The New Catapult QMS®️ 5.0 – Drivers of the New Release

Some of you may already know that in July 2018, Catapult is launching a brand-new version of our Quote Management System (QMS) – the Catapult QMS 5.0. This is our flagship product. As one of the main architects of this release, my excitement is growing as we count down to the official launch. We’ve given a few of our customers sneak previews and even enrolled two clients in an early beta testing program. Thus far, the positive feedback has exceeded our expectations. While I would like to tell you about the release, I don’t want to ruin the surprise. So, instead, I will share how Catapult crafted our new vision of the future. Below are the core concepts we adopted that allowed us to revamp and reimagine QMS 5.0:

Expert-Oriented User Experience

Many quote management systems are designed by industry outsiders. These opportunists lack the “insider” understanding of the day-to-day inside NVOCCs and forwarders. While working at an NVOCC, I used to sling rates to customers on a daily basis. Over the years, I’ve tried many contract and rate management products. I can tell you that most products have sidelined user experience and expert knowledge in exchange for a lower price point. When I started designing QMS 5.0 in 2017, I knew that the focal point had to be the end-user experience. In preparation for this project, I spoke to our existing users, interviewed companies who decided not to use Catapult, and poured over our backlog of feature requests from customers. Lastly, I applied my personal knowledge of preparing freight quotations to ensure everything we developed would delight actual users.

Focus on the Quoting Process

Having used Catapult QMS in my previous job, I knew Catapult’s ability to manage rates and contracts was second to none. While Catapult has always offered quote management capabilities, they were always overshadowed by contract and rate management. Armed with clear and resounding feedback from the market, we set out to solve the quote management problem by focusing on an extremely easy-to-use interface that speeds up responses to end-customers with the highest degree of accuracy. To meet this goal, we considered real world use cases. We designed the entire user experience based on a number of standard (and non-standard) flow of the quoting process. This meant that the new system had to be smarter, adaptable to the variety of processes at different forwarders, and — most importantly — be available on the go.

The Digitized Logistics World

Today’s marketplace is full of buzzwords. These include the cloud, blockchain, big data, the internet of things and artificial intelligence. If we look past the hype and focus on our needs of today, there is one primary goal for our trade; we must advance digital business practices in the transportation and supply chain industry. For too long, we’ve been looked at as a backwards change-resistant industry. The finance, retail, and healthcare industries used transportation as a case study of what happens when there is a lack of innovation and abundance of complacency. In the last few months, many of the largest players in the freight space have shown willingness to accept the digital revolution. I am happy to announce we will be a player and contributor to the paradigm shift. Our industry has the potential to leapfrog the others, because we’ve seen their mistakes. QMS 5.0 is designed around an increasingly younger and more digitized workforce. This group of users expects an intuitive interface that requires minimal training (think Instagram), the ability to analyze options (think Kayak), collaboration capabilities (think Google Docs), and a seamless experience regardless of platform (think Wired.com). The software should not stand in your way, but aid in your daily routine. Catapult QMS 5.0 is, by far, the most exciting project I’ve worked on in my professional life. The object of this blog is to give you a high-level understanding of why this new release is so meaningful to Catapult and myself. I will be writing more about the release soon, so please check back. Perhaps this blog may make more sense after you have seen the release. Oh, and feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email.  

About the Author

Chris Dillard (cdillard@gocatapult.com) heads up the Product Design function at Catapult, an Accelya Company. He has eight years working in the transportation industry including a stint managing client rates and carrier contracts at TSC Container Freight prior to creating and maintaining a self-designed freight quotation system. Chris is an avid student of technology, process engineering and user experiences.

3 Critical Questions To Ask Before Shipping Internationally

As the shipper, you probably know all there is to know about your product and shipment. You will know generally how you want things to go once your containers hit the water. But as most experienced freight forwarders will tell you, that’s the easy part. A TON of the hard work is done before the shipment even leaves the port. Maybe even most of the work. So what are the biggest tasks to deal with before you can ship a single container?

We have a list of a few here that might be helpful to remember.

What, How, And Where? The first thing to keep in mind is probably what you are shipping, how you are shipping it, and to where. Depending on WHAT you’re shipping, the price can be wildly different for the same exact weight of products. Plus, it will also affect the kinds of paperwork you will have to fill out. Potentially dangerous shipments that contain anything flammable or chemical will take more time and effort to arrange. Similarly, you’ll need to decide whether to ship by air or sea. Air freight can be surprisingly affordable for certain types of merchandise, such as expensive electronics. And it’s much, much faster. That being said, most freight goes by sea, and you’ll get the best prices that way for the vast majority of products you might want to ship. As to where you are shipping, not only will the price vary between one location and another, but so will the regulations. Not only will there be restrictions on certain items and tariffs, but one item might be classified as a toy in one country and an electronic in another.

How Much Do You Value Your Cargo? If the answer is: a lot, then there’s only one answer… Insurance. Insurance. Insurance. Make sure your cargo is insured… and read the fine print! Many things can happen at sea and in port, and if you simply purchase the cheapest policy you can get your hands on, you may find that your cargo is not covered as well as you thought. For instance, most insurance only covers cargo when it’s being transported, not when it’s on land in the port. Yet horrific weather conditions can wreck havoc on your merchandise in port as well as sea.

Who Is Paying What? Doubtless part of your job will be negotiating with carriers and other freight agents. Some of the biggest (and messiest) situations come about when there are misunderstanding in the contract about who pays for when. Who is paying for the insurance, for instance? How is the cargo going to get to the port in the first place, and who is responsible for arranging and paying for that? Who is going to handle all the paperwork of getting your cargo through customs and clearing the red tape? Situations like this are best dealt with using INCOTERMS, which can clarify. If you want a quick way to generate these terms, you can use Catapult QMS.

But even with these terms, misunderstandings happen, so make sure none exist between you and anyone in your logistics chain. What is YOUR biggest concern when shipping merchandise?