How AI-Powered Technology Reduces The Costs of Manual Data Entry For Logistics Organizations

Back To All Posts | Posted on November 3, 2021

Whether you are in the logistics industry or not, it is evident that manual data entry comes at a significant but totally fixable cost to your business.

Receive. Read. Copy. Paste. Enter. Check. Submit ... and REPEAT.

Each time the data is entered, the employee must check the information to ensure it’s correct. If they find an error, they must correct it or enter missing information. This is a slow process that happens over and over with each phase of the supply chain. This is a time-consuming and inefficient way to do things.

Perhaps it’s time to make some changes.

In today’s logistics industry, with natural disasters and pandemics always a concern, the  industry has seen the cost of doing business increasing exponentially.

Whether it’s copying and pasting data between modules, manually entering data from paper forms into your database, or transferring information between spreadsheets, manual data entry and certain logistics processes are time-consuming and repetitive. 

The format on incoming forms varies. Customs documents, bills of lading, certificates of origin, commercial invoices and drivers’ logs all come in different formats and layouts. It can be tedious to decipher this information. 

All contain business-critical information, and all must be processed correctly in order to fulfill customer obligations in a timely manner. Organizations generally receive documents from several geographic locations. As goods move between locations, precious time is wasted as the same documents are scanned repeatedly. And when it comes to ports of entry, the utmost care is needed to ensure accurate tariff code assignment for customs clearance.

As you can see, not only is data entry time consuming but it is also expensive. It clearly demands massive resources to maintain very high standards of accuracy and for freight forwarders that are handling increasing volumes of documentation each day, errors can get costly, very quickly. In addition, there are unseen costs wrapped up within reconciling the data. There is the impact of errors on customer relationships, reputational damage and of course, there's the potentially huge cost of losing your competitive advantage.

The goal of faster and more accurate data capture is an administrative and operational challenge that all transportation and logistics companies seem to have in common. Given that the largest firms may process upwards of one million pages of multilingual forms per day, the return on an effective data capture automation solution such as ITS NxGen platform, is substantial.

What is manual data entry?

In basic terms, manual data entry is the transfer of data from an unstructured system to a structured system using manual human labour – meaning that an actual human manually reads, understands and types everything, checking data from one place to another. This involves time, concentration and effort – and it's unavoidably prone to error.

Fun fact ☺ - Globally, as much as 90% of data extraction and data entry still occurs manually

In 2019, only 55 billion of the world's 550 billion invoices were exchanged on a paperless basis. The remaining 90% would require at least some level of manual processing. So, as you can see there is definitely room for improvement to reduce this labour intensive and expensive approach. 

4 Reasons Manual Data Entry is a Problem

Manual data entry is one of the major productivity issues that creates high costs to businesses in several ways. Below we list 4 examples we feel are key to focus on in your business. 

  1. Money‍

    In today’s growing businesses, manual data entry is commonplace. Of course, in the beginning it was a simple solution and processes could be easily completed. However, the current volatile logistics environment indicates that this method is quickly becoming less scalable and less cost-effective.

    Of course, the most obvious cost is the time it takes employees to manually input data in your systems. Every minute of that time involved further increases your companies wage costs. So, the longer it takes to input, the more it costs. Now, an organization with increasing business (which is always a good thing, right?) means an increase in documents which means the longer it takes to input, the more it costs and so on.

    This doesn’t even take into account the time consuming and repetitive nature of adding contact information into CRM systems, filling out the many logistics and compliance documents for movement of goods or entering data and analytics into spreadsheets. Manual data entry is tedious, unfulfilling and results in poor employee morale. It can actually be a factor in excessive employee turnover adding to more organizational costs.

    In addition, there’s the impact of incorrect manual data entry on revenue. Incorrect or bad data is just as harmful as no data. Poor data causes inadequate analytics resulting in weak business forecasting and negative decision making.  Research estimates that incorrect data costs businesses at least 30 percent or more of their revenue.

    According to a 2018 Gartner’s Data Quality Market Survey, the average financial impact of poor data quality on an organization is upwards of $15 million.  

  2. Time‍

    Time is of the essence.

    It takes a lot of time to enter information manually into multiple systems. Time is spent waiting for information to be updated at different stages in the process. You also have to factor in that the more systems you have to enter data into, the more time it takes and this potentially increases the likelihood of human error.

    Without up to date, accurate information, the result could be a loss of revenue as well as a loss of trust and transparency with your clients. Imagine trying to make quick and forward- thinking business decisions without the availability of correct, real- time information updates on important logistics issues such as inventory levels, the re-routing or transfer of goods, meeting customs compliance to avoid delays, fines and fees or even financial analytics.

    With manual data entry all these processes are slow and often full of inaccuracies further dampening growth in your business and brand.

  3. Data

    Good quality data is a crucial commodity that is not only desirable but necessary for managing projects, avoiding fraud, assessing performance, controlling finances and delivering services efficiently. While data quality is important, it can often be pushed aside in the rush to manage all of your other responsibilities.

    According to a Dun & Bradstreet survey, nearly a quarter of businesses surveyed said their financial forecasts have been inaccurate and 46% say that data is too siloed to make any sense of it. The report also shows that two thirds (65%) of respondents say data will be vital to their organization’s future success.

    Businesses must make data governance and stewardship a priority,” said Monica Richter, chief data officer, Dun & Bradstreet. “Whether leaders are exploring AI or predictive analytics, clean, defined data is key to the success of any program and essential for mitigating risk and growing the business.”

    The accuracy of data takes a rather large hit when it comes via manual data entry. The average benchmark for data entry error rate is generally acknowledged to be 1%, which doesn’t seem like a lot. But, if you take a look at how many documents or fields your employees are entering into the system each day and then consider that 1 of every 100 instances is likely incorrect, you’ll get a sense of your vulnerable position. Now multiply that mistake (and add subsequent ones) for every time information is moved from one system to another. I think you can see how quickly it adds up. 

    An Experian survey found that 83% of organizations see data as an integral part of their business strategy, yet 69% say inaccurate data continues to undermine their efforts.
  4. Productivity

    Manual data entry takes precious time and brain power away from employees, minimizing their productivity and hampering their time management. In fact, 62% of employees identified three or more major inefficiencies or bottlenecks in their business processes that could potentially be solved with automation. These issues make employees lose focus, take time away from more important projects and limit creativity.

    Manual data entry is slow, repetitive, error prone, requires people, and people cost money. The detrimental health aspect of repetitive tasks is a huge issue with not only the physical side leading to tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or vision problems but also with the mental side.

    We often think of stress contributing to mental health issues, but boredom can be just as detrimental to our well-being. Endless repetition of menial tasks can make someone extremely demoralized, dissatisfied, or desperate to leave an organization. People need meaning in their lives, and not surprisingly, manual data entry doesn’t fill that void.

    Automating resource draining paperwork is your key to productivity. Instead of spending time on data admin and manual errors, you can redirect employees toward income-generating tasks, ensure quicker receipt of funds for healthier cash flow and create more time to focus on higher value-added clients or activities. 

So, what is the real cost of manual data entry?

Well, that is going to be different for every business. When investigating just how much manual data entry is costing your business, we highly encourage you to look at the overall picture. The direct cost in dollars from employee wages, the impact of human error, the cost of delay and bad data, along with any hidden costs such as fines can impact your productivity, growth and customer relationships.

Our thoughts.

Without a doubt, manual data entry has some major drawbacks but today it is still an integral part of many business processes, despite the known flaws associated with it. It’s slow and prone to inaccuracy, (not to mention super boring) and becomes increasingly expensive as your business grows.

The cost of continuing to use manual data entry goes beyond the wages paid for the staff to do it, not to mention the health and well-being of your employees. There are unseen costs wrapped up within reconciling the data. There is the impact of errors on customer relationships, reputational damage and of course, there's the potentially huge cost in losing your competitive advantage.

What’s the solution?

Keep pace with the latest technologies and rely on digital capabilities to modernize your supply chain.  NxGen from ITS is the most effective way to reduce the high costs of manual data entry in your organization is to automate.

ITS has developed “ZAFT” a technology that actually “READS” documents and data sources like humans do, but with far greater speed, accuracy, and reliability.  Zaft comes with pre-built proprietary logistics industry intelligence that self-learns as it goes.  The more inputs, the smarter Zaft gets. 

Whether it’s Arrival Notices, Bills of Lading, Customs invoices, Certificates of Origin, Delivery Receipts, Airway Bills (AWB) or any other document with hard-to-read or incomplete text, document digitization becomes simplified and automated with ZAFT. 


  • For documents that are entered manually today, Zaft can produce real savings in the range of 75-90%
  • ZAFT reads documents with 99.5% accuracy.
  • Documents that used to take 15-60 minutes to handle can now be processed in less than 6 seconds!

Click here for a free demo or to talk to a sales rep!

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