Surround Technologies - Software at the Speed of Business

Freight Management Systems Reduces CapEx

Surround Technologies, LLC, an independent consulting firm in New Jersey, is releasing for GA, General Availability, its long awaited Freight Management System (FMS). Developed and refined over the last year this suite of applications can be configured to meet your individual business requirements and can be deployed with a native AS/400 interface, a highly graphical Windows interface, or even a browser based, e-business, Web interface. A complete ERP, commercial grade, e-business ready solution, FMS is packed with features and capabilities usually found only in much more expensive software. Targeted at the small to medium sized carriers with between 50 to 500 trucks, FMS lets smaller companies offer sophisticated services that were previously only feasible for their larger competitors.

Solution by Demand

Lee Paul, senior partner at Surround Technologies, explains how FMS was born. “A few years ago a trucking company called KAK Enterprises came to us, saying that their current system was no longer sufficient. They were using an NT server with a homegrown software solution, but as the company was growing, the system came to its knees. Then they bought a Unix based solution but found out that the system was very difficult to use. The system was not graphical, very complex and they didn’t use it at all. Then they came to us.”

“It soon became apparent that we could not fix their problems nor meet their needs with their existing software, so we extensively investigated the market for a better solution. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything that would fit their needs without a major capital outlay.”

“We did some further research and found that there are nearly 83,000 trucking companies in the US alone that would fit the same profile as KAK. We saw there was a market and decided to create a packaged solution. Targeting companies with between 50 and 500 trucks, we developed FMS from the ground up.”

“There is great growth in the trucking industry and demand for IT solutions targeted at this industry. The trucking industry, historically, is not very computer oriented. Now, many companies deploy efficient ‘just in time’ inventory models, and trucking companies have to improve their efficiency. Also the continual rapid growth of e-business has fueled a greater need for more high-tech freight services. Last but not least, the US economy is very strong.”

In the last year, many other systems have penetrated the market, but none offer the depth that can be found in FMS and none can offer the flexibility and scalability of FMS’s deployment options. In fact, only a handful of packages are even available on the AS/400.

The Right Platform and Tools

“We were considering the options of an NT server, an AS/400 server or a Unix server and undoubtedly decided for the AS/400 as the preferred server. We saw the AS/400 model 170 coming out and considered this as a viable competitor to NT. At this stage the AS/400 is simply a better machine. However, we knew we could not ignore NT as a server of choice by our customers. We knew that ultimately, we would need to support the NT platform as well.”

“FMS was built from scratch. We had a look at VB, C++, Delphi, Power Builder, as well as Synon, Magic, LANSA, and several other tools. We decided to use LANSA to develop FMS from the ground up. This decision was primarily due to the cross-platform capabilities of LANSA. It was the only tool available that could be used to create Windows and Web client-side software and NT or AS/400 server-side software. There were many other facets of LANSA that impressed us as well.”

The System

The biggest challenge in the trucking industry is processing orders, from taking the order to picking up and delivering the freight, to the numerous methods in which payment for the carriage is made. The shipping company must often deal with a number of different people and organizations for one shipment. From a single customer/pickup with a single delivery, to sales agents for 3rd party brokers for customers with multiple shippers and consignees that may wish to conceal their shipper’s identity using blind billing. There are also millions of different kinds of freight and equally as many different ways of rating the carriage. All this is integrated into the FMS order processing modules.

“Other typical challenges in the trucking industry is the dispatch operations of drivers and equipment plus the huge number of documents involved and the different and often changing regulations per state,” continues Lee. “We find it easy to integrate with AS/400 software such as JD Edwards, PC software such as PC*Miler, GPS Software, and document imaging software. For example, trucking companies pay state tax based on fuel usage and mileage in a specific state. FMS integrates with a mapping package specifically for the trucking industry, called PC*Miler. We can call the map image from FMS and get the fuel usage and mileage information and use it in the necessary tax calculation. Adding to that, a GPS Module can tell you where your trucks are, and document imaging can manage all the paperwork.”

e-Freight

“The trucking industry is coming up big on the Internet,” continues Lee. “When you look at the web sites of big companies like Federal Express, UPS, Yellow Freight, etc. you can order freight and track the whole process. The computer based Business-to-Business needs for manufacturers and e-tailors to the distribution and carriage companies are fast becoming a requirement.”

“E-business simply makes perfect sense for freight carriers, and I am surprised they are not jumping into even faster than they are. The biggest cost and bottleneck in the business processes of most carriers is in the Dispatch office answering the inbound calls for both new orders and delivery status inquiries. The majority of these calls could be eliminated through online access to the same information and order requests. This one solution alone can significantly reduce a company’s support costs, increase its current staff’s productivity, and provide a great solution for their customers.”

Software
Packages:

Freight Management Systems (FMS) includes Customer and Contacts Management, Order Entry and Order Processing, Freight Rating, Dispatch Operations, Equipment Maintenance and Inventory Control, Billing and Accounts Receivable. Browser based Order Entry and Order Tracking.
FMS also has open interfaces to Document Imaging, GPS, PC*Miler, JDEdwards and separate EDI modules.

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