Customer success story
Verastream Host Integrator helps Freightliner become a true 21st century logistics company.
Customers needed real-time electronic tracking information.
Use Verastream Host Integrator to extract shipping data from mainframe application.
- Auto-generated EDI messages with each change in shipping status.
- Rolled out solution in just six weeks.
- Retained and satisfied largest customer.
- Enhanced opportunities for new business.
Formerly part of British Rail, Freightliner Limited is now Britain’s largest intermodal freight operator, transporting over one million containers annually via rail and road. Freightliner operates in four deep-sea shipping ports and 15 inland locations, managing and tracking deliveries from its fleet of 130+ trains and 300 trucks.
Freightliner had been feeling the pressure to provide customer with real-time access to shipping information. So when the company risked losing the business of its largest customer over the lack of electronic tracking, it quickly considered its options and chose Verastream Host Integrator.
Verastream is the most suitable technology for real-time customer-focused applications in environments with host systems, and it delivers rapid results without risk to existing operations.
Traditionally, Freightliner held container status information on mainframes and accessed it manually. Freightliner then relayed the data to the customer by phone, fax, or email. This process was slow, prone to error, and did not meet growing customer demands for real-time access to shipping information.
But when Freightliner’s largest customer—accounting for 30% of their business—demanded real-time, electronic shipping information, things had to change. Due to a global system change, this customer needed information delivered in the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) format that is standard in the transport and logistics industry. Freightliner had six months to make these changes—or lose the business.
The major criteria for the solution were simple. It needed to be reasonably priced, quick to implement, and capable of generating up to two million messages annually. And because a competitor uses the same mainframe and a similar host application for tracking containers, the solution could not tip off the competitor.
Freightliner considered three solutions to the problems. The first option, changing the existing legacy system, was quickly ruled out for being expensive, technically difficult, and unlikely to be completed on time. The second option, adding to staff, was rejected as an inadequate long-term solution for a growing company. The third option, implementing Verastream Host Integrator, was the winner.
Verastream would allow the company to pick up information from the mainframe, download and format it into EDI messages, and send to Freightliner’s customers. Freightliner’s customers could then simply and conveniently put this information into their own information systems. This solution was not only nonintrusive but also the most cost-effective and least time-consuming.
Colin Thompson, group IT director for Freightliner, explains: “In selecting Verastream, we evaluated a number of offerings, including NetManage. We chose Verastream because it was the most suitable technology for real-time, customer-focused applications in environments with host systems, and it delivers rapid results without risk to existing operations.”
Micro Focus provided Freightliner with a proof of concept within just one week. This working model demonstrated the EDI message delivery service from beginning to end. Following the Verastream deployment, Freightliner’s customers could subscribe to an EDI-based notification service providing status changes of their containers. To get a complete overview of container status, Verastream scans the mainframe every quarter hour, generating an activity report every 20 minutes during the day and every hour at night. This process is fully automated.
“We were delighted that we were able to deliver a solution within only six weeks of receiving the technical specification from the customer,” said Joanne Turner, general manager for commercial activities at Freightliner. “The roll-out process went extremely well and the customer was more than happy that we were able to react within such a short space of time and particularly in the knowledge that we were maintaining our old mainframe system.”
In addition to meeting the needs of its largest customer, the Verastream solution also allowed Freightliner to provide the same real-time reporting to all of its customers. “It has quickly and cost-effectively enhanced our level of service to all of our customers,” said Thompson.
There have been HR benefits, too. Removing the need to manually process information has freed up internal resources. “The project has been rolled out successfully to many other customers and it has improved our ability to accept more business from them because no one is wasting time chasing information,” said Turner. Being able to do this at a relatively small additional investment has made it a really high-value-for-money product in our view.”
The system has proved to be remarkably resilient to the changing demands placed upon it. In fact, Verastream has given Freightliner the confidence to meet customer demands that previously would have caused major IT concerns. “Thanks to Verastream, I can assure customers that Freightliner will meet their demands for doing business in new ways,” said Turner.
We were delighted that we were able to deliver a solution within only six weeks of receiving the technical specification from the customer.