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16 Feb 2015

Data: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Every year, more shippers implement increasingly complex and comprehensive computer systems to handle freight planning, tracking, and payments. The business world has come to rely on computers to reduce paperwork and staffing and to automate repetitive tasks that do not necessarily require constant human intervention. In the process the potential for errors has been eliminated. Or has it? Even if computers perform perfect calculations all the time, that still leaves a big hole for errors: the data may not be perfect from the beginning. Perfect calculations on imperfect data still lead to erroneous payments.

Aside from the basic possibility of human error on the data entry side (which even the best programming cannot fully account for), there are a myriad of ways for data errors to propagate. First, there is data from third parties; can it be trusted? Unless one believes the carrier or other third party to have unnaturally perfect systems and personnel, a shipper cannot be certain the data received, such as EDI data, was perfect for the shipment in question. Then, once received, data must be imported into a shipper’s own systems. Often, this means reformatting the data to the format the shipper’s database accepts. Any time a reformat of data is necessary, there is a potential for errors or data loss. Dates can be in several different formats, amounts may be whole numbers or currency with two decimal places, measurements in gallons or pounds or cubic inches, and city names may have multiple formats. Often, these may be inconsistent and irregular; each time a format conversion takes place there may be some loss of data (such as zeroes after the decimal of currency being dropped when converted to whole numbers).

Even within one company, there are often several separate systems in order to process a shipment from start to finish. The shipment may be set up on one system, then rated on another, and a third system sends the final payment; despite all the error checking along the way, no amount of programming can fix bad data from the previous system. Every time data moves from one point to another, there is a potential for errors, and since this is all being automated, there is rarely a human eye that sees this. It may not truly be an error at all, it may just be different than what the program is expecting. For instance, if a city name is received differently than was programmed into the rate engine, then the rate engine may not apply the correct rate. Then, of course, there are all the times when something changes during shipment, such as a diversion or reweigh. Rarely is new information populated backwards into the previous system, so the final payment is made based on outdated information.

This is where the AMTR Difference can benefit you and your company.. AMTR takes all the data available from multiple systems, and puts it together to get a whole picture of each shipment from start to finish – setup to payment – then applies years of experience and knowledge to evaluate each shipment for overcharges and errors. This process is not practical for shippers to do on their own and carriers do not have time and resources to do it for them. An AMTR audit is a shipper’s last line of defense to mind the gaps between systems, data, and payments.

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