When I worked at Expeditors the arch-nemesis was UPS. Of course, the koolaid we all drank was that all our competitors were inferior, but at some point after the honeymoon period wore off I began to actually examine that claim. Of course, I quickly found the various "I hate UPS" website disgruntled employees and customers alike had created online (and didn't find any equivalent for Expeditors), but I kept seeing ads in business periodicals suggesting UPS is solving some of the problems nearest and dearest to customers' interests.
I picked up the April 21, 2008 edition of Forbes tonight, and on pages 14 and 15 there is a great ad. It shows a to do box piled with paper (drawn in the brown UPS white board pen of course) with a steaming cup of coffee next to it. Then it has a little post it note in the upper right hand corner (page 15) that says:
International shipping means lots of commercial invoices - in triplicate. But that paperwork could disappear when you sign up to use UPS Paperless Invoice, the industry's first electronic commercial invoice. It's just another way UPS simplifies international shipping.
Below that is a laptop with a steaming cup of coffee.
Even though I no longer work at Expeditors, I still have deep respect for the things they do for customers and I can't help but wonder what they have up their sleeve to respond to solutions like this one? So much of transportation today has less to do with moving physical freight efficiently from point a to point b (a lot of companies do that, and a handful do it really well) - and much more to do with efficiently moving the documentation of that freight. I wonder if there is an opportunity for a third party software-as-a-service business to step in and offer solutions to shippers that will help them streamline the amount of paper in the international shipping process and integrate with the big transportation services companies out there.