Portal Focus - May/June 2021
FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY IN THE MOVING INDUSTRY
Imagination Inspires Innovation
By George Sikora, President, TMI, Ltd
Best Practices (and Pitfalls) in Tech Adoption
As VP of a very large international forwarder, I faced a hugely challenging goal—how do we manage a one-time 35% increase in HHG shipments and maintain our high quality standards, in a fully populated building amid a strangling labor shortage. The challenge placed roadblocks at every turn.
Tweaking the company would not work. Adding staff was futile in the existing labor market, not to mention the training problem. The building would not hold more people, and corporate culture was not ready for a remote office. A unique approach was required.
I remembered a grad school professor saying, “Solutions are not always visible, but they can always be imagined.” Taking his advice, I focused my thinking on the technology of the day and increasing productivity. Before the contract began, we created a custom-made software system that helped increase productivity by 50%, and improved quality with a “just-in-time” reminder system. The dramatic impact it had on our business drove me for the rest of my life.
Later, I started TMI and introduced an off-the-shelf customizable software system named TRAXX!. We did so because we understood that the highly manual processing common in the industry needed a solution. First and foremost, movers and forwarders need to host data in one place wherever possible. Multiple unconnected systems cause repetition of labor and data errors, at very least. We have solved this primary problem with elegantly interconnected modules. Shipment monitoring, paperless office, multi-lingual screens, automatic status updating, simplified billing, and estimated vs. actual cost comparisons are examples of other issues we have resolved in TRAXX!. We were able to accomplish much of this due to years of experience in the HHG industry and our systems knowledge.
Personally, TRAXX! has allowed me to imagine what could be every day. The daily challenge was to create something new, no matter how small. Sometimes innovation was spurred by discussion with our IT department or a client. Other times, it took digging to find a third-party product. For example, a simple one-click texting of status is a new addition. I have learned to imagine solutions in a far broader way.
We are now imagining how AI can benefit our customers in the near future. Perhaps that will be automatic document filing with customs based on the transferee’s profile and shipping info, with privacy concerns considered. Perhaps it will include the generation of a detailed routing plan based on a few date entries specific to the transferee. We have several other even better AI projects on the workbench, but unfortunately, for now they must remain confidential.
As for the future, I believe that there will be a central system for nearly all you do at work. It may be via Blockchain, or it may be via big data from Microsoft or Amazon. It will likely be based upon voice entry and be completely multi-lingual. It will dispatch and drive your trucks. It will plan and transact shipments, and even settle claims. But in the near future, at least, it will still leave the decision making to us humans.