August 17, 2022

Types of Shipping Documents and How To Automate Them!

Shipping documents are of various types depending on the complexities of your business. Learn how you can enable document processing automation for them.

Logistics is one of the most document-intensive industries that stands to gain immensely from automation. There are several types of shipping documents in multiple formats and layouts you can imagine. It does make life difficult for logistics businesses that process such documents manually.

However, automation can help your logistics business process documents faster and with advanced accuracy. This guide offers a detailed understanding of the different shipping documents and ways to automate the document scanning process for your logistics business.

Different Types of Shipping Documents

Here are the various types of shipping documents.

Packing List

When you create an export packing list, it should have more details than a domestic one. There are several benefits of creating a packing list. Banks often need a packing list along with other documents when you want to get paid under a letter of credit.

Similarly, freight forwarders find packing lists helpful to create bills of lading. A packing list also helps custom officials inspect the items within shipments. They would know better which pallet or box to open instead of looking for a specific item in the entire shipment.

A packing list also has details about the accurate weight of the package in both gross and net forms. You can also include special markings and instructions essential for the safe delivery of packages to their destinations. When you lose the package, you will need a packing list for insurance claims. It will also help you overcome issues about the measurement and weight of the cargo with the exporter.

Proforma Invoice

A proforma invoice is a document that provides a summary of the information about the sales of goods and services. It finds use when a buyer raises an inquiry about goods and services.

The proforma invoice shows all the items on the invoice, their prices, and taxes, as well as any discounts offered by the seller. It also includes information about shipping costs and other fees associated with making this sale.

The proforma invoice can be useful for buyers who want to make sure they're getting everything they paid for before sending payment. Similarly, sellers can ensure they get documentation of the sale so they know what to include on future invoices.

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is the most common and important document for international trade. It is a detailed record of goods shipped and payments made, including all taxes and fees. The commercial invoice is final and legally binding. Buyers cannot refuse payment once they receive the shipment and commercial invoice from the buyer.

It is mandatory to provide a commercial invoice with every shipment, whether it is domestic or international. When you ship internationally, you must follow the specific customs requirements of the country you are shipping to. This includes providing a commercial invoice in the required format and language.

The commercial invoice contains information such as:

  • Name and address of the seller and buyer
  • Date of sale or purchase
  • Description of goods sold or purchased
  • Price of each item sold or purchased (including taxes)
  • Method of payment (cash, check, money order, etc.)

Certificate of Origin

If you're shipping goods to a country that requires a certificate of origin, you will need to get one. The document will verify the product's country of origin, so it also finds use for customs clearance. The certificate is usually only required if you're importing goods into another country.

But, some countries need that all shipments have this documentation attached. The country that manufactured the goods or the agent acting on behalf of the manufacturer can issue this certificate. It should include basic information about where and when the goods got manufactured. There should also be information about the materials involved in the manufacturing.

Certificate of Origin finds use for several purposes, including:

  • Helping determine if a product is eligible for preferential tariffs. For example, a product can be from a country that has a trade agreement with the country of shipment.
  • Identifying countries where the product may be subject to additional taxes or duties.
  • Identifying countries that have imposed bans on a particular product.

Shipper’s Letter of Instruction

When you are shipping a package, you will need to fill out a shipper's letter of instruction. This is a form that tells the carrier what to do with your shipment. It includes information about the package's weight and its dimensions. Furthermore, other details include temperature control and hazardous materials.

A shipper’s letter of instruction also instructs the carrier on the type of shipment it is and where it's going. It also includes information on what needs to happen when the shipment reaches its destination. The shipper’s letter of instruction will tell you if there are special handling requirements for the shipment.

For example, maintaining a certain temperature, humidity level, or if it needs to be away from sunlight. The document may also include information about shipping containers, packaging materials, and labeling requirements.

You can also use this form to specify if you want insurance on your package, to whom it should be sent, and what time frame they should expect delivery within.

Certificate of Free Sale

The Certificate of Free Sale is the most common type of document to ship goods internationally. It acts as evidence that goods are legally sold in the open market without any restriction.

Government agencies, such as the customs office or export department, can use it to clear shipments without interruptions. Buyers can also use this certificate to present proof of origin when applying for preferential treatment under international trade agreements.

A Certificate of Origin is not the same thing as a Certificate of Free Sale. Rather than proving that there are no restrictions on importing goods into another country, a Certificate of Origin proves those goods got manufactured in another country. In other words, it demonstrates where something got manufactured rather than where it intends to get shipped.

Inland Bill of Lading

An inland bill of lading is a document that accompanies shipments of goods from one location to another. It is not a sea or air transport document, but rather a document used in the transportation of goods across the land.

The inland bill of lading gets used by the shipper to record information about the shipment. It includes the information about where it came from, the intended recipient, and items included in the shipment.

It differs from other types of shipping documents because it does not transfer ownership of the goods transported. Instead, it only serves as proof that ownership got transferred from one entity to another.

Ocean Bill of Lading

Ocean Bill of Lading is a document that a carrier issues to acknowledge receipt of goods for shipment. It contains all pertinent information about the shipment. For example, the origin and destination, description of the goods, and details about the shipping company.

The ocean bill of lading functions as both a receipt for the goods and as a contract between the shipper and carrier. The shipper must sign this document before either party can use it.

Ocean bills can be of two types:

Straight Bill of Lading

A Straight Bill of Lading remains consigned to specific consignees. No party can negotiate on it. Before taking the possession of the goods, consignees should present the signed copy of the bill of lading to the carrier.

Negotiable Bill of Lading

It remains consigned with shipper’s orders and they need to sign it and send it to the bank of the buyers’ country. Banks usually hold the original bill of lading till they satisfactorily collect records related to the shipment.

Air Waybill

Air Waybill is a document that you need to use for the transportation of goods by air. It contains information about the consignee, shipper, carrier, and the weight of the goods. Air Waybill number is an important element of any international shipment.

An Air Waybill Number is essential for any type of air cargo shipment, including all types of air freight, air express, and air mail shipments. The Air Waybill number is a unique identifying number assigned to each shipment at origin by the carrier issuing it. It should be present on all documents related to that particular shipment.

The Air Waybill must include:

  • Details of the consignor and consignee.
  • Details of the shipper and receiver.
  • Name and address of who is responsible for collecting or paying charges.
  • The method of packaging.
  • Weight, quantity and description of goods.
  • Value per package (if applicable).

Dangerous Goods Forms

Dangerous goods are products or substances that have special shipping requirements. It is because of their nature and handling. The transport options for such goods include air, rail, sea, and road, but not by courier services or mail.

The most common types of dangerous goods are explosives, flammable liquids and solids, oxidizers, and compressed gases. The goods must get packaged appropriately for the mode of transport they are traveling on and their country of destination.

For example, if a package is being shipped by air, you need to package it in a way that prevents damage during transit. If the contents are flammable liquids or solids, they must be in approved containers that won’t leak under pressure.

If they’re packed in barrels or drums, they must have proper plugs and caps so they don’t leak during transport. If the product you want to ship is dangerous goods you need to include the appropriate dangerous goods form with your shipment.

Bank Draft

A bank draft acts as a critical document of the international sales process. It helps in seamless transfer control of the exported goods. The seller can get funds for the goods they are offering to the buyer. A bank draft also guarantees the payment of money.

It often gets used in international trade transactions to ensure that payment will happen by a certain date by the specified party. The seller sends a draft to the buyer's bank, which then pays for it by issuing a check that can be cashed at any time.

It doesn't matter when the buyer receives their bank draft—it's as good as money right away. The bank also has security on its side. If the buyer tries to get out of paying, they can stop payment on their cheque and get their money back.

Importance of Shipping Document Automation for Logistics Businesses

The shipping industry is a complex and busy one. With so many products to ship from one place to another, it is no wonder the logistics industry has become so large. But while it's easy enough to get products from point A to point B, there are many other things that need consideration as well.

One of the critical things when it comes to shipping is ensuring every document gets handled correctly and there are no errors in any of them. This includes everything from invoices, bills of lading, labels, packing lists, customs forms, insurance documents, etc. The problem with these different types of documents is they can sometimes get lost or misplaced in transit.

It can cause problems further down the line when something goes wrong with a shipment. Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. It is document automation tools for logistics companies. These tools automate the processing of these documents to save time and ensure better accuracy of results. With less room for mistakes, there is less hassle for everyone involved in the process.

Best Practices for Shipping Document Automation

Here are some tips and best practices to help you automate the processing of shipping documents.

Use an IDP platform

When it comes to shipping, the last thing you want to do is take time away from your core business to manually process documents. With an Intelligent Document Processing platform, you can automate the flow of information. When you work on other aspects of your business, you do not have to get distracted by manual tasks like handling documents.

Validate Data

IDP systems offer data validation through their inbuilt mechanism. Different IDP software will have different methods to validate the input. So inquire about this when you intend to buy related IDP software.

Generate and Share Documents in Real-Time

IDP platforms allow you to finish the scanning process and prepare the documents for further use. You can store, organize, save, and share documents in real-time for improved collaboration across the organization.

Create an Exception Handling Process

To ensure reliability and consistency, it's important to create an exception handling process. This process should get documented in the same way as the rest of your shipping document automation. The first step of this process should be to set up a way to check exceptions. A good rule of thumb is that when reporting a problem, users should include as much data as possible.

Leverage Analytics to Monitor Document Automation Accuracy

One of the best ways to ensure your document automation is successful is to use analytics to check accuracy. Analytics will help you understand how many documents you process. Furthermore, you will also know how long it takes to process each document and what documents are taking up the most time in processing.

Using this information, you can make changes to your process to reduce the time it takes for a document to get processed. You can also take related steps to improve the overall accuracy.

Ensure Organization-Wide Training

Shipping documents are often the only way to ensure that a company's product reaches its destination safely. When these documents do not get properly tracked and managed, it can lead to delays in shipping or even lost packages. To prevent these issues, you should ensure all employees have the training.

They should know how to use the shipping document automation tool before they start working on it. Employees also need to sign off on their training before they begin using the system. There will be no question about whether they know how to use it.

Enable Shipping Document Automation Today with VisionERA

VisionERA is a leading Intelligent Document Processing platform to help you experience the unmatched power of AI. It offers advanced insights that help you improve your decision-making process. The platform does not have any third-party dependencies. It allows you to experience seamless performance when you automate the processing of shipping documents.

VisionERA offers an advanced AI-HI collaboration that automates your workflows with human-like capabilities. The platform offers end-to-end automation capabilities that suit document-heavy businesses like yours. VisionERA has training on real-world documents. It ensures excellent speed and accuracy in document processing.

VisionERA keeps adapting itself to the changing business needs as it comes with a continuous learning mechanism. You can use the platform across the organization and help your team members collaborate better to improve the results.

Get in touch with us today to know more details about VisionERA. We will also show you the platform in action through a free demo. To send us a query, use our contact us page!

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