by May 14, 2014 0 comments

When every nano-second of fixing a new nut counts, bigger things like aerodynamic design or engine torque can seem to pale in comparison. And why not, aren’t these so-called bigger factors becoming common denominators rather than exclusive footholds, thanks to the pace at which technology, financial strength or design engineers are becoming increasingly accessible to many teams.

The reality is getting more and more unrelenting every day, be it a formula circuit or the lanes of business races. Getting and maintaining an enviable lead in markets today is all about intestines and peripheral vision.
Like Harvinder Singh Banga, VP- IT at Flywheel Logistics has been silently busy using his guts and far-sightedness in reshuffling some pitstop tools with his IT crew recently.

Flywheel is a notable name in the transportation space in India that claims to be rather a shipper with a unique customer-touch-point strategy. Its aim is to enhance the service experience beyond the transaction.

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Its span of services entails a verstaile mix viz. open-body conventional trucks high capacity ISO standard 20 ft containers (TEU), Door to Door (Over 150 destinations) delivery with 100 per cent GPS enabled fleet, good track-&-trace experience, online booking of containers, advance booking discount, free transit insurance of goods, money-back guarantee, time definite with express transit time, seven days a week call-center support, online ePOD, Demand Draft on Delivery (DOD), Delivery Against Consignee Copy (DACC), dedicated fleet of ISO standard containers, single-time usable seal, smart trucks with low emissions and experienced teams to assist in statutory obligations.

All the above offerings can certainly stand sidelined as just some adjectives on a sales brochure unless there is enough backstage support from IT and operations. That iterates the crucial equation and rhythm that IT and operations team need to maintain.

Whether it is an edge-of-the-curve hub-and-spoke LCL offering or a strong customisation 3PL service, IT’s role only accentuates as the company’s evolution path accelerates.

Well-planned and deeply-entrenched technology systems also go a long way in managing warehouse and distribution services for clients across India, or distribution services such as Dedicated Fleet Solution (DFS) and Cold Chain solutions, (which, by the way, now manages a 350-strong fleet).
Many tough goals like warehouse management, multi-location statutory warehousing, cross docking, receiving, break bulk work, picking/packing, invoicing, secondary distribution, statutory advices, intra-region and intra-city distribution; to name a few; gain from immense agility and inimitable speed of operations that IT equips them with.

 

IT Under the hood
Banga was sure since inception that he and his team would be moving beyond regular IT role radar, and he chose early enough to juxtapose IT model and the company’s operating model on his desk.
He looked hard at some business’s operating boxes like control on vehicle turnaround network strength, statutory assistance, seven days/week call centre support, and free transit insurance of goods etc alongwith SMS Based Tracking, Online Booking, Web Based Track & Trace, Dynamic Online Discounts, 100 per cent Live GPS Equipped Tracking, Strong Availability algorithm etc. There was also in play, the concept of an ‘Optimiser’ which ultimately helps in proper selling.

He knew that for a successful and sharp logistics market play operating costs should be minimised with an unbeatable pricing-level or other service-level comparison in the market.
Something that makes it hard for competition to emulate (or even imitate) strong factors of Flywheel’s operating model. If competition doesn’t have concept of containers in FCL and LCL, and lacks strengths of transparency, or technology, or a fully GPS-enabled force, that makes the battle a cinch; thanks to IT.
“We launched our operations with a unique order portal having very strong algorithm for booking the fleet in advance for next 90 days window. It allowed online discounting with varieties of choice of the Logistics Users. So, system is totally linked with internal operations team along with the call centre where CRM team is dedicatedly managing the customer.

Behind the curtains: A quick view
Picture how logical process flow for Flywheel container movement starts from contract creation for a customer where contract is a legal entity containing details such as contract terms, contract period and rates, special discounts etc. Upon post-contract creation the customer is provided with a User ID and password for accessing the portal for order booking. The customer can search for an available reservation using the search functionality. On entering values for search parameters, system displays multiple options, with three best options for the day of booking as requested by the customer and one each for the previous and next day. An optimizer running at the back-end assigns vehicles for pick-up at the origin location. The unique business model of Flywheel also required dynamic allocation of vehicles on routes. This meant a very high degree of planning and optimization for vehicle allocation process.
As Banga elaborates, “As a IT Team, our continuous focus was to build/ implement a world-class logistics end users apps for increased visibility, reduced freight costs and other transaction costs, minimized manual efforts, best-fit scenarios for end users, effective communication and collaboration with partners, better control, compliance, service level quality etc.”

Helmets for the big drive
No journey is without its share of learnings. Skills, solutions, alternatives, first-gear lessons, potholes, advanced learning curves; everything mattered in making the initiative into something of an alive-and-kicking animal.
Though Flywheel planned the operations in very innovative manner, and it tried searching some standard systems with high-end IT solution providers which can be customised as per unique requirements, Banga unveils that they got some to start with but couldn’t work completely as they were demanding degree of customisation more than 75 per cent levels. “As we were aware there was little possibility of off-the-shelf solution due to uniqueness in our business style so finally we developed it and complete integrated with the standard finance ERP. We do have multiple solutions and systems in the organisation, but the good thing about them is they all are tightly integrated.”
As to the human corollary, the company tried to build the skill set on its differentiated and new processes.
He applauds the side of having a strong management with an undeterred focus to help the team with maximum ethics and minimum investment baggage.

The sweet sound of a beastly engine
Banga and Flywheel today stand with a sigh of satisfaction as they watch both IT engines and Business wheels vrooming at top speed together. Both tangible and intangible benefits have rolled in.
“We were able to create a different product in the Industry for the Logistics market and dovetail that with higher brand values and highest existent in operational value.” Beams Banga.
Almost all logical and operational advantages have been delivered, except the kind of premium which they were expecting from the market.

 

“Tracking is the heart of Logistics and we have a lot of functionalities available in our tracking, which can be done through mobile too; like post pick-up tracking – booking, intransit, delivered, multiple HWB tracking, multiple order tracking, POD, Order number, pre-pick-up, invoice-based and undelivered status trackings.” he observes.
The initiative has fetched Banga and his bosses in business cubicles more than a temporary speedometer. More so with the way the system looks shaped up for bigger things ahead.

Talking of competition and some hard-to-catch differentiators if any, Banga shares the how the rules of game have already changed.
“What we can be easily claim as our edge areas are concept of order booking, dynamic EDD, complete GPS based system, completely online from order management to order tracking, unique processes, different operating model, selling containers services instead of truck services and a lot more. Plus, we are more focused on containers where material is spaced, instead of vehicles, and sharp on increases in effectiveness, constantly/closely working with technology that works in-line with the newer concepts.”
The big ground clearance is the feeling that this is an innovation yet not replicated by Flywheel’s peers and contemporaries. “Even today as per our knowledge we are not aware of any evidence of the similar implementation fully in other companies in the industry.”

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