Alpha Transport: A Little Digital Goes a Long Way

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By: David Flake, VCI Business Development Manager

Introduction

Trucking is the life blood of the U.S. economy and tends to be a leading indicator of its health. The trucking industry is a cyclical sector that includes about 110,000 for-hire carriers and 350,000 independent owner-operators. There are many critical issues for the industry including regulations like Hours-Of-Service (HOS) and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, and challenges around driver shortages, retention, health/wellness and distraction, and even the lack of available safe truck parking. With many uncertainties about the future, it’s imperative for the trucking industry to find new and innovative ways to manage their operations, become more efficient and perpetuate their leadership position in our nation’s economy.

Alpha Transport is a Utah-based trucking company that has provided fuel hauling services for more than 60 years to customers in the Western United States. The company also provides logistics, broker box, specialized (Hazmat and Heavy Haul) and custom transportation services. In addition, Alpha Transport offers fleet maintenance and support, parts and equipment supply, truck fueling and wash, and safety training support.

With 50+ trucks in their fleet, Alpha has worked hard to establish a reputation for providing safe, efficient and reliable professional services. Their focus on customer care has differentiated them from the competition. This gives Alpha an earned advantage in retaining customers and capturing new business.

1. The Challenge

An ongoing challenge for Alpha is managing the different fuel ordering and reconciliation processes for a wide variety of customers. While some customers can be managed through direct systems access, others are merely facilitated through phone calls and emails. This variance often requires duplicative work and can be very disruptive for dispatch, drivers and the back office. Finding ways to standardize processes across customers and reduce manual effort has been an ongoing need for the company. Addressing this need, however, is too often precluded by daily workloads and a lack of effective tools.

One of the reconciliation activities that can quickly multiply effort is customer requests for documents that facilitate payment for Alpha’s services. These documents are typically scanned and combined into large PDF files that are emailed to the customer to be reviewed, reconciled and approved for payment.

Quite often customers will struggle to find specific documents in the PDF file and will request copies of the document(s) via phone or email. This requires someone to generate a formal request, research and retrieve the appropriate PDF file, find the specific documents, copy them and then email them back to the requestor. Many times, customers will simply call in through dispatch requiring dispatchers to set aside complex load scheduling activities to generate the research request and then go back and try to pick up where they left off. While the requests are disruptive for the dispatchers and other Alpha employees, no effective alternative has been identified.

2. The Solution

VCI was invited by Alpha Transport to help evaluate and accelerate digitalization at the company. This was to be accomplished through a baseline digital assessment and gap analysis in relation to the level of technology usage in Alpha’s operations. The outcomes of the assessment would include a prioritized list of initiatives and a roadmap.

As part of this Digital Intensity Assessment, VCI conducted interviews with various members of the organization. During the interview process, the previously mentioned reconciliation scenario came to light and was well documented. VCI recommended the implementation of an entirely new process using a digital toolkit for collaboration and communication.

The new process entails scanning documents into a shared file structure where they can be readily searched, accessed and reviewed by the customer. Permissions are then granted to customer users for access to the documentation for reconciliation and payment of Alpha’s invoices. Implementing this new digital process was quick for Alpha and required no formal training or financial investment from its customers.

3. The Results

Reduced Effort

The original document request process was time consuming and labor intensive for both Alpha Transport and its customers. Prior to VCI’s Digital Intensity Assessment and recommendations, there were 16 steps involved in the process before Alpha received payment. After implementing the digital solution, Alpha’s documentation requests have evaporated.

Improved Timeframes

Likewise, the time required for customers to reconcile invoices from Alpha has been significantly reduced. Phone calls and emails are no longer necessary and finding the needed documents is quick and simple. This results in the expedient benefit of Alpha’s invoices being approved and paid more quickly.

Less Disruption

Dispatchers and other Alpha employees are no longer disrupted by calls and emails from customers with document requests. This has reduced the amount of distraction from their regular duties and allowed them to be more focused and productive.

Next Steps

Alpha has already moved six of their customers to digital reconciliation process with plans to convert remaining customers as quickly as possible. The added benefits of digitization are further elevating Alpha’s reputation for great customer service. Alpha is also looking for additional ways to use the digital platform to reduce effort and increase efficiency in customer transactions.

Conclusion

Experiencing the rapid return from converting this single business process to digital was transformational for Alpha Transport. VCI’s Digital Intensity Assessment is helping Alpha shift their business paradigm. This shift is the beginning of a culture change as well, moving work from a struggle for incremental process improvement to significant step-change with new and better ways of doing things.

There are significant opportunities in the trucking industry for improvement through digital transformation. VCI’s Digital Intensity Assessment reveals these opportunities and helps companies access the profound benefits of digitization in their operations.

 

For more Information, contact:

Virtual Consulting USA, Inc.

 

Gideon Malherbe, Partner

Email: gideon.malherbe@govci.com Phone: +1 (914) 381-0000

 

David Flake, Business Development Manager

Email: david.flake@govci.com Phone: +1 (801) 362-2242

Paul Leonardi's Bio

Paul Leonardi is the Duca Family Professor of Technology Management at UC Santa Barbara. He holds appointments in the Technology Management Program (TMP) and the Department of Communication. He is also the Investment Group of Santa Barbara Founding Director of the Master of Technology Management Program.

Dr. Leonardi’s research, teaching, and consulting focus on helping companies to create and share knowledge more effectively. He is interested in how implementing new technologies and harnessing the power of informal social networks can help companies take advantage of their knowledge assets to create innovative products and services.

He has authored dozens of articles that have appeared in top journals across the fields of management, organization studies, communication studies, and information systems research. He is also the author of three books on innovation and organizational change. He has won major awards for his research from the Academy of Management, the American Sociological Association, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Association for Information Systems, the International Communication Association, the National Communication Association, and the National Science Foundation.

Over the past decade, he has consulted with for-profit and non-profit organizations about how to improve communication between departments, how to use social technologies to improve internal knowledge sharing, how to structure global product development operations, and how to manage the human aspects of new technology implementation.

Before coming to UCSB, Dr. Leonardi worked at Northwestern University on the faculties of the School of Communication, the McCormick School of Engineering, and the Kellogg School of Management. He received his Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering from the Center for Work, Technology, and Organization at Stanford University.

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Willem Buhrmann's Bio

 

Willem Buhrmann is an experienced mining professional that has extensive African and international experience in project management, strategy implementation and corporate finance. Willem was previously Business Development Manager (Africa) for Rio Tinto Energy and more recently consulted to the wider mining industry including majors and a variety of juniors. He holds degrees in finance (Chartered Accountant) and the legal world (LL.B.)

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