Using In-House Custom Tailored Approach To Meet Customer's Expectations
Technologies that give competitive edge within the logistics sector
Red Prairie, SAP, EDI, billing, transportation and business warehouse. Cost effective, scalable, and mobile are all common requests of the business enterprise. The problem is that there is no one solution that fits everyone’s needs. Any off the shelf solution still requires a large degree of customization and/or development. A common solution these days is outsourcing (SaaS) and using some of the canned applications on the market. Once you buy into an outsourced solution though your competitive IT edge is gone as other competitors are using the same technology and methodology. Then any new system development specific to your enterprise is then available to others at your intellectual expense. It then turns into a pricing/value added exercise to gain or sometimes retain existing business. I’m a firm believer in the in-house development of operational/business systems and the outsourcing of IT infrastructure and data warehousing.
Our current enterprise system FACTS (FARO Air Cargo Transportation System) was fully functional to our customer’s needs (and ours) in approximately 90 days from conception to implementation using a RAD approach. It’s based on Cargo IMP EDI standards and is based on key event triggered messaging from the operation floor and front service counter. It’s entirely mobile and scalable. The application design follows the actual flow of goods through the operation so our training needs are very minimal even after any MAC activity or enhancements.
Competitive edge comes from gaining and retaining customers based on individual needs of those customers. If Customer A wants a real time data flow based on current EDI message formats and Customer B wants a data dump every 6 hours in a format 3 years old the enterprise must be able to accommodate without a huge time and money investment.
While the industry is loaded with cool state of the art technology, freight does not load itself onto or into trucks, planes, containers or ships, it still takes manpower. In an ever growing “margin tight” industry everyone along the supply chain is demanding higher service levels and lower pricing. The real trouble for large IT expenditure is ROI. Inevitably someone along the supply chain can’t process some kind of EDI/Data exchange and it requires manpower to intervene, potentially all the way through the chain. While ROI relies on real savings through process improvement and lean initiatives, most often it is over stated and the true return is much further out than anticipated and sometimes never achieved. Using an in-house custom tailored approach allows the enterprise to use the "cool" technology out there if it fits within the business process model.
What has worked well for us in the logistics arena is having a customized base line operating application that allows us to “bolt on” other relevant solutions such as driver’s license scanning, HR optimization modeling and training applications.