Summary

Vital International Logistics (VILS) is a logistics management company, specialising in end to end management of the entire logistics chain. While they excel in this department, their existing management system was preventing their growth. omniEffect was contracted to develop a web application which would provide them with the tools they need to take their business to the next level.

The one core requirement for the application was to take the existing management system, and Excel spreadsheet, and upgrade it to facilitate the employees of Vital International Logistics accessing and modifying the data easily. The other core requirement was to allow customers of Vital International Logistics to track their own orders.

The application successfully delivered in under six weeks, with all core functionality fulfilled and many additional features. The experience for the employees of Vital International Logistics when they are all using the data has been vastly improved through the delivery of a web interface through which their data can be accessed and modified.

A web interface has also been created to allow their customers can access their own shipping orders and track the order’s progress. This has significantly reduced the amount of time which employees must spend on the phone with customers information them of the progress of the customers shipping orders.

Other functionality has been fulfilled, including integration with Workflow Max for the projects and jobs, report generation which present key statistics and the status of current VILS operations and a graphical dashboard for employees which information such as a calendar which keeps employees up to date with all shipping movements. All these additional features improve the efficiency with which the employees of Vital International Logistics can perform management and data tasks, giving them more time to expand the business.

Finally, the public website was expanded from simply order tracking to include general information about the business, including contact details so potential customers can get in touch. While this was a simple improvement, the public internet presence will significantly increase the growth which can now be achieved with the other features provided by the application.

While the first phase of this project has been completed, the development is far from over. Because of the quality of the application which was delivered, and how fast the application was delivered, Vital International Logistics has expressed interest in continuing the development of the application. Both Vital and omniEffect have several ideas for how to expand the application, and the team here at omniEffect is excited to see where we can take this project next!

The Client

Vital International Logistics

Industry – Logistics

The Project

Building a new web application with database interactivity, workflow max integration and a track & trace system.

The Problem

When Vital International Logistics came to omniEffect they had several inefficiencies in their organisation which were preventing their growth.

Reliance on Excel Spreadsheets

The first problem which this application had to solve was VILS’ reliance on using an excel spreadsheet to manage shipping orders, customers, suppliers, warehouses, shipping stages and commodities. This system was inefficient and difficult to use. Employees looking through the data were presented with a huge volume of difficult to read information, and inserting new entries was even more difficult. Additionally, the only way to avoid fragmenting their data across several individual copies of the spreadsheet, it could only be updated by one person at a time. This was administrated by the company director, taking up valuable time he could be using to manage other facets of the business.

The solution to this problem was to implement a centralised, multi-user, dashboard on a web application from which all employees could access and modify the business’ data. This dashboard had to not only provide this functionality but provide it in such a way as it was easy and efficient for all employees to use.

Manual Customer Order Tracking

Additionally, the employees of VILS were constantly being contacted by customers asking for updates on the progress of their orders. This problem required employees to spend valuable time manually looking up the customers details in the spreadsheet, and essentially read the customers the data which was listed there.

Since all the data was already available, and the role of the employee in this case was simply to look at the data and read it back to the customer, the solution to this problem was to cut out the middle man. This meant the creating of a system on the web application from which the customer could directly view the data instead of having an employee read it to them.

Other Problems

Solving the two primary issues required the creating of a web application with a public website and administrative dashboard. With both systems already in place there was room to solve other problems and add new functionality very easily.

One of these problems was Vital’s lack of internet presence, making it difficult for potential customers to find out and get in touch with Vital. Since a public website was already being created for existing customers to track their orders, this problem was solved simply by creating information and contact pages on the website for public access.

Vital was utilising an existing system called Workflow Max, which required time to manually enter data into. With the new solution omniEffect was creating the data from the application could be very easily integrated with Workflow Max.

The dashboard provided the opportunity to solve the problem of keeping employees up to date with the operations of the shipments. This could be very easily solved by implementing a graphical calendar on the dashboard which contained important dates for each of the shipping orders, and notifications that are sent to employees containing updates about the shipping orders.

The Solution

Administrator Dashboard

The first part of the solution was to create an administration dashboard for staff members. This dashboard has many powerful features which have vastly increased the efficiency of day to day business operations.

Dashboard Landing Page

The dashboard landing page is what employees of Vital will see first every time they log into the system. This page provides them with immediate information to keep them up to date with the operations of the business and allows them to quickly and easily access the rest of the solution. The calendar section provides staff members with up to date information about upcoming shipping order events, allowing them to make informed decisions about managing those shipments. The activities section draws attention to activities which are occurring on that day, providing helpful reminders to staff members about managing those events.

Logistics Data Management

This section of the application allows staff members to easily access and modify the company’s data. This system encapsulates all the functionality which was provided by the excel spreadsheet, namely the storage of all the company’s data, and many more features which make the management and usage of this information easier and more powerful. Through this web interface, multiple users can simultaneously edit the data from their own machines, without requiring the oversight of the company director. Changes made by any staff member are immediately seen by all other staff members, greatly increasing the efficiency of data operations. The data provided by the original excel spreadsheet was refactored to produce individual entities which encapsulate an idea. These include the clients, projects, shipping orders, commodities and delivery stages. This refactoring has made it far easier for staff members to look up the data they are specifically looking for, for example looking for a specific client no longer requires sifting through an entry for each delivery stage to get the attached client. This process of finding data has also been improved by the search and sorting functionality provided by each of the entity pages. Any of the columns can be sorted or searched using this system, which allows employees to easily find the data they are looking for.

Because omniEffect took the time to understand Vital’s data we were able to deliver a power system for staff members to view and edit individual entities. This system allows the staff member to edit every piece of information of the item, as expected. In addition to this, the pages which represent specific items also show the data which is linked to them and allows a staff member to edit this data. This saves the staff member from needing to look around other sections of the application to find the data they are working on. In addition to this, a summary of helpful information from linked data is shown on the page. For example, a staff member can click on a project and immediately know what shipping orders are within the project, the number of items in the project, the total delivery stages, and the start and end date of the project. This greatly reduces the time a staff member has to spend tracking down all of this information.

Workflow Max Integration

The team at Vital International Logistics utilises Workflow Max to manage their workflows. This system was integrated with our solution through a Workflow Max Sync job, which can routinely access and synchronise the data from Workflow Max to the data stored in the solution. This job can be scheduled and run as often as the staff desire.

Reporting

At the request of VILS, a few data reporting systems were created. This was primarily to facilitate the continued use of their data with external entities which only accepted data in an excel format. Currently the VILS data reports include a statistics report, which gathers statistics from all entities over a given timeframe, a master order report which creates an excel spreadsheet with all their data, and an accounting helper report which provides a spreadsheet with all the information their account need, in a format which makes it easier for them to use.

These reporting tools allow employees of VILS to spend less time manually creating these spreadsheets, and more time growing the business.

Public Website

Track and Trace System

The track and trace system was created to fulfil the core requirement of providing a method for customers to view information about their order, specifically where it currently is and when it will be arriving.

Once a customer has logged in they are able to open the Track & Trace section on the public website. They are then presented with a search bar, which they can enter their tracking code into. If their code matches either a shipping order or delivery stage which they own it will be displayed to them in the sections below.

Tracking for shipping orders shows information such as the order status, the invoice amount and expected delivery dates. The calendar graphically shows the events, such as commodity delivery and delivery stage movement, which are related to the shipping order. A list of commodities which exist within the order is displayed, which can be expanded to display information about that specific commodity. Each of the commodities also has details, such as expected delivery date and a calendar with important dates for that commodity. There is a list of all delivery stages which this commodity will go through, with a link to open tracking for the delivery stage.

The delivery stage tracking works in much the same way, with information such as delivery type, origin and destination port, estimated time of departure and arrival and a list of commodities (belonging to the customer) in the delivery stage. This list contains a link for all commodities to the shipping order they belong to.

The primary use of this system is to allow a customer to view the information related to their shipping orders and related delivery stages. For this use case, the system works perfectly. Customers no longer need to call the company director every time they want to check the delivery date, instead, they can simply enter their tracking code and view the data themselves. This has freed up the director to work on other tasks to grow the business.

Additionally, this feature has been designed so staff members can make use of it to easily track the same information. Instead of being limited to their own orders, staff members can see every order which they search for. This allows staff members to view the linkage between shipping orders, commodities and delivery stages in a simple and visually appealing way, rather than the original system of an excel spreadsheet.

Public Website

A public site was also created for Vital International Logistics. This site gives potential customers information about the company, and existing customers an easy location to access the track and trace system.

The public site has everything which is expected of a public website, such as information pages, contact information, email forms and customer login. Also included is a blogs system for the news and FAQ, which allows the staff of Vital International Logistics to create new content for the website easily through the admin dashboard.

Conclusion

The new web application for Vital International Logistics has successfully addressed the core issues of company efficiency through the improved data access methods and customer track and trace system. Many other features were added to ensure this application provided the highest return on investment possible, such as reporting and graphical information.

While the first phase of this project has been completed, the development is far from over. Because of the quality of the application which was delivered, and how fast the application was delivered, Vital International Logistics has expressed interest in continuing the development of the application. Both Vital and omniEffect have several ideas for how to expand the application, and the team here at omniEffect is excited to see where we can take this project next!

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