Our electronic bill of lading (eBOL) and electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) solution, M.Folio, gained significant traction the past year, which drove a lot of conversations about its differentiation within the market. As part of these discussions with prospective clients, existing clients, potential investors, and partners, some variation of the question was inevitably asked:

  • So, why not build an Android or iOS application for drivers?”
  • The other solutions we looked at tout their driver app as the reason why they are successful. If that is the case, why don’t you use a driver app?”
  • We have read a lot about driver apps as the route to digitized bills of lading. Why don’t you have one?”

After giving several versions of the same impassioned speech about why the world doesn’t need another driver app, especially as a solution to this problem, I decided it was time to share our response to, “Where’s your app?”

While I am confident savvy warehouse operators already know the basis of my answer, there is nuance that may further reinforce the decision to run far and fast from any solution leveraging a driver app as part of the solution.

A Holistic Solution to a Multi-Faceted Problem

The first challenge with using a driver application to solve the entirety of the eBOL and ePOD dilemma is that it myopically reduces a very lengthy and complex multi-party and multi-company workflow down to its midpoint, where a driver becomes involved inside the yard at a facility. If you think about any shipment, it is bookended at a facility. In its most simplistic form, a shipment is picked, staged, and loaded onto a trailer, whereupon a driver arrives to transport said load to another facility or end customer.

This requires the orchestration and preparation of multiple documents. A bill of lading, packing list, and a trailer inspection image. When the driver arrives, they must leverage a communication medium to inform the facility they arrived, what load they intend to pick-up, whereupon the facility determines if the load is ready and where that load is located. They instruct the driver where to go, and then the driver must inspect the trailer, sign the bill of lading, and depart the facility. How much of this can be standardized and solved with a driver app? Very little from our experience. Perhaps the signature capture and a bit on either side of that step, but nothing close to the entire process.

Don’t misconstrue the message. The driver is important, but a proposed solution focused on the driver’s portion of the workflow is naive and doomed to half success at best. The workflow and digitization process originates and terminates at a facility. To fully digitize and create a contactless experience for everyone, not just the driver, the solution must start and end with what transpires at a manufacturing or distribution center to both prepare a load for shipment and/or receive a load.

Onramp to the Digital Future

The second argument against a driver app is that it assumes both the industry and drivers are 100% ready to transition to digital paperwork. In our conversations with prospects, clients, and captains of industry, they unequivocally state that the guidepost of the future is an entirely digital workflow, but most drivers and facilities are not yet ready for that reality. A bridge needs to be built to usher the organizations and drivers safely from a manual, face-to-face, and paper-heavy world to a purely digital one, with interim steps.

Ask any eBOL provider that leans heavily on a driver app how they build this bridge and safely migrate organizations and their collection of carriers, drivers, and vendors to a 100% digital future. They will not have an interim hybrid step. It is an all or nothing proposition, as the tools in their proverbial toolbox are too limited and focus too narrowly on a single aspect of the workflow. Compare that answer to ours, where our Driver Kiosks offer the ability for drivers to print their paperwork and documentation, self-service.

With M.Folio and our Driver Kiosk, we have the tools, knowledge, and solution to lay out a path from where a facility or organization is today and guide them to a 100% digital future, stopping off at as many interim steps as the specific business and culture requires.

Management Burden

The final and potentially most compelling argument against a driver app is its impact on the shipping and receiving facility staff. The majority of our customers interact with over 25 distinct carriers across their distribution and manufacturing network. Several have relationships with well over 100 carriers. The daily grind of shipping and receiving product is fluid, ever-changing, and a jigsaw puzzle to ensure everything flows smoothly each and every day. Carriers change, drivers change, and dates/times are malleable.

The notion that these large corporations want, or even have the ability, to manage and administer the download and proper usage of an Android or iOS app on the mobile device of every driver that enters their facilities is foolish. These corporations are our customers. We talk to them every day. They demand a homogenous process regardless of what carrier/driver combinations arrive, and one that also recognizes the varying levels of driver technology savvy. The solution needs to be simple, holistic, and not dependent on the proper knowledge and use of a downloadable app.

M.Folio is exactly that. The appropriate mix of technology, automation, configurability, and simplicity so that no matter the operation, product mix, yard style, safety protocol, or end customer needs, it fits the ‘bill’ perfectly – Pun intended. It does so in a way that no matter what carrier or driver you use today or tomorrow, it works seamlessly and prepares your organization for an entirely digital future.

Want to Know More?

Reach out to learn more about M.Folio. We welcome the opportunity to go head-to-head with any of our competition, or your current eBOL/ePOD solution.

Written By Jason R. Ziegler, President / CEO

Jason is an entrepreneurial executive with experience spanning sales, software development, supply chain consulting, and emerging technology implementation. He brings a unique and valuable business perspective to any engagement, having sold, implemented, and consulted for numerous Fortune 1000 company’s most transformational supply chain, distribution, and technology projects.