SRT Logistics on the road to more efficient deliveries
How telematics, a new business core system and other new applications are transforming the freight provider’s internal processes and customer service.
Hobart-based SRT Logistics operates around 100 trucks and 175 trailers from three depots in Tasmania and another in Victoria. It serves the food industry, with clients ranging from organic farm microbusinesses to major companies such as retail giant Woolworths and beverage company Lion.
SRT adopted CMS Transport Systems' Freight2020 software in 2011, after realising that the system it previously used could no longer support its growth, explains SRT general manager of finance and IT Leigh Cripps.
A big advantage of Freight2020 – which is built on technology provided by Progress Software – is that it allows the entry of data before an event occurs, rather than after. For example, the system produces daily trip sheets for drivers instead of expecting the details of the trip to be recorded manually and then keyed in later.
There are two main projects currently underway: installing in-cab systems and connecting them to Freight 2020, and implementing a workforce rostering system and integrating it with Freight 2020.
The in-cab systems come from Telstra subsidiary MTData. They capture telematic information such as distance travelled, speeding alerts, and harsh braking or cornering, as well as video feeds from four cameras located around the vehicle.
Some data, for instance fuel consumption, is displayed on the in-cab screen (more precisely, a tablet) – “just a bit of feedback for drivers,” says Cripps. Though that's not the end of the story: if one truck consistently uses more fuel than others regardless of the driver, that could indicate a maintenance issue that should be addressed.
That screen has a sign-on-glass capability, making it possible to capture proof of delivery without resorting to paper records or requiring drivers to use yet another device. Integration with Freight 2020 means the data goes where it is needed, and allows on-time delivery reports to be generated completely automatically. There's also the potential to relay reports and other information to a customer portal operated by SRT, or even directly to customers' own systems.
It takes about a day to install the hardware in each vehicle, and Cripps hopes to complete the project by September this year.
As for workforce rostering, that task is currently performed with spreadsheets. SRT is implementing Riteq's employee rostering system, which will help compile rosters, distribute them to staff, allow them to clock on and off via a vein (finger/thumb) scanner, compare hours worked against hours rostered, and then feed the relevant information into Freight 2020's payroll module.
“The more you can get away from human intervention, the less the risk of errors,” Cripps told Business IT.
Another benefit is that this approach gives depot managers much better visibility of hours worked.
There are also advantages for staff. Eliminating data entry errors removes a significant source of payslip errors, knowing shift patterns and working hours well in advance helps with work-life balance, and the electronic work diary will prompt them when it is time to take mandatory breaks.
Once these projects are complete, Freight2020 will be SRT's primary source of most digital data. Due to its importance, SRT has engaged Progress to manage the underlying databases, which are hosted by SRT's outsourcer. Progress uses a follow-the-sun model to provide round-the-clock support. SRT added a replication server to its setup after being hit by ransomware. It is now better placed to recover quickly from serious incidents.
“The three companies [Progress, CMS Transport Systems and the hosting company] work pretty closely together,” says Cripps. For example, CMS Transport Systems provides monthly feedback about the state of the system – which can include warnings along the lines of “expect storage requirements to exceed current capacity in three months' time” – and the hosting company takes the appropriate action.
So what are the benefits for customers?
Data accuracy is a big one – the use of scanners when loading and unloading helps ensure accuracy, and allows SRT to know where everything is at all times. Customers can either enter orders online through SRT's portal, or send them as a file which is then imported into Freight2020.
Capturing proofs of delivery is also important. In addition to getting an on-screen signature on delivery, drivers can use the tablet's camera to capture an image of the receiving company's docket. This is a significant improvement because some of SRT's customers won't be paid for their goods unless they present their customers' dockets.
In future, the telematics capabilities being deployed by SRT will allow some customers to get a live estimated time of arrival for their deliveries. Given the sensitivity of delivery slots in some parts of this industry, that's a non-trivial matter.
“Technology is a big part of our industry and we're not shy of taking advantage of it,” says Cripps.
Next: How Lucky Pet has automated its logistics and delivery processes