Data Extraction

How Can Automated Data Capture Help Logistics Firms Scale?

Invoice data capture. It’s tedious, repetitive and time-consuming.   

Research from Drewry Shipping Consultants estimates that the container liner shipping industry carries about 60% of the goods that are moved internationally by sea, generating $166 billion in transport revenues globally and requiring about 1.26 billion freight invoices to be issued, verified, paid, and reconciled. 

The problem, as Billentis highlighted in a report last year, is that almost 90% of all invoices worldwide are still processed manually. 

Manual Data Extraction Costs Time, Resources, and Impacts Customer Satisfaction

Manual processing eats up time and resources – and time and resources cost in more ways than one. 

There’s the cost of hiring human staff, freelancers, or outsourcing companies to handle document data extraction - with email still being the number 1 form of data exchange in the freight industry. 

Based on real tests conducted with professional data entry teams, we find that each attachment takes at least 10 minutes to extract (up to 60 minutes for larger documents), a timely and often frustrating process.

A quick back-of-the-envelope equation tells us that if you’re paying $20 per person, per hour and it takes each person on average 10 minutes to extract data from each document, then each document you receive is costing you $3.33.

Multiply that by 90% of 1.26 billion (1.134 billion) and the industry is collectively facing a bill to the tune of $3.77 billion each year just to take care of data extraction from email attachments. 

We haven't even mentioned the additional time that will be needed by agents to find the relevant record in the TMS or ERP, and manually key in the update. 

Of course, a mounting payroll isn’t the only cost factor associated with sluggish manual data extraction. There is also the very real risk of mistakes being made. 

The sheer day-in-day-out monotony of manually entering data from electronic documents to another form in another piece of software is enough to drive people to distraction. And it does – sometimes with hugely expensive consequences. One typo from a bored, tired, or careless employee can quickly balloon into a disaster, as the companies on this list of the 12 biggest spreadsheet fails in history will tell you. 

Then there are those slow turnaround times causing delays for your customers. That data from those thousands of invoices your data entry team receives – it all must be retyped by hand, manifesting in longer processing times and higher error rates, which lead to issues with cash flow and impacts on supplier (or customer) relations. 

In all, manual document data extraction can and usually does lead to both short and long-term problems. 

The solution? 

Remove the human element from most of the data extraction process with automated data capture powered by machine learning. 

The Benefits of Automated Document Data Extraction 

The Drewry report estimates that, combined, today’s process inefficiencies due to low levels of automation and lack of trust cost the freight industry $34.4 billion annually, noting in particular that the level of automation among shippers and freight forwarders is especially low, particularly among small and medium size players. 

The figure, of course, takes the entire invoice lifecycle into account. 

But the message is clear.

The more steps you can automate, the less money you’re leaving on the table.

These savings are realized in a number of ways – so let’s consider some of the top benefits of automated data extraction and how they enable scalability and benefit the bottom line. 

Save Time, Increase Productivity, and Reduce Costs 

One of the biggest issues with traditional manual document data extraction is of course, the time it takes to do it – and the more time it takes to process invoices, the more costs your company incurs and the longer your customers have to wait. 

In addition, the more time employees spend on low-value, repetitive tasks, the less man-hours there are that can be dedicated to more high-impact activities. 

And make no mistake about it, your employees want to be doing more valuable things with their time than keying in figures from one document to the next. 

A 2019 report from on the state of automation and AI revealed that 70% of workers would welcome the implementation of automation tools to handle routine data entry tasks – and 63% said that repetitive tasks are robbing them of the opportunity to show their best work. In addition, 38% said they could save up to five hours each week if they had tools to assist in automating repetitive tasks. 16% thought they could save 10 hours or more per week, with automation. 

With an AI-powered document data capture solution that automates data entry, the time it takes to extract data from a document is reduced dramatically. 

With Shipamax, our technology connects to any email inbox or unstructured data source and automatically extracts data from emails and attachments in real time. It then outputs clean, structured data that is sent directly to your TMS or ERP. 

No time wasted, no typos and no errors. 

Bill of ladings and accounts payable invoices can all be handled in this way. 

And not only does it save time, it saves money.

In fact, automation can reduce manual data entry costs by more than 80%. That translates to a reduction from $3.33 per document down to just $0.60. 

Handle More Volume with Near-Perfect Accuracy and Reliability 

A machine learning-powered data capture solution not only processes documents quicker – it can also handle greater volumes of those documents. What’s more it can do so with the same or even greater accuracy of a human – up to 99% accuracy in fact.  

Unlike a human however, an automated system doesn’t get tired, bored or careless when carrying out dull, repetitive tasks. It never needs to take a break and can process hundreds of data capture tasks in minutes, not hours. Powerful machine learning means high levels of accuracy are a reliable outcome, again and again. 

This couldn’t be more important. 

Incorrect data entry in company systems can result in all kinds of errors, such as payments going to the wrong accounts, or duplicate or inaccurate payments being made – all of which escalate the quantity of disputes, which damage relationships and consume more time and resources to resolve.  

Start Automating Document Data Extraction Today with Shipamax

It may be the most common way of capturing document data, but manual transcription is by far the least effective. From human errors to hundreds of wasted man-hours each year, manual document data extraction slows your operations down, hindering your business’ ability to grow. 

With Shipamax, you are able to cut out these inefficiencies immediately. 

Our machine learning solution plugs directly into your existing infrastructure, syncing directly with any email server to process documents as soon as they hit your inbox. Eliminating repetitive manual tasks, Shipamax enables cost savings, time savings and provides greater value generation as your team can finally start focusing on the work that matters. 

Specialized for the supply chain industry, request a demo of the Shipamax plug-and-play AI data extraction platform today, or get in touch for more information.

Josh BradleyVP Demand Generation
April 2020
8 min read
  • Data Extraction
  • Freight Forwarders
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