Imagine a company regularly shipping goods using various carriers to fulfill customer orders. The company doesn't regularly audit its freight bills despite negotiating contracts with specific rates and terms. Over time, billing errors start to accumulate unnoticed. These errors could include incorrect freight rates, unauthorized accessorial charges, or billing for services not provided. Without auditing, these discrepancies go undetected, and the company continues to pay the incorrect amounts to the carriers, which can lead to financial loss.

Since the company is not auditing its freight bills, its financial records do not accurately reflect its transportation expenses. This can lead to inaccuracies in financial reporting, affecting budgeting, forecasting, and decision-making processes. As billing errors accumulate and go unresolved, trust between the company and its carriers may deteriorate. Carriers may become frustrated with repeated billing disputes or delayed payments, potentially straining the relationship and leading to difficulties in securing favorable terms or reliable service in the future.

If the company doesn't look closely at its freight bills, it will miss out on valuable data insights into its transportation spend and performance. It cannot identify inefficiencies in its shipping processes, such as suboptimal routes, carrier performance issues, or opportunities for cost savings. This lack of insight hampers the company's ability to optimize its logistics operations and remain competitive.

Implementing robust auditing processes within your freight operations is essential to ensure accurate billing, cost control, and operational efficiency within the supply chain. Here are three reasons why auditing and spend management practices within your freight operations are crucial:

  1. Cost Optimization: Auditing and closely managing spending within the supply chain can uncover inefficiencies and areas of overspending. Shipping invoices can be complex, often containing numerous surcharges, accessorial fees, and potential errors. Auditing these bills involves carefully examining each charge to ensure accuracy and compliance with agreed-upon rates and terms. Common errors include incorrect weight or dimensions applied to shipments, incorrect classification of packages, or billing for services not rendered. By identifying and rectifying these errors, companies can eliminate unnecessary costs and avoid overpayments. Businesses can optimize their costs, potentially leading to significant savings. This optimization could involve renegotiating contracts with suppliers, streamlining processes, or finding alternative, more cost-effective suppliers. When negotiating more favorable contracts with carriers, shippers must analyze shipping patterns, volume trends, and service requirements to identify opportunities to negotiate better rates, discounts, and terms with their carriers. Negotiating favorable contracts helps reduce shipping costs and enhances service levels and overall supply chain performance.

  1. Risk Mitigation: Poor auditing and spend management practices can expose businesses to various risks within the supply chain, such as fraud, non-compliance with regulations, or disruptions due to supplier issues. Freight bill auditing helps prevent fraudulent activities such as overbilling, duplicate billing, or billing for services not rendered. By scrutinizing shipping invoices and comparing them against contractual agreements and shipping records, auditors can detect suspicious billing patterns or irregularities that may indicate fraudulent behavior. Promptly identifying and addressing fraudulent activities helps minimize financial losses and preserve the integrity of the shipping process. It also ensures compliance with contractual agreements, regulatory requirements, and industry standards. Auditors verify that carriers adhere to the contract terms, including agreed-upon rates, service levels, and accessorial charges. They also ensure compliance with regulations governing parcel shipping, such as hazardous materials handling, customs documentation, or shipping label requirements. By monitoring compliance, companies mitigate the risk of penalties, fines, or legal liabilities associated with non-compliance.

    Freight bill auditing helps resolve billing disputes and discrepancies promptly and efficiently. Auditors identify discrepancies between billed charges and actual services provided, investigate the root causes of discrepancies, and work with carriers to resolve disputes and reconcile billing errors. Prompt resolution of billing disputes minimizes disruptions to the shipping process, maintains positive relationships with carriers, and prevents disputes from escalating into more significant conflicts or legal actions.

  1. Enhanced Supplier Relationships: Regular auditing and transparent spend management practices can foster better supplier relationships. Understanding each other's expectations and requirements can lead to smoother transactions, better communication, and potentially more favorable terms. Additionally, auditing can help identify areas where suppliers need support or improvement, allowing for constructive dialogue and collaboration to strengthen the partnership. Companies demonstrate transparency in their financial dealings with suppliers by conducting regular audits of freight bills. This transparency builds trust between the company and its suppliers, showing a commitment to accuracy and fairness in billing practices. Suppliers are more likely to trust and value their relationship with a company conducting thorough audits, leading to more robust, collaborative partnerships.

    Carriers want to be promptly and accurately compensated for their services. By identifying and resolving billing discrepancies on time, companies can expedite payment to suppliers, improving cash flow and reducing financial strain on the supplier. Prompt payment demonstrates respect for the supplier's time and resources, fostering goodwill and encouraging suppliers to prioritize the company's needs.

Overall, taking a closer look at auditing and spend management practices within the supply chain is essential for optimizing costs, mitigating risks, and fostering stronger supplier relationships, all of which contribute to the overall efficiency and success of the business.

Ryan Polakoff is President, Nexterus.