Bill of Lading App: Where to Download and Features You Need
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up! If you work in the logistics industry, I know you've lived through days that feel like a circus. And if you're a decision maker at your company, you know what it's like to be the ringmaster. Issues pop up, things go wrong, clowns keep piling out of very small cars, mole-hills turn into mountains. Regardless of the mayhem, you know "the show must go on."
But here's the question—how do we actually keep the show going in the midst of chaos? For the global supply chain industry, the answer is bill of lading (BOL) apps. The purpose of this article is to explain why that is, discuss what a bill of lading app does, and explore what features your bill of lading app will give you the edge on the competition.
Want to Cut Straight to the Finale?
If you're in a hurry and just want to download the industry-leading bill of lading app, go directly to the Vector website. We'll get into the details about Vector below. But in short, Vector is like Cirque du Soleil, and the other BOL apps are the old Barnum and Baileys.
We'll also review the specific features that make a great BOL app. In addition, we'll walk through the reasons I believe bill of lading apps arrived at just the right moment in history.
The show must go on. And as we'll see in this article, bill of lading apps like Vector's will keep the show going safely and efficiently. So grab some popcorn, download the Vector app, and let's peek behind the curtain to find out what keeps logistics going!
What Is a Bill of Lading App, and Where Can You Find Them?
First, a bill of lading app can be defined as the software platform that allows companies in the logistics industry to legally replace paper BOLs with an electronic bill of lading (eBOL). That said, your BOL app should do a lot more than just BOLs. We'll get into those key features below.
You can find bill of lading apps in the app store on your smartphone or tablet. Getting your company signed up to use BOL software requires a contract. But once you're registered, your users access the app like any other app. In other words, they simply download it onto their phones and get started.
Why Are Logistics Companies Flocking to Bill of Lading Apps?
It seems like BOL apps hit the world stage right on cue. With globalization and e-commerce, the world's supply chain has never been more complicated and far-reaching. To recap briefly, the COVID-19 pandemic brought heightened social distancing policies in an attempt to curb the spread of disease. We saw the threat of disrupted supply chains escalate, one roll of toilet paper and one can of disinfectant at a time. (Meanwhile, delivery trucks continue to pull up curbside daily.) Thus, despite the threats to our health and economy, one thing became clear—the freight must ship.
BOL apps already existed when COVID-19 hit because many BOL apps have features that simply make smart business sense. These include software that replaces antiquated workflow bottlenecks for drivers and the back office. These paperless features result in time and money savings.
The Freight Must Ship! The Dilemma of Our Time
But once social distancing measures began, trucking companies, shippers, and warehouses alike were faced with a dilemma. BOLs weren't going away! The law requires BOLs and signatures when making a transaction in the logistics industry. Thus, everyone in the logistics industry could see the immediate and direct risk mitigation benefits of eBOLs. In short, the twofold benefits of a great BOL app can be summarized as:
- paperless workflows that put the power of technology to work for your business, not against it
- contactless transactions that create safer (and faster) pickups and deliveries, without sacrificing legality
Bill of lading apps are the answer to the paperless office, which has been underway in logistics and other industries for years. The features and capabilities of the best bill of lading apps have continued to evolve and improve.
Next, we'll cover what you should look for. Along with providing a platform for eBOLs, the best bill of lading app will be like a Swiss Army knife and include many additional useful features.
What Are the Must-Have Features to Look For in Your Bill of Lading App?
- E-sig: This means the ability to accept electronic signatures, otherwise known as e-signatures. First and foremost, the key to the legality of an BOL app is the e-signature. Looking back, it took society awhile to get used to the idea of signing a screen. But we're certainly there now. As such, your BOL app obviously needs to have e-signature.
- GPS tags: Look for a BOL app that features automatic GPS tagging of all uploads, events, and pictures. GPS tags create a strong paper trail (even without paper!) and act as yet another risk mitigation feature of a BOL app that can protect your company.
- Cloud storage: You want a BOL app that stores your data in the cloud for two reasons. First, cloud storage protects your data. Second, cloud storage also makes your data accessible by all authorized personnel remotely. At a time when more people are working remotely, access to core company data like eBOLs and all other load documents becomes crucial. Also look for auto-upload. Sometimes drivers hit spotty coverage, and auto-uploads will simply send the upload to the cloud once coverage resumes.
- High-quality imaging: The quality of an eBOL (and therefore the quality of BOL apps) begins with their scan software. Look for a BOL app that automatically captures, crops, and enhances all paperwork so the driver doesn’t have to. Most drivers aren't professional photographers with legions of Instagram followers. So, a BOL software that automatically adjusts for lighting, faint print, cropping, and backdrops is ideal.
- Customizable load documents: The best BOL apps are customizable. Your company has access to a buffet of choices when it comes to the docs you want available—or you can customize a form entirely. For example, you may want to customize documents such as inspection reports, trip sheets, OS&D, detention, referrals, PODs, and accident reports.
Going Beyond—What Defines the Best BOL Apps?
Yes, there are still more features to consider!
- Automated billing: This is an incredible time-saver. Find a BOL app that sends invoices directly to your customers. You'll love this, and so will your customers.
- TMS integration: A circus is a feat of synchronization. Likewise, your BOL app must integrate with the rest of your transportation management system (TMS).
- Tech and logistics community integration: When you're making your final decision on a BOL app, consider a few more things. Look for a BOL app that's invested in the logistics community. Ask questions. Who else uses the app already? What kind of reviews does it get online? You want to partner with the master of ceremonies, not with one of the clowns.
Grand Finales: Thoughts on What Lies Ahead
Not long ago, the idea of a freight industry without paper BOLs seemed impossible. But paperless BOL apps are a reality. They remind us that the future may not look like the past. Instead, the future will be an iteration, an improvement, on the past. In other words, the show must go on, but who's to say the performance can't be better?!
Therefore, we must remain visionaries. Those who succeed will capitalize on the opportunity to adapt, refine, and build their businesses.
We can all agree that it took incredible vision to dream of the smartphone, app stores, and a paperless global supply chain. That vision can evolve and become your vision. Download a BOL app today. Guide your company safely, efficiently, and profitably into the future. Why wait?
This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.