Be it the tourist industry, taxi services, or even manual trades, digital platforms are revolutionizing entire business sectors. DB Schenker has similar plans for the direct freight business in the form of Drive4Schenker. Based on technology developed by DB Schenker’s US partner uShip, this online platform offers carriers simple and fast access to partial and full loads.
For the interview, logistik aktuell talked with Marc Papenhoff, Head of Drive4Schenker, and his colleague Alexander Ferber, Head of Domestic Road Brokerage in Germany and Switzerland. They explained to us what app development has to address and why every user – freight forwarders, drivers, and dispatchers at DB Schenker – benefits from the platform.
logistik aktuell: Mr Papenhoff, Drive4Schenker was launched at the start of the year. How did the freight platform perform over the first six months of 2017?
Marc Papenhoff: Drive4Schenker is proving popular, even though we still have to do a few things if we want to achieve our ambitious goals. I fully believe in its potential as the advantages that Drive4Schenker delivers for carriers and dispatchers make our day-to-day so much easier.
How do the users you have named benefit?
Marc Papenhoff: First up are the freight forwarders. Drive4Schenker offers them a simple means of reducing the number of empty runs they have to undertake. This is something that also applies to us as well, as carriers such as our chartered dispatchers can use the platform to find transportation requests from Schenker’s different bases all over Europe. Drive4Schenker also speeds up the transfer of delivery documents, which can shorten the process of issuing credit notes. Many carriers operate without much financial leeway, so this represents a real benefit to their business.
Alexander Ferber: At the same time, the platform is good for drivers too: Because we have digitized a lot of different steps in the overall process, they have to deal with less paperwork, and coordinating with their companies is easier. For example, they provide a status update with just a few clicks instead of making a phonecall. Everyone’s status notification is then of course available to our dispatchers at their bases.
Marc Papenhoff: There are also other practical features, such as the platform’s built-in route planner.
Let’s stay with the dispatchers: How will Drive4Schenker change the way they work?
Alexander Ferber: Imagine the following situation – a dispatcher has a list of his/her preferred cargo companies. In the past, someone who had cargo to send would go through a list of phone numbers from top to bottom or write a string of e-mails. This took up a lot of time – a potential source of problems, particularly if something needs to be transported at short notice. It also meant that a company’s offers were restricted to a limited group of potential carriers.
In the case of Drive4Schenker, when dispatchers post their transportation requests, thousands of certified cargo movers across Europe can access these listings and submit bids for them. The dispatcher then decides what carrier he/she wants to use. Drive4Schenker contains a profile of each carrier, along with its rating. Marc Papenhoff: This has been working very well so far, but we still have a lot to do. App development doesn’t simply end when you launch a feature – it’s an ongoing process.
What are you currently working on, and what is particularly important to you?
Marc Papenhoff: To make dispatchers’ work even easier, we are currently creating a “bridge” between the dispatching system and Drive4Schenker: This will make it possible to export a load to the digital freight marketplace with just a few clicks.
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Alexander Ferber: This would mean considerably less work for our dispatchers as, right now, they still have to input transportation requests by hand. Integration will also mean that the customers have access to real-time information about a consignment’s status. That would be a tremendous perk for them.
On which other issues do you work?
Marc Papenhoff: We are always tweaking our apps to make them as intuitive and easy to use as we can – “user experience” is the watchword here. Sometimes it’s just a matter of adjusting the color of a button. At the same time, however, we are always thinking about new functions. It is vital that we see things from our users’ point of view, and that we understand the needs and problems that they face in their day-to-day work. To achieve this, we talk with drivers, carriers, and dispatchers on a regular basis. Some of the experts on our team have also worked in operations themselves, for example as drivers. Their feedback is of crucial importance to our work on taking the freight platform that one step further.