Freight forwarder Flexport has launched a new service to help clients monitor for issues in supply chains, at a time when lack of freight capacity is putting logistics to the test.

Flexport Order Management, which is now available on Flexport’s platform, enables consignees and suppliers to interact through order-level messaging, automatic reminders and built-in approval flows. The service also links stock-keeping unit (SKU) and unit cost data associated with a purchase order to bookings and shipments, which the company says will reduce errors and delays in sending goods around the world.

“The two problems that we wanted to solve were lack of purchase order and SKU level visibility throughout the shipment lifecycle; and the difficulty in collaborating effectively with all the supply chain partners and specifically between consignee and supplier,” Drew Quinn, product group lead at Flexport, tells GTR. “Any kind of mistake is costly, but with the current situation of pressured freight availability, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re tracking the accuracy of shipments, and that you can have a conversation if things don’t look right.”

Since November last year, the cost of shipping a container of goods has risen by around 80%, amid reductions in air cargo capacity and disruptions to shipping trade routes. “A single erroneous purchase order could put a shipment at risk of missing a key date or incurring additional costs,” says Yuko Kamae, Flexport’s vice-president of product management.

Before launching the service, Flexport piloted it with a group of consignee and supplier clients, who trialled and suggested new features. The final service now includes data management, booking approval and purchase order reporting, which enables companies to evaluate products and quantities in real time, while the consignment is in transit. “We are now able to have visibility in our supply chain even before the cargo is booked,” says Jason Starr, director of operations at Globe Electric, which was a member of the pilot group. “Real time conversation with our suppliers overseas, and being able to manage by exception, gives us the power of information to make timely and informed decisions.”

This is the latest in a series of product launches for Flexport, as it seeks to create what it says will be a “single platform for trade” that will cover product sourcing to transit to final delivery. In 2019, the company launched a tariff relief product in the form of a credit facility that customers can use to fund additional inventory or new manufacturing facilities to offset working capital constraints exacerbated by the tariffs. Last year, it put together a new trade advisory team to examine clients’ supply chains and come up with recommendations.