Data visualization for real-time adjustments to freight mix

When you operate in a price-sensitive industry, such as transport and logistics, being able to offer an efficient and effective service is key to attracting and retaining customers. And one way to achieve these efficiencies is through driving more value from the data available.

Followmont Transport, a Queensland-based transport company, realized it needed to empower its managers to improve business practices by better analysing customer and freight trends to optimize efficiencies and better service its customers.

One trend it wasn’t able to accurately determine, often until it was too late, was when customers were reducing the amount of freight Followmont was carrying for them. By the time any drop off was brought to their manager’s attention, it was usually past a critical point and opportunities to address potential issues with the customers were lost.

One of the best outcomes is that we have made contact with customers who we may not have known we needed to until it was too late.

Paul Smith
Chief Information Officer

Followmont has a fleet of around 600 vehicles and specializes in the delivery of general freight and magazine distribution.

Its Chief Information Officer Paul Smith says the business carries about 130,000 consignments a month. “We operate in a large-volume, tight-margin business,” Smith says. “In order to grow we needed an accurate view of our freight mix to identify trends to introduce greater efficiencies and better engage with our customers in the longer term.”

Outdated information put profits at risk

Gaining an accurate view of the freight mix required the ability to turn its data into useful information, to help managers more effectively load trucks and optimise runs and staffing. Followmont’s existing reporting system was cumbersome and reports could not be generated fast enough to match the speed of business.

Reports running daily and weekly were quickly outdated and did not provide enough information for each depot manager to decide what actions could be taken to optimise each consignment’s freight mix.

“In the transport industry, margins are higher for small freight,” Smith says. “If we were carrying a lot of low-margin freight we would need to adapt our freight mix. But we needed the business intelligence to be able to work out how to do this.”

As a mid-sized organization with a constrained IT budget and no self-service reporting capabilities, there was a large strain on the company’s IT department.

“We had one person dedicated to producing reports, and often by the time these reports were in our managers’ hands, the data was no longer relevant,” Smith says. “As a result, trends weren’t spotted until it was too late.”

Analytics uncovers new trends and insights

Followmont has always had a strong transport management system and the management team knew increasing its competitive edge required more effective use to be made of the data using analytics and insight.

“This is the reason we went looking for a solution; we needed to enhance our management system,” Smith says. “Our data is accurate but management were being presented with too much data to determine realistic trends. We wanted an easy solution to quickly provide our managers with the information they needed, not just pages of data.”

Instant reporting drives better pricing decisions

Followmont chose SAS® Visual Analytics to help it generate instant reports and allow for decisions to be made on the fly by managers using visualisations with real-time data. One of the key benefits for Followmont was the technology’s simplicity, which enables drivers and depot managers to access reports on the iPad®.

Since the implementation, underperforming runs and potential customer issues can be spotted immediately. “Now our sales and depot managers can see this information quickly and take action to improve the freight mix to make it more efficient,” Smith says. “The ultimate benefit is that any at-risk customers are identified and issues addressed so we can continue to provide them with a superior service.”

Smith says while the technology is helping identify and retain at-risk customers, it is also being used to reward others. “If we find that certain customers are increasing the amount of business they have with us, we can start giving them better rates as a way of showing our thanks for their loyal service,” he says. “This enables us to be more proactive in rewarding and retaining them, which ultimately means better relationships with our customers.”

Increasing business participation and innovation

SAS is also being used across more areas in the business, such as human resources.

“We have developed an HR portal that can quickly show all service anniversaries, sick days and annual leave,” Smith says. “We are very keen, especially in this industry, to have all employees well rested. We are now able to easily see those who may not have taken leave for several years and encourage them to take a holiday.”

He adds, every week another idea comes up where SAS can be used.  “When we ask our managers what they want it’s amazing what ideas come out,” he says. “It’s very satisfying watching users interact with the program and seeing the light bulb moment as they come up with ideas.”

Smith says having the management team able to look at reports weekly and make fact-based decisions from the data has changed the way the business operates.

“Our use of SAS is an evolving strategy,” he says. “One of the best outcomes is that we have made contact with customers who we may not have known we needed to until it was too late.”

Challenge

  • Calculate the best freight mix for its various runs.
  • Identify potential customer churn.

Solution

SAS® Visual Analytics

Benefits

Followmont is now able to generate reports in real-time, enabling the company to make appropriate adjustments in order to continue to provide its customers with superior service.

The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.

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