24 August 2011
Bespoke IT platform leads to efficiencies and greater customer satisfaction
When the Fortec Distribution Network was looking for a new IT system those running it had a clear vision of what they wanted to be able to offer their national network of members. With 65 licensees – each a highly respected distribution business – together delivering thousands of pallets containing goods for customers across the UK and Europe, good communication is vital.
A top priority for Fortec was to find a system that was 100% web-based which licensees could use from at any time from any computer anywhere which had a connection to the internet, rather than from a specific terminal in their office. Moreover, because of the nature of Fortec’s structure, the system had to be fully configurable both to licensees’ systems and their customers’ systems, work across multiple hubs and offer full track and trace of consignments.
There were two particular features that Fortec wanted to introduce in order to make their customers’ and licensees’ lives easier: central billing and an automated claims procedure. Finally, Fortec wanted a system that would grow with the network: one which could expand to include additional features in response to suggestions from members or the demands of the market.
After assessing various options, Fortec concluded that Staffordshire-based Traderman Systems Ltd’s tmWare offered the only fully 100% web-based solution at the time that met their requirements.
Founded in 1984 by Managing Director Shaun Coughlin, Traderman could offer an additional benefit: many of its close-knit team of long-standing employees had not only expertise in IT but had joined from the logistics industry, giving them an insight into and working knowledge of the sector. Traderman worked closely with Fortec for many months, developing a fully bespoke system based around modules of tmWare and writing an online claims procedure that has proved to be hugely popular with Fortec licensees.
After extensive testing, the whole system was switched on in September 2009 and since then the results have been tangible: increased efficiency at Fortec’s 140,000 square foot hub at Daventry in Northamptonshire and increased customer satisfaction. The tmWare system manages the whole process, from ordering, planning, loading, route scheduling, through to invoicing and claims handling, giving full track and trace, automated Proof of Delivery and up-to-the-minute Key Performance Indicators back to management.
One example of a significant enhancement is at the Daventry hub where incoming drivers no longer have to queue up to be told which loading bay they have been allocated. They are now told in advance which saves time and, in turn, results in the end customers receiving their goods earlier.
Another is the system’s ability to operate separate tariffs for goods going through the Northern Hub (at Warrington), to reflect the shorter distances they would have to travel to reach it, compared to the Daventry hub.
No expensive equipment is required to access the tmWare. Licensees only need a password and access to the internet and they have the reassurance that all data is backed up at multiple data centres and is secure. tmWare is a modular system and Fortec requested many modules that Traderman did not have at the outset but was able to develop, with input from Fortec and its licensees.
The most notable was the claims handling module that allows claims to be filed on line, with co-ordination of all claims details, including uploading and storing relevant documents and photographs. The module issues automatic alerts when action is required and upon settlement of a claim, it links automatically to the invoicing module which can then generate transactions to billed or credited to appropriate parties.
Another enhancement is the ability to compare the planned journey times with the actual journey times, enabling licensees to plan out their routes more effectively in the future by producing better forecasts of vehicle movements. Since the switchover, Traderman and Fortec have continued to refine the system and develop new applications. Scanning at depots is due to be introduced in 2011 which will further improve the efficiency of Fortec’s operation.