7 Things You Should Know About the New Catapult QMS

By Chris Dillard

We recently launched a revamped version of Catapult’s flagship product, QMS, on July 11, 2018. As a former user of Catapult QMS while working at a freight forwarder, I’m very confident the new version offers the best of both worlds: full of efficiency boosting functionality and a beautiful user interface. Few offerings can say they have years of knowledge and offer a state-of-the-art system that answers the needs of today’s users. At Catapult, we have worked hard to combine our contract expertise with a focus on system usability to ensure efficiency within your organization. I am one of the chief designers of the new QMS. Here are seven things that I think new and current users will find exciting:
    1. Intuitive and streamlined search

      Rates have a lifecycle: Contract, Quotation & Tariff (if filed with the FMC). It doesn’t make sense for a user to navigate to multiple places within a system to retrieve rate data. The new search panel in Catapult QMS allows the user to quickly search various types of rates housed in your environment from a single screen. Additionally, should the search interface for a Sales person be the same as someone in Operations or Management? We don’t think so. We believe the user should be allowed to define their search interface. The software must fit the user–not the other way around.
    2. Simplified quoting

      To help our users quickly and efficiently prepare quotes, we created a three-step process for sending rates: Prepare the Rates, Assign the Client, and & Output the Data. This simplified approach improves usability and significantly enhances your quote speed.
    3. Self-defined quote forms

      Over the years we learned every client requires their own quotation format. Nobody wants to use the same form that is being used by their competitor. Additionally, many clients have regional needs. A branch in North America may need a vastly different quote format than a branch in China. With this in mind, the new QMS allows users to create custom forms for the entire company, region-based forms for different branches or design unique forms for each mode of transportation.
    4. Multimodal quotes (Truck + Ocean or Truck + Air + LCL)

      A fundamental flaw in many freight rate management systems is storing door (ground) costs as part of the primary mode of transportation (ocean or air). When the client is ready to book, operations is left with many questions: How do I execute this freight? Who is used for the drayage? Is the primary carrier or another party responsible? How, and to whom, do I pay the bill? In the New QMS, multimodal freight is stored by different legs of the move. Users are not limited to the number of legs in a shipment. Each leg stores who is responsible and the charges associated, ensuring accuracy in execution, billing and payment.
    5. Bulk Quoting Tools

      It is not uncommon for your clients to request multiple rates to be quoted. We made sure users can execute large requests in the New QMS with two features: Multi-Lane Rate Searches and the Price Editing Wizard. The Multi-Lane Rate Search provides the user with an interface to search multiple origin and destination pairs and/or multiple modes of transportation at once. Users may input parameters directly into QMS or populate an Excel sheet that is read into the system. Once rates are returned, the user can quickly modify one or many results through the Price Editing Wizard. This tool shortcuts traditional markup routines. From here, users can quickly add new charges, add margin or modify base rates in a few clicks.
    6. Mobile

      Today’s user is not confined to a cubical in a high-rise building. Working from the road is a common practice. It doesn’t always make sense to turn on a computer just to query rates or to provide a quotation to a client. The new QMS is mobile friendly, allowing users to quickly find rates and send quotations to clients from their smartphone.
    7. Enhanced Administrator Controls

      As our customer base has expanded, we have found roles, permission and features needed vary by client. With this in mind, we made the new QMS extremely flexible. Modules can be turned on and off through the Control Panel. Administrators can create custom roles with permissions tailored to fit the organization’s needs.
Simple tasks have also been considered. Our new system strives to eliminate the need for “behind the scenes” work. Users now have GUIs for virtually all needs. Reducing Helpdesk tickets and providing users with tools to “self-help” is a win for all parties involved.

Whether you’re a current customer or just browsing, please reach out for a demo!


About the AuthorChris Dillard 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.

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.

A Look At the Top 5 Challenges Facing the Freight Forwarding Industry Today

Freight forwarders are as nervous about the future as any other type of company these days – and for good reason. It’s hard to think of another industry facing more uncertainty with many of the macro-trends happening in the world right now. These challenges include everything from the impact of technology and the state of the global economy, to how newly elected U.S. President Trump is promising to shake up global trade.  

Macro-economic reasons aside, there is also plenty going on within the industry that freight forwarders should be watching. Here are 5 of the most crucial ones.

Competition

Freight forwarders are up against more competition than ever. Part of the reason is that many logistics companies that traditionally defined themselves as something else (say an as ocean carrier, or even a warehousing company) are now providing forwarding and NVOCC type services. And of course, everyone is talking about how even Amazon is getting in the game as well – which leads us to the next challenge.

Commoditization

Many, if not most, shippers view transportation as a commodity. All they care about is that the delivery gets made. Meaning, they place little value on service and a lot on price. This makes it hard for forwarders to differentiate themselves from other providers – especially when there are always those who’ll try to win on price. Some forwarders are learning they can better compete and maintain margins by offering new or better technology that improves the customer experience.

Ocean Volatility

Ocean shipping is a big part of what forwarders do. It’s also a very unstable business, based on complicated rates and contracts that take an expert to understand. Many times this makes it hard for forwarders to understand their cost structure – which obviously makes it even harder to provide accurate and reliable quotes to customers. The seemingly random nature of GRI’s and surcharges only adds to the problem. There have been recent calls to simplify the complexity of all these things but there won’t be relief for forwarders any time soon.

Tender Management

A big part of most forwarder’s business comes from responding to tenders. Because the volume of these bids is so high, and each is usually so complex, they are a big drain on resources. Smart forwarders are focused on improving their tender management process to make sure they are bidding accurately and fast, but also on the best types of business for them.

Rate of Change

There are constantly new market challenges for forwarders that need to be accounted for. A recent example is the trend for ocean carriers to form alliances. With almost no notice, these can affect the rates and contracts forwarders have with the carriers, as well as service. The aforementioned effect of technology is changing how forwarders (and their competitors) can manage their business – as well as service their customers. Lastly, market expectations continue to focus on ever faster and cheaper deliveries.

For all these reasons, freight forwarders need to work harder than ever to differentiate themselves in their business – while continuing to focus on service. What the best forwarders know is that just as important as competitive rates are giving customers better service options and technology to support decision making.

The Simple Strategy To Control Detention and Demurrage: Know Your Free Time

It looks like shippers and forwarders finally have had enough. It’s not a surprise to us, the topic of detention and demurrage at US ports is something we’ve discussed frequently.

Our post: How to Use Free Time to Reduce Detention and Demurrage

And, our whitepaper: Use Free Time to Reduce Detention and Demurrage Costs

There are multiple reasons these unnecessary charge have become so common, but of course your feelings may depend on your perspective. Shippers argue it’s about revenue protection for terminals and ocean cargo companies in a struggling industry where everyone is trying to scrape by. The counter argument is that it is infrastructure limitations and regulations that are the reason these cost are necessary.

The JOC.com recently published an article about: US shipper, trucker petition could trigger detention and demurrage relief

The article discusses a petition gathered by a group of US-based shippers and service providers to create a rule preventing ports and carriers from charging detention and demurrage when “uncontrollable” circumstances make it impossible to pick up or return a chassis according to their contracted free time.

From the article, “Shippers, consignees and drayage providers do not create and cannot avoid these events,” the coalition said. “They cannot control the weather. They do not choose the terminals that carriers use. They are not parties to port labor collective bargaining agreements.”

“Shippers have grumbled for years that demurrage and detention fees are being used to generate revenue, rather than to clear out containers to improve terminal fluidity or to incentivize prompt return of equipment. Although a lack of financing from coalition members for the legal push has prevented shippers from filing a formal regulatory request — until now.”

With time, this will play out. But shippers and forwarders are probably better served in the short term to focus on what they can control now that influences detention and demurrage – free time.

Our perspective is that this problem is primarily an issue of rate and cost visibility. The reason is all shipments have a contracted free time in the rate or contract. Yet, few forwarders or shippers take the time to consider this constraint when they are routing a shipment.

Considering free time allows the number of days the companies has to pick up and return the chassis to be included in the routing decision – just like the freight rate and transit time.

The reason this happens is free time is a line item buried in most contracts. It is different based on the port and carrier, and other shipment details. Most companies do not have an efficient way to find their free time on an individual shipment basis. Lacking this, they’ll use an average or estimated amount of free time when planning and quoting a shipment.

Knowing and using contracted free time allows freight forwarders to not only quote shipments more accurately, but develop routings that ensure charges at the ports don’t pile up.

Hopefully, the challenges at the ports for all parties will lessen with time. Until then, taking the necessary steps to include free time in each routing decision is the best thing forwarders and shippers can do to reduce the additional costs from detention and demurrage.

Four Ways Technology Helps Freight Forwarders Reduce Risk

Freight forwarders and NVOCCs face a lot of every day risks in their business that technology can easily solve. Many of them are the result of exposure to the routine challenge of managing the complexities of global shipping – like rate management, responding to RFQs, and general competition in the market place.

Still, many companies are slow to adopt technology solutions that help overcome these types of challenges. The failure of companies to keep up in this way is a mistake – here are four ways technology enables freight forwarders to reduce key risks in their business, and for their customers.

Rate Accuracy

A forwarder’s entire business is based on the process of buying transportation services at one rate, and selling it to their customers at a higher rate. The difference in these costs is how they make money – period, end of story. Yet, many forwarders have no automated way to ensure accuracy with their freight rates and have no idea of their own cost basis.

Calculating global freight rates is a complicated process, and subject to GRIs, surcharges, and countless other fees that are constantly changing. Lacking freight rate management technology, calculating the cost basis for a forwarder is impossible. This creates risk and makes every quote a potential money-loser.

Service Commitments

Every global shipment involves a lot of coordination – with things like paperwork, sailing schedules, origins, local carrier partners, and countless other details. Lacking access to any of this information, like sailing schedules or the ability to verify space on a particular ship, leaves customers at risk to missing the specific sailing they were counting on to meet their own service commitments for deliveries. Technology makes it possible for providers to verify this type of information for shipments and ensure they’ll make their customer’s expected delivery time.

Routing Decisions

Every shipment involves a lot of important decisions – like what carrier to use and what mode. But primarily it’s about balancing the cost and service requirements to get the best of both. Yet, lacking technology to support decision making, there is risk of failing to meet the either. The choices are always complex – with hundreds of options for even the simplest international shipment. Technology is the ONLY way to support decision making that will reduce the risk of bad routing choices by guaranteeing the best choice is made for every shipment.

Happier Customers

Technology also lowers risk of losing business by enabling forwarders to provide better service to customers. Real time connections to carriers allows more up to date track and track, for example. API and EDI connections reduce the reliance on phone calls and emails for load status updates. Technology can even make the documentation and customs clearance process smoother by digitizing much of the required paperwork and information. In the end, forwarders are able to provide a more reliable and positive customer experience when they are supported by technology.

It’s the freight forwarders that embrace technology adoption that lead the industry. Logistics technology shouldn’t be thought of as a ‘nice to have’ – it’s integral to any forwarder’s operations and key in reducing risk for the business, and their customers.