A globally competitive software systems lets you win more business on the world stage during times of growth, says Vlad Bilanovsky, CargoWise Vice President of Partner Management…

It can be easy to see why European and North American Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) are looking longingly at the growth rates in South Africa and wondering how they can get a piece of the rapid growth. But it’s just as easy to fail in times of growth as it is to succeed, especially when that growth brings a whole new set of demands on your business. For freight forwarding, transport, warehousing and trucking companies the rapid growth in the economy and the shift in focus towards the African continent presents enormous opportunities.

Most companies, however, will fail to seize the opportunities presented to them because they will be too busy taking on new business to work faster and harder. Ultimately they’ll lose business to competitors who can not only take on new business but deliver on the expectations of new global partners.

There are any number of cultural and historical reasons why South Africa has emerged as the principle gateway for European, North American and Asian LSPs looking to do business on the African continent. Even during periods of a sudden increase in demand, the companies which actually win the business will be those that can provide that extra little bit of service over and above the rest, which means taking time out of working in your business to work on its systems and processes.

There are three principal ways LSPs in the region can respond to these opportunities. The first is simply to continue to operate in the traditional way: put on more staff as more work becomes available, re-key data into multiple software systems and process documents more or less the traditional way. This might seem like a good solution in the short term, but it’s neither scalable nor cost effective.

The second is to develop your own software, which is a deeply risky approach; essentially because your core business is logistics, not software development.

The third is to buy software, either from a local provider or a large global vendor.

While the local provider might offer strong integration with domestic markets, it’s unlikely they will be able to offer a comprehensive solution. The technology is likely to be based on regional, rather than international business practices, and only cover part of the total cargo handling process. This leaves customers with the unenviable task of constantly passing data into and out of different software applications.

Eighty percent of the workload associated with traditional cargo processing involves shuffling data from one place to another, whether it’s in between customers, agents, customs, government bodies, or between internal processing systems.

A global vendor with software which operates off a single database can offer significant savings on the cost of labor though automated processes and can also facilitate the global expansion of its customer base because the international linkages are already built into the package.

In fact, a globally competitive software system will allow you to win more business because you’re adopting global best practice and providing new international partners with the level of service they expect and quite probably already use.

Succeeding in times of growth means looking for creative ways to become more productive, at precisely the time you can least afford to do it. So if you’re going to invest in new systems, make sure you select systems that will pay for themselves as well as winning you new business at the same time.

   Vlad Bilanovsky is Vice President Partner Management for CargoWise®