Develop electronic communications infrastructure to enhance supply chain visibility and monitoring, mitigate disruptions and unanticipated events, and improve productivity.
Broad industry experience with the electronic freight management systems
Made Public Date


United States

Columbus Electronic Freight Management Evaluation: Achieving Business Benefits with EFM Technologies


In 2007, as part of the U.S. DOT Electronic Freight Management (EFM) Program Initiative, a prototype EFM system was implemented through a collaborative body called the Intermodal Freight Technology Working Group (IFTWG). Evaluation of the prototype EFM was conducted by an independent evaluator to examine impacts of improved supply chain visibility and data sharing on the productivity and effectiveness of selected international air-freight supply chain partners. Findings from the initial evaluation, entitled Columbus Electronic Freight Management Evaluation Report, were published by the U.S. DOT in 2008 and also reported in the U.S DOT ITS Knowledge Resources database. During initial testing, which included a six-month test period, more than 850 freight consignments were tracked using EFM technologies between Columbus and Hong Kong. Overall, early findings indicated the EFM system, which included a Service Oriented Architecture and 21 Web services, simplified communications and information sharing between partners and improved freight tracking across the board.

Subsequently, as a supplement to the Columbus EFM prototype testing, additional analysis was conducted to further examine industry-wide benefits and lessons learned from additional case studies. Highlights from the follow-up report are documented below.

Lessons Learned

Companies of varying size and technical sophistication have potential to improve productivity through implementation of EFM technologies. Automated supply chain information exchange processes can decrease administrative costs and errors associated with manual data input, and improve the reliability of data transferred from one partner to the next along the supply chain. Lessons from the Columbus EFM experience are summarized below.

  • Connect with supply chain partners and identify requirements for business processes. Determine the types of data transfer needed between partners and the format for translations required.
  • Develop the communications infrastructure needed for real-time paperless exchange. EFM Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) can support supply chains with large numbers of partners internationally that use a variety of Web services to report and share data.
  • Collect and distribute high quality operational data. The EFM prototype test proves that data quality is the foundation for supply chain performance improvements; its components are data accuracy, timeliness, and completeness. Uneven communications among supply chain partners can degrade data quality leading to shipments delays, disruptions, lost goods, and increased operating costs. Conversely, improved data quality can improve efficiency by enabling partners to be agile in response to changing fuel prices and other economic impacts.
  • Convert available data into actionable intelligence. Although the core features of EFM help improve data quality, especially in terms of accuracy and timeliness, improving data quality alone is not sufficient to fix visibility problems. Information must become "actionable intelligence" and companies must use the intelligence to improve operations.

EFM technologies allow improved visibility of the supply chain and help mitigate disruptions and unanticipated events. With access to accurate, timely, and complete information about anticipated product arrival times, businesses can reduce safety stocks and inventories and decrease associated administrative costs by automating manual data processing activities along the supply chain. With accurate data available that show real-time progression of individual shipments along the supply chain, companies can make minor adjustments in delivery schedules to save money, improve delivery time reliability, and increase customer satisfaction.

Columbus Electronic Freight Management Evaluation: Achieving Business Benefits with EFM Technologies

Columbus Electronic Freight Management Evaluation: Achieving Business Benefits with EFM Technologies
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Troup, K.; D. Newton; M. Wolfe; and R. Schaefer
U.S. DOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration

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