Trucking industry: We’re moving ahead with IT

TORONTO — The trucking industry wants to change perceptions about its ability to strategy deploy technology, executives told Supply Chain & Logistics Canada’s 2003 Annual Conference and Tradeshow Thursday.

Michael Ham, vice-president

of business services at Cancom Tracking in Mississauga, Ont., said that the trucking industry is the largest investor per capita of technology, employing 350,000 men and women in IT-related jobs across the country. And yet, he said, other members of the business community don’t see the sector that way.

“We don’t have an image of being a technologically proficient industry. We need to do a better job of showing this,” said David Bradley, the chief executive officer of the Ontario Trucking Association.

Norm Sneyd, president of Highland Transport in Markham, Ont., said that technology has become key to his company’s success.

“Technology is critical, not only in running the company, but running the business. It enables us to do more with less people, and we are able to do things we could have never done 15 years ago. We know in advance if a driver will not meet his schedule tomorrow,” Sneyd said.

In the formerly paper-based industry, many transport organizations are turning to imaging solutions, and are employing tracking systems, business intelligence products, and optimization tools. The key to successfully handling all of this technology is integration, according to vice-president of M.I.S. at Toronto-based XTL Transport Inc. Doug Kimmerly, who provided a case study of his organization to the group.

At XTL, which boasts a carrier fleet of 450 trucks and 1,200 trailers, information is now stored once and stays the same throughout the enterprise, he said. The firm has decided to focus on spending its technology budget on infrastructure.

“A lot of software packages and technology have great presentations with colours, graphics, pictures and flashing things, but it’s how the data is structured that matters,” he said. “If you build on a solid base of technology, it will stand the test of time.”

For example, Kimmerly said that XTL Transport is currently using programs on a daily basis that were originally written in the early 1970s. While they have been added to and customized over the years, nothing is changed unless benefit can truly be gained from it, he said.

XTL Transport’s current technologies include AS/400, Lotus Notes for all document information, Netware Networking, EDI, optimization, satellite, trailer tracking and imaging.

He said that one of the lessons learned in terms of technology implementation is that it is important to wait until the technology is ready. XTL Transport began considering an imaging solution in the early 1990s, but held off because it was felt that it would not be the best use of resources.

“We banked on it getting better and cheaper, which it did — unlike satellites,” he said. The result of waiting was better product, which was more stable. “The technology needs to be ready for you as much as you need to be ready for the technology.”

Kimmerly said that what all organizations need to realize with any implementation is that there are no IT-only projects.

“As brilliant as we IT people think we are, we can’t do it alone. We’re simply helping put a project into place.”

The supply chain conference wraps up Friday.

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