Learn how global transportation company Discordia and international spend management solution Payhawk are modernising freight transport efficiency, according to Discordia CFO Tsvetomir Uzunov.
This article originally appeared in Bulgarian in Forbes Bulgaria.
If you think about transport companies and moving goods, you'll be forgiven for immediately picturing long hours in big trucks. But if you know the industry well, you'll also think about complex logistics, international paperwork, diverse payment systems in Europe — and not necessarily the latest technology and software.
However, a Bulgarian freight company, Discordia, is dispelling this stereotype and proving that fintech and the transport industry go hand in hand.
Discordia has been in business for more than 30 years, and the company currently operates a fleet of over 1,500 trucks and 2,000 drivers. In addition to road transport to anywhere within Europe (its largest service area), Discordia also offers rail, sea, and air transport.
Despite reporting a consistently fast fleet and high customer satisfaction, Discordia faces some big challenges due to a lack of staff. "The problem is not just local," describes CFO Tsvetomir Uzunov, saying:
There's a shortage of around half a million drivers of heavy goods vehicles in Europe.
One of the biggest priorities for the company, therefore, is to attract and retain key employees by offering the best possible working environment and conditions.
"Talent attraction and retention is exactly the aim of the industry's technological innovations. On the one hand, we have the modernisation of the vehicles themselves, but we must also think about the systems within them which support the work and comfort of the drivers," Tsvetomir explains.
Unfortunately, the driver's primary function of moving a load safely and on time can quickly become complicated by paperwork and financial transactions.
The drivers can run into many emergencies, including border delays and extra stops. These scenarios each have unexpected fees, meaning they must constantly track receipts and reports. It's common for a driver to need an emergency cash transfer, which can't happen late at night, on holidays, or during weekends. This delay creates frustration and tension in our employees and distracts them from their core role, which is responsible and stressful enough.
The company knew there was a better way to manage these issues. It sought a solution to this pressing problem with new technologies, finding the answer in Payhawk's corporate expense management software. Payhawk's technologies provide an opportunity to address the root cause, conveniently automating payment and reporting processes for drivers.
Aside from increased convenience and satisfaction, Discordia also sees Payhawk's potential in business development — to collect and analyse accurate expense data and use it to plan for growth and increase revenue.
It's no coincidence that Discordia chose Payhawk, a well-known Bulgarian spend management solution, as its partner on the road to digital transformation. "We contacted them, and they showed us their systems in action," Tsvetomir recalls. "We launched a joint pilot project to implement innovative software to manage company expenses."
The technology is easy to work with and even syncs with the software that Discordia uses for its ERP platform. The drivers only need to install the Payhawk app on their phones, and they're ready to go.
Discordia ran Payhawk's first trial with about 30 drivers, lasting two and a half months. With the lessons learned, the second trial began, which lasted a whole year and involved 700 drivers. Together, the two companies were able to set up an entire technological infrastructure and ensure that the drivers used the new software seamlessly.
We chose Payhawk's solution due to its multiple advantages. First of all, unlike other services on the market, it gives us a tool to facilitate money transfers to employees when they are on the road, as well as to automate reporting.
To date, Discordia has made at least four high-volume payment transactions a day to send money to drivers' accounts. Before Payhawk, these transactions involved a huge amount of administrative staff time and increased costs due to the large number of charges. But now, with Payhawk, the team has created one master account and attached all employee accounts. It's topped up once daily, so all drivers are backed as they complete their routes.
The convenience lies in the fact that if a colleague needs an emergency transfer at any time of the day, they just request it via the app on their phone, and their manager can approve and release it in seconds.
An added benefit of partnering with Payhawk is the pre-issuance process set up for physical debit cards, which drivers receive as soon as they start working. This benefit provides the transportation company with added flexibility, which is critical to having the drivers up and running as quickly as possible.
The Discordia team also wanted to improve many of their administrative processes, including expense capture and reporting.
Before Payhawk, every driver had to collect flip sheets, which administrative staff then entered electronically and analysed at length. Now, with the OCR technology in Payhawk's mobile app, the drivers can easily capture different receipts and payment documents (be it for fuel, border or toll fees, hotel or other overheads).
With Payhawk's solution, drivers must only scan the original receipt with their phone and enter a little information about why they made a purchase. The system processes it automatically so the team can analyse the resulting data and make better-informed decisions.
Currently, one person in the administration processes all of the paper documents for 110 drivers. Our expectation is that 90% of receipts will be processed automatically using this new software. Not only does this make people's jobs easier and give them time for more satisfying tasks, but it also lets us grow our business the way we want to.
"We plan to have around 3,000 vehicles by 2025 and 7,000 by 2030. That equates to approximately 10,000 drivers," Tsvetomir explains. "Imagine that many drivers, three courses a month, and a minimum of six receipts for each; the number is impossible to handle manually. Office and staff costs would significantly reduce our growth margin."
This realisation supports the entire Discordia management team's belief that technology is the absolute foundation for business growth.
Besides the obvious benefits for employees, technology also provides the data and analytics needed to optimise customer service. The company plans to continue its digital transformation in the coming years by implementing a data warehouse that will collect and structure all information in one place so that each department can use it according to its needs.
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