Trucking Firm Shifts to a Mobile ApproachBy Samuel Greengard | Posted 02-04-2014
By Samuel Greengard
For retailers and other businesses that receive goods from manufacturers and distributors, an efficient delivery system is critical. In many instances, less than truckload (LTL) shipping is an important part of the supply chain. It typically relies on trucks to move smaller and more fragmented shipments of freight. "We are positioned somewhere between a courier and a truckload company. We move a mix of products to market," explains Bob Hall, CIO of Toronto-based Speedy Transport, Inc.
The ability to track trucks, shipments and deliveries is paramount. Speedy Transport—which employs approximately 400 people and operates primarily in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec but also partners with large U.S. carriers as well—moves products to stores such as Costco, Target, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart through a network of owner-operator truckers. For several years, Speedy Transport communicated with agents via Palm 3C devices, which were tethered to Nextel push-to-talk phones. However, the network was slow and the ability to operate the business in an agile way lagged.
In 2012, the trucking firm turned to the iPhone 4 and a GPS-enabled app built with the Mendix app platform to provide real-time visibility into the location of vehicles. The transition, including development of the app, took only a few weeks to complete and fundamentally changed the way the firm operates. Executives can now monitor activity via a Web-based interface. The system also tracks signatures and provides other benefits associated with smartphones, including text messaging. This helps Speedy Transport provide retailers with up-to-date information.
After issuing iPhones to drivers, "We immediate went from about 80% compliance to a rate in the high 90% range," Hall says. "It's a huge issue because our customers expect compliance." He defines compliance as drivers using the technology successfully and as required. The company-issued phones—which are separate from drivers' personal mobile phones—rely on mobile device management software to manage content and prevent drivers from installing unauthorized apps.
One of the primary benefits of the Mendix system is that it delivers information based on specific roles. "A dispatcher receives far more detailed information about each driver than managers, but there's also an ability to drill down and view the level of information required," Hall explains. In fact, managers can view work orders and the percentage of drivers who have completed their assigned tasks. "They can adjust scheduling and routing on a dynamic basis and assign trucks in a far more efficient manner," he explains.
Hall says that adopting the app platform has helped the firm's five-person IT department become more strategic and focus on activities that add business value. The HTML5-based approach provides far greater flexibility across devices and the Mendix software allows Speedy Transport to support a broader platform that reaches across the company and beyond. In fact, the firm is now planning to introduce a customer portal that will allow customers to enter their orders via a web browser. It will connect directly to the firm's dispatch system, which then will roll out appropriate data to the iPhones. In 2014, the company will add features when it upgrades to newer iPhones running iOS 7.
"The initiative has helped us save money and become more efficient," says Hall. "We can identify the truck that's best suited for a delivery and communicate with drivers in a way that wasn't possible in the past."
About the Author
Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read "Are CIOs at Risk?", his previous CIO Insight article, click here.