CASE STUDY: Auckland trucking company gets IT right
- 20 May, 2014 09:46
Small privately-owned trucking company, AJ Tutill, has been in business for more than 90 years, and has been able to succeed at what it does by putting customer service at the front of its agenda.
“The only thing I’m selling is a service,” says Neil Bowman, operations manager at the firm. “There are lots of freight companies in Auckland, lots of trucks and lots of drivers. But service is our point of difference. No one beats us on service.
“This is a family business,” he says. “John [Tutill] runs the company. He’s here every day, looking at the big screen in despatch, keeping an eye on everything and making sure we’re really responsive.”
The 43-truck company prides itself on a hands-on management approach with a staff, including drivers, of around 42 people. With no IT team in place, it was essential that all IT systems should be easy to use, with as little need for internal admin as possible.
“We service mostly the Auckland area. We do some work in the South Island sometimes, but our main focus remains Auckland. We have around six PCs in the Auckland office. We use an MYOB accounting package. We have kept things simple in order to reduce any potential failures. If we do need any help sorting things out, we call in a third party provider to help us out,” says Bowman.
Keeping requirements lean has helped the firm manage costs at a granular level, and invest only when a solution is warranted and needed by customers. This was the main driving force behind the deployment of the internet Cargo Operating System (iCOS) Live freight management system in 2011.
“The system allows clients to place job orders online and track and trace consignments from pickup through to delivery. The freight management software is linked with the iCOS warehouse and despatch system, which sends the jobs to iCOS LIVE once the orders are picked,” says Bowman.
While the iCOS was working very well, customers also wanted the ability to track their orders in a more real-time basis. The company also felt the need to improve its communications with the trucks on the field as its fleet grew.
“We manage despatch pretty aggressively. That’s a real point of difference. We make things work, and we make sure they work well. If a customer books a job in the morning and wants it delivered that afternoon, we make it happen. If there are just three pallets on a truck and one needs to get from the airport to Henderson by 2 o’clock we’ll tell the driver to get moving straight away. We won’t make him wait till he has a full load.
“You could probably manage 20 trucks in your head for that. But with the number we have that’s impossible if you want to consistently provide exceptional service,” says Bowman.
In order to enable both functions, the company put in place a Navman Wireless system in 2013.
“We looked at a couple of solutions for this, but we decided on Navman, because of the R&D they had put into the product and also we wanted to go with a company that had a proven track record. We did not want too much personalisation, just something simple that worked for us,” says Bowman.
The firm’s mix of crane trucks, eight-wheelers, curtain siders and flat decks, was fitted with an M-Nav 800 messaging and navigation terminal in the cab and a Qube tracking device mounted under the dash. OnlineAVL2 software allowed despatch to monitor all vehicles on a big display and to communicate with drivers and manage their workflow.
The iCOS LIVE software is integrated with OnlineAVL2 so customers can place orders and check on pickups and deliveries in real time.
“The system has given us multiple benefits. We are able to track trucks, keep records and replay a truck’s history easily. We are also able to message and keep in touch with drivers, which cuts down on costs related to voice communications, which was how we were primarily communicating with them before Navman,” says Bowman.
Tutill employees simply have to log into PCs in the office to view tracking information. The company has also set up a huge despatch board that provides live information on the trucks plying the streets of Auckland.
“We used to despatch jobs by radio telephone. You’d have to repeat instructions and drivers had to listen to everyone else. Now we can send five jobs to a driver and we know he will see them all on the screen of his M-Nav 800. And we can check and see when he’s picked them all up.
“We need to know where everyone is at all times. And we do, because it’s all up on the big screen. That gives us the ability to see where everyone is and what they’re doing – whether they’re on the road or on site. If a customer asks ‘Where’s your driver?’ we can say, ‘He’s right outside your door. He arrived at 8:27.’ The system works off GPS, and GPS doesn’t lie,” says Bowman.
He states that the system has also reduced possibilities for unauthorised use of the vehicles by the drivers.
AJ Tutill pays for the Navman system on a monthly basis, which allows it to calculate costs accurately and cuts down on any possible fluctuations. Since payment is based on the number of trucks using the system
Bowman believes that the firm is in a good place with its information technology investments now.
“We don’t have many investments planned in 2014. We are fairly happy with what we have got. We have got our PCs, we have got ICOS and Navman systems working. We are not looking to make changes there.
“We are quite a way into the journey rather than beginning, which is very nice,” he says.