Types of Shipping Documents and How To Automate Them!

“Rev up your logistics game with automation! We all know how document-incentive the industry is, with an endless array of shipping papers in various formats and layouts. It’s enough to give anyone a headache! But fear not, automation is here to save the day for shipping companies! 

Say goodbye to manual processing and hello to expeditious, pinpoint, accurate document handling. Want to learn more? Our ultimate guide has got you covered, from the different shipping docs to scanning solutions – all the tools you need to upscale your logistics business!

Types Of Shipping Documents 

Packing List 

The export packing list is crucial for international trade, providing detailed information beyond that of a domestic packing list. It benefits financial institutions, freight forwarders, and customs officials by providing accurate weight measurements, unique markings, and delivery instructions. It also serves as a critical document for insurance claims and addressing issues with exporters. Creating a thorough and accurate packing list is essential to the export process.  

Performa Invoice 

A proforma invoice is a document that serves as a summary of goods and services sold and is commonly utilized when a buyer requests information about a potential purchase. This type of invoice provides a detailed breakdown of all items included in the sale, their corresponding prices and taxes, and any applicable discounts which the seller offers. Additional details, such as shipping costs and associated fees, are also included. 

For buyers, a proforma invoice ensures precisely what they are paying for before finalising payment. It also provides sellers with documentation of the sale, enabling them to keep accurate records and generate future invoices. Overall, a proforma invoice is a valuable tool in sales, ensuring transparency and clarity between buyers and sellers.

Commercial Invoice 

The commercial invoice is a vital document for international trade, serving as a comprehensive record of goods shipped, payments made, and associated taxes and fees. It is legally binding and cannot be refused by the buyer upon receipt of the shipment and invoice. A commercial invoice must be included with every shipment, domestic or international, and must comply with specific customs regulations, including format and language requirements for the destination country. The invoice provides critical information such as seller and buyer names and addresses, date of sale or purchase, a detailed description of goods, pricing information, and payment method.     

Certificate of Origin 

The Certificate of Origin is a critical document required for international shipments to verify the product’s origin and facilitate customs clearance. Although it is not mandatory for all countries, some need it for all kinds of freight. The certificate provides essential details about the product, such as the country of origin, manufacturing location, and the materials used in production. The manufacturer or their agent can issue it for multiple purposes.   

These include determining eligibility for preferential tariffs based on trade agreements, identifying countries with additional taxes or duties, and highlighting countries with product bans. The accuracy and wholeness of this document are crucial for ensuring a smooth and timely shipment process. 

Shipper’s Letter of Instruction

A Shipper’s Letter of Instruction is a vital document for shipping a package. It provides the carrier with essential information about the shipment, including its weight, dimensions, and special handling requirements, such as temperature or hazardous materials. The letter of instruction also specifies the shipment’s type, destination, and set of instructions.

This document may also include details about shipping containers, packaging materials, and labelling requirements. Moreover, it allows the shipper to request insurance for the package, specify the recipient, and determine the expected delivery time frame. By providing clear instructions to the carrier, the shipper’s letter of instruction helps ensure that the package arrives safely and on time.

Air Waybill

The Air Waybill is a crucial document for air cargo service. It includes information about the consignor, consignee, shipper, receiver, packaging, and weight of the goods. The Air Waybill number is a unique identifier accompanying the shipment on every step of its journey. Without it, the shipment may face delays.

There are many other shipping documents like Certificates of Free Sale, Inland Bills of Lading, Ocean Bills of Lading, Bank Draft, etc. 

Best Practices for Shipping Document Automation

Efficient management of shipping documents is crucial for logistics businesses. However, manual document processing can be prone to errors and time-consuming. Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) platforms offer a solution. These platforms automate the flow of information, streamlining documents and processing workflows.

Utilizing machine learning and AI technologies, IDP platforms can reduce the time and effort required to handle shipping documents, freeing time to focus on core business operations. IDP platforms can boost a business’s bottom line by improving accuracy and productivity Heavy duty scale.  

Verify the Data

Data validation is a service provided by IDP systems via an internal process. The methods used by various IDP software to validate the input will vary. So, when you want to purchase relevant IDP software, do not miss out on this. 

Create and Distribute Documents Instantly

‍You may complete the scanning process and get the papers ready using IDP platforms. Documents can be saved, organized, shared, and stored in real time for better internal cooperation.

Create an Exception Handling Process

To ensure consistent and reliable shipping document processing, it’s crucial to establish an exception-handling process. This process should be documented alongside the rest of your automation procedures and begin with creating a system for checking exceptions. Users should include as much data as possible when reporting issues to facilitate efficient problem resolution.


Efficiently managing shipping documents is essential for any business involved in logistics. Companies can streamline their workflows, improve accuracy, and increase productivity by understanding the different types of shipping documents and implementing automation through intelligent document processing platforms. Handling shipping documents can be a seamless and hassle-free process with the right tools and technology. So, whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, it’s time to embrace automation and take your shipping processes to the next level! E-commerce businesses can rely on shipping company like NimbusPost, which implements all the automated methods throughout the supply chain to enable flawless e-commerce shipping for businesses of various scales. 

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