Providing customers with freight status data is critical to the success enjoyed by Wessin Transport, Inc. (www.wessintransport.com). The company is an independent contract package carrier servicing the Midwest and East Coast final delivery needs of customers including Quixtar— along with Amway part of Alticor—Avon and DHL.
Headquartered in Golden Valley, MN, Wessin's locations primarily are those from which it delivers freight for Amway. "In South Carolina we have a couple of stations dedicated to Avon," explains the carrier's director of Information Services, Alan Schostag. "We also have a couple of DHL outlets. One in Sioux Falls, SD and the other in North Charleston, SC. Those are places where trucks come in from the different companies, and we unload them and deliver the freight from there."
Schostag is an IT shop of one, being the only person who performs the function for Wessin.
Generally the company moves packages to its customer's retail outlets and stores. Wessin has a cross-dock operation, utilizing a system of conveyors where nothing ever touches the floor. It gets live loaded and it's out and delivered the same day. "Our area is specialized delivery," notes Schostag. "We're don't go to every location everyday. Product comes in from less than truckload carriers, and then it's loaded into our package trucks. We'll even deliver to the end consumer if the order is large enough."
Speed and efficiency are key for Wessin. Wise use of technology helps the carrier keep its costs in line as well in maintaining over 98% in scanning accuracy. A few years ago Schostag implemented a scanning solution for the company. Wessin started with an inbound scan, then moved on to a delivery scan.
For Schostag, AirClic (www.airclic.com) offered the best solution and equipment. He liked their scanner that mounts on the bottom of NexTel phones used by the company's drivers. With the equipment, drivers are able to scan boxes and have the data displayed on the Wessin website within two to three minutes.
All operations and data are tied in through the Internet. "We have specialized applications to upload manifests from our clients into a big database," notes Schostag. "Then specialized applications slice and dice that data and put it out and map it correctly. All of our vehicles have laptops, and our drivers have their routes on the laptops. The laptop really helps with people filling in and going to another city. They don't know where they are but then can see where they are at right at the moment. So we have that going for us too. Then of course the scanning at the customer's doorstep makes all of that traceable too."
Schostag worked with AirClic to develop a GPS (global positioning system) application. Wessin is able to monitor packages on its trucks with the system. The GPS tracks truck movement, updating it every four to five minutes and refreshing the data on the company's screens. When the driver performs a final scan on packages at the delivery point, latitude and longitude numbers are then associated with the piece so Wessin can tell within 30 feet where it was delivered.
The carrier places great emphasis on productivity. Using data derived from the scanning system, Wessin is able to measure its drivers and managers. With specialized applications it gauges how productive stations are as well.
Wessin oversees drivers of its 200-truck fleet even more. "Using the GPS tracker," claims Schostag, "We're able up to go back as far as 30 days, select any driver or drivers and do a history on them and see how they did their route."
Availability of data for its customers is extremely important to Wessin. The 200 Quixtar customer service representatives are constantly visiting the carrier's website to verify that products are delivered on time and correctly. It has been so successful, claims Schostag, "that right now we are working on rolling it out to Avon."
Like Wessin, satellite messaging and tracking is an important part of the service offering for Davis Transfer Co., Inc. (www.davistransfer.com) customers. Based in Carnesville, GA, the company has a terminal there as well as in Athens and Valdosta, GA. Its 190 tractors are equipped with Qualcomm (www.qualcomm.com) satellite messaging and tracking systems and its 675 trailers use SkyBitz (www.skybitz.com) satellite tracking that's based on GLS (global locating system) technology.
A truckload carrier, Davis Transfer handles a great deal of dedicated freight for companies like Lowe's, its largest customer. "They have distribution centers (DCs) all over the country," notes Todd Davis, the director of operations, "We take goods from vendors, such as Black & Decker or Makita or Ames into their DCs. We have lanes, too, outbound from their DCs to the stores."
Davis observes that over the past ten years, providing visibility has gotten more attention and focus with customers. They require timely updates on where their product is in transit. He says the company is being scored not only on its ability to perform on time pick up and delivery, but also its ability to transfer that information.
"We have massive amounts of data," he explains, "but basically our customers get status updates that come through EDI via the Qualcomm system. The data include when the driver arrived at the shipper location, loaded at the shipper, arrived at the consignee location and unloaded at the consignee. Every time status change is presented, customers are picking up that data and updating their orders." Delays are noted as well.
Trailer tracking with SkyBitz is not live data since the company receives only a few pings per day from its trailers. The major benefit is in keeping inventory of trailers that might otherwise get lost in the system, or trailers that have been detained over a certain amount of time. In that instance Davis Transfer calls its customers to let them know they've been holding the trailer for a long time.
For the carrier, keeping up with drivers is where Qualcomm comes into play. While the company certainly wants to have verbal communication with its drivers, it doesn't want to talk to them every time there's a shipment status change. Qualcomm allows drivers to be efficient and not tied up talking with the home office.
The system allows managers to be much more effective in getting information to drivers as quickly as possible. "The way our system is set up," says Davis, "is that drivers are pre-assigned loads, so when they deliver a load they automatically get the assignment for the next load. If we don't get our job done, they're calling us asking for their pre-plan. We do have GPS, as well, and that helps us locate the closest load for a particular driver in an effort to reduce dead heading."
Another use of Qualcomm has been in reducing idling time. Davis Transfer runs a weekly batch report of Qualcomm data that indicates the high idlers. The carrier has installed Thermo King TriPak units to heat and cool the truck cab. These units automatically shut off the primary truck engine after five minutes of idle at which point the Thermo King unit kicks on to provide cooling and heating. Using Qualcomm as a diagnostic tool, Davis Transfer has been able to cut idle time, which has meant increased fuel economy.
Ultimately, the greatest benefit of the technology is in serving the final customer. "Certainly the past three or four years have seen escalation of performance rating and grades by our customers wanting that information and wanting to see how we are doing," says Davis. "The success of our business is based on our ability to deliver that kind of information as well as the on time service."
Wessin Transport drivers use a combination of NexTel phones and an AirClic solution to relay the status of each delivery to company headquarters.