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SAP, InstaFreight partner to reduce freight costs, complexity

The SAP Logistics Business Network integration with InstaFreight is aimed at reducing the cost and complexity of finding carriers and shipping goods throughout Europe.

Shipping goods across Europe may get easier for businesses as SAP Logistics Business Network is now integrated with InstaFreight's digital forwarding services, which has digitized manual freight processes.

With the integration, SAP Logistics Business Network users can access InstaFreight services like automating administrative tasks and obtaining instant quotes from carriers. The idea is to reduce complexity in logistics, as well as save on time and costs in getting freight transportation contracts, said Paige Cox, SAP head of digital supply chain business networks. Users of the SAP Logistics Business Network will have access to more than 12,000 carrier companies through one contractual party via InstaFreight.

Paige CoxPaige Cox

The integration of SAP Logistics Business Network with InstaFreight in Europe is similar to a partnership SAP announced last year with Uber Freight, a North American based digital forwarding company.

Based on the SAP Cloud Platform, SAP Logistics Business Network enables companies to manage logistics transactions, exchange documents with business partners and get visibility across the digital supply chain, Cox said.

"We launched SAP Logistics Business Network a couple of years ago with the idea that logistics is an essential part of the supply chain for all parties -- supplier, operator, manufacturer, customer," Cox said. "Logistics, by its nature, is network-based because you always have to count on your relationship with your trading partner and the success of that relationship is very much determined by logistics providers."

Aggregating and orchestrating logistics

SAP Logistics Business Network is essentially a logistics data aggregator and business process orchestrator that digitally connects the demand chain with the supply chain, Cox said.

It focuses on three aspects of logistics management, according to Cox. One is freight collaboration, which handles the processes of freight management, from getting a tender to settlement. Two is visibility, which enables global track-and-trace of goods in transit and allows companies to analyze shipper performance. Three extends the traceability and end-to-end supply chain visibility down to the level of the raw material provenance, so customers are able to know the origins not only of goods, but of all the parts of raw material in the supply chain.

Markus DoetschMarkus Doetsch

InstaFreight, based in Berlin, is a digital forwarding company that connects shippers and carriers across Europe, said Markus Doetsch, InstaFreight CTO.

For shippers, it offers an end-to-end platform for all transportation requirements, including the quotation process, booking, fulfillment, track-and-trace services with real-time ETAs and information about delays, and the bill settlement process, Doetsch said.

On the carrier side, InstaFreight relies on a network of about 12,000 carriers that can be matched to the shipper.

"It's our job to find the right carrier for this load that we already accepted," Doetsch said. "So we'll find a carrier that has capacity available that matches the requirements of the load that the customer has. Ideally it's a carrier that has driven that route before or has driven for that particular customer before."

Reduced complexity

The integration with the SAP Logistics Business Network provides InstaFreight customers access to a system that reduces complexity and delivers services quickly, Doetsch said. For example, a shipper may have to call around to get quotes from carriers before they can contract to move their goods.

"This is a pretty tedious process, and, even if they have a sophisticated ERP platform like SAP, most of the carriers that they work with will not be integrated with such a platform," he said. "In concrete terms, it just means that if you are sending out a request for quotation, you don't have to send these around by email or by phone. Within the SAP Logistics Business Network, you can immediately get a quotation back within fractions of a second, and through InstaFreight, you have access to these smaller carriers that you would otherwise be unable to reach."

InstaFreight's flexibility in pricing and capacity is particularly useful now during the COVID-19 crisis when a company's regular carrier network may not be able to accept shipments, Doetsch said.

SAP Logistics Business Network is essentially a network of networks that relies on partners like InstaFreight in Europe and Uber Freight in North America for digital freight forwarding services, Cox said.

"Our partner strategy has been to bring all the pieces together and bring that benefit of one-stop shopping on SAP Logistics Business Network," she said. "Partners are selected not only for quality of technology, but also for quality of services and people. InstaFreight is one that we saw a lot of potential in, and now is the right time to really deliver this kind of agility to the customer."

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