Having APIs available for freight transactions does not automatically mean that shippers, brokers, and carriers are all on the same page. Any partner must take the time to carefully set up their API integrations and ensure the data is being used correctly. The common narrative behind APIs is how easy they are to build. They are in fact simple compared to the dated and cumbersome alternative of EDI, but there is less focus on how to handle the challenges of integration and how to leverage APIs to get the most benefits from them.
The Current State of API Integrations in Freight
API integrations have grown in usage, but not everyone who utilizes them gives the bandwidth to meet their full potential. The same can be said for any other widely accessible tool in technology—you get out of it what you put into it. If a company plans for only setting up the connection and then letting it sit, the data won't be as useful to them compared to devoting resources to do a thorough integration that puts the data to good use.
In today's market of rising table stakes, companies need to lean into the potential that their APIs have. These APIs can bring quality data to their partners and help a company gain internal efficiency and productivity. Shippers, brokers, and carriers can share data between their systems and their partners' systems as well as third-party data. Freight brokers are able to publish available loads to efficiently source capacity and improve visibility data for their customers.
The current challenge is prioritizing integrations and allocating sufficient time and resources for the implementation. The process can take weeks or months to complete. If the company's priority is investing in technology and adding value for users within their own tools, it's worth the time investment of the dev team or the financial investment of outsourcing this dev work.
Current Problems with API Integrations in Freight
A freight partner might experience issues with the data it receives which limits the usefulness of the API integration. There may be disparate sources of real-time data that cause confusion on how users move forward in their workflow with the information. There may be issues of data quality—if fields are inaccurate, incomplete, delayed, unreliable, or even irrelevant. For example, if the truck number of a load along with its corresponding data was sent to project44 to increase visibility, the truck number would need to have been updated appropriately; if it was not, the system would be tracking the wrong truck entirely. Other challenges include sharing the same data between shippers, brokers, and carriers in a simple way and integrating third-party data such as weather and end-to-end visibility data.
With the range of different types of data formats and tech languages, companies often find themselves making one unique integration per vendor. This is time-consuming work with inefficient results for the end-user. There may be differing schema between integrations that makes data alignment difficult.
Lastly, APIs that are set up but not leveraged are a significant opportunity for improvement. Any data that is being used should be managed and analyzed for deeper insight, for both current workflow processes and future developments.
How to Improve API Integrations
The solutions for these integration challenges are not complicated but will require a shift in focus to implement them. For one, data clean-up must be a priority, an investment that involves validating the accuracy of the data, scrubbing for incomplete or duplicate data, and creating a standard moving forward. There must be a focus on establishing more reliable, real-time connections, integrations between new systems and legacy systems, and a one-to-many structure of integration rather than one integration for each vendor.
One of the best ways to improve efficiency is to take the integration backlog and outsource it. This way, engineers are freed up to work on higher-value projects, projects that can serve to differentiate your company, rather than a back end function like integrations. Wouldn't you rather have your engineering team focused on projects like product features, instead of spending time on the details of onboarding one specific customer?
If your company is struggling with integrations or wanting to better leverage them for your business, check out Socket. With Socket, we help companies solve their integration challenges to increase efficiency and productivity, improve data accuracy, and connect with vendors faster and easier.