Venture Logistics, a full-service trucking and logistics company, was facing a challenge in communicating data between its transportation management system (TMS) and clients.
“We were always behind the eight ball, which lead to our customers telling us that our data failed and we’d missed out on orders or missed out on payments,” said Tom Jeffries, Director of Transportation Systems at Venture. There was a cascading effect on backhauls — the return trip of a commercial truck that is transporting freight back over all or part of the same route it took to get to its current location — and layovers for drivers.
Venture has about 1,000 drivers, mostly with the company, but there are some owner-operators as well. Its customers include everyone from big box chains like Walmart to dry goods companies. It provides over-the-road (OTR), long- and short-haul, dedicated, and rail services. In addition to the asset side, it has brokerage and cross-docking operations.
Higher costs were coupled with issues that revolved around fulfilling customer requirements and manually reworking orders; and troubles with seamlessly gaining actionable data particularly affected its customer scorecards. Its TMS “can import, export, update, and auto-create just about anything EDI, and we have well-trained users that monitor the customers, drivers, and carriers,” Jeffries said, but additionally Venture needs to report back on locations of freight, check calls, and so on. That means it has to pull data from there and push to other software to interface with customers.
“Since we do have different parts of the whole company — drivers, brokerages, carriers, cross dock operations — we have different databases, and using just EDI doesn’t allow for data updates, calls, and triggers,” according to Jeffries.
While the company is mostly dealing with AS2 connections, it also has customers using FTP and SFTP protocols — and some even tender by emails.
Over the past two to three years the industry has witnessed rapid shifts and adaptions in data integration needs. “End-to-end business flows and exchanges of information are constantly occurring across the business ecosystem of partners, customers, and suppliers,” said Vidya Chadaga, VP of Products at Cleo, which provides the cloud integration platform.
A Case of Complexities
The more complex the ecosystem, the more necessary it is to maintain ongoing control of and visibility into both internal and external integrations, she said. Cleo’s platform provides both EDI and API integrations, including for FTP and SFTP, as well as file-based integrations in the same solution. It also has more than 900 pre-built business connections and profiles for companies to take advantage of if they want to design and build the integrations themselves.
API needs will vary from company to company depending on their business ecosystem. Chadaga said the platform can easily connect many different APIs as well as business tools to better understand the flows of information and processes between each API or tool.
Previously Venture outsourced its integration work. Chadaga contends that there are many data integration solution providers that take a black-box approach to the issue, leaving clients without a real handle on the processes behind the solution. The pre-built connections and profiles in the Cleo Integration Cloud means that customers don’t need to hire outside experts or consultants, she said; they can just draw upon what’s there. Cleo does have a managed services organization that companies can work together with to build integrations if they want to, or they can combine working on their own with managed services engagements.
Venture is now using the Cleo Integration Cloud to help solve its transport protocol issues:
“Just knowing what our data looked like, what it was translating to, when and where it was going and when it was coming to us as well as any delays in transmissions,” Jeffries said.
Hand-coded data can be added if needed to each TP so that operations can keep track of different details about the freight, and the loads can be sorted and displayed for users within the TMS view and grids.
“For the IT departments, it is very central to see, view, and monitor all our data now on the dashboards, whereas in the past we had no visibility,” Jeffries said.
Using a cloud platform allows businesses to design, build, and orchestrate and optimize their integrations and processes in the way that is most effective for them, thanks to the reduced cost and expanded capabilities of cloud-based operations, said Chadaga. “Cloud-based solutions are essentially leveling the playing field for businesses of all sizes.”
About 80 percent of Venture’s transactions have moved to the Cleo Integration Cloud. The company accomplished that in eight months, and the other 20 percent of its transactions should go over this year. “It should be approximately 1 million transactions per month by end of the year — unless more business is added, which I am sure there will be,” said Jeffries.
So much of the abundance of data businesses have today is invaluable. “Nobody knows what and how new technologies and APIs will emerge in the future, but we’re hopeful that Cleo Integration Cloud platform will contain the capabilities and information our customers need, thanks to our ecosystem integration approach and strategy,” said Chadaga.
Cleo hasn’t solved all of Venture’s issues, yet. “But we are in a much better place even to know what our issues are, which is a huge help compared to our outsourced third parties in the past,” said Jeffries.
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