on its side. Considering its rate has been in the 98.5 to 99 percent range, that's not much room for improvement. "We thought our numbers were pretty ag- gressive," said Stephen Ryan, vice president of customer service in North America for MOL. "We've been measuring it for some time, and the rate was pretty solid. We've had a good accuracy rate for a while. We wanted to make sure we could do it with confidence before we rolled out the perfor- mance KPIs." The errors MOL encounters typically come down to something as simple as typos during the data-entry process, whether it's from the shipper, forwarder, or carrier side. For the purpose of its reporting metrics, MOL does not include shipper or forwarder documentation errors. "Shipping instructions come in lot of different formats, so we do a lot of cutting and pasting so there's no deviation from what shippers have entered," Ryan said. "There are some systems limitations, so if we have to retype some things, there will be some typing errors. It could be something as simple as spacing." Another liner carrier, OOCL, said typical errors revolve around cargo weight, piece count, consignee or notify party addresses, ocean freight payment party (i.e. prepaid or collect), and which party is responsible for the charges. "Close to 50 percent of our bills of lading have some change or amendment due to either shipping instruction error or changes made by the shipper," OOCL spokesman Frankie Lau said. "But OOCL bill of lading accuracy is 99.9 percent as an end product released to the customer." Both MOL and OOCL tackle the issue of accuracy through data audits. Ryan said MOL has set up a second layer of auditing to determine where the errors were generated. "That second level audit team is going through the fields on the bill of lading," he said. "We believe that second level of audit should help. Our people take it very seriously." He said the errors are broken up equally

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