Simon Jones, Co-Founder of Black Pepper Software talked to James Butterworth, Head of System Solutions at XPO Logistics about an exciting project, in a webinar entitled How to Develop Your Digital Transformation Strategy.
Black Pepper, whose slogan is: “We believe great software can make the world a better place, so we go out of our way to make ours awesome!”, is a software developer that works with OEMs such as Jaguar Land Rover and also has clients in fields as diverse as banking, insurance, online betting and travel.
XPO Logistics is a global transport solutions company with 35 years of experience, offices in 34 countries and a turnover of $15 billion.
When XPO Logistics had a customer renewal with a large automotive client coming up, it looked to Black Pepper for a solution as Butterworth explained: “Our customer (a supplier to dealers in the UK) had been having issues getting tracking and other information before a problem happened; the majority of data they were receiving was post-event as they were using a very manual system for checking where orders were.” Simon Jones asked Butterworth if GPS tracking of delivery trucks had helped. “We had a system that told us what the driver was doing and a system where the truck was but those two sources of information were not joined up, drivers were going on roundabout routes to dealers,” said Butterworth, adding: “The manager would have to call the driver and manually change the route to a more efficient one.”
To work on the renewal of the contract, XPO extracted information from the existing process to provide a proof of concept to present to the customer but it had a number of issues as Butterworth explained: “The first problem was the slow speed that we could extract the large amounts of data required, we could not get this in real time, it was taking us 15-20 minutes. Also we only had a standard web page to show the customer, not a good user experience, and one with no ‘wow factor’.”
Outsourcing for intelligence
XPO did not have the expertise in-house and was reluctant to develop a solution as Butterworth said: “We were tied to our existing expertise and it did not make sense to invest in developing the solution ourselves. Our first objective was for the customer to have a dashboard view with a very high level of visibility of what was happening out on the road. After this we were looking for filters, date range selections and then a way of drilling down to orders and including mapping functions and ETA data.”
XPO had a range of options when it came to buying-in or outsourcing, as Butterworth explained: “We had a web partner who we could have used, the second option was to build our own system, a third option was that we could buy an off-the-shelf solution to help us build our own system, and another option was to look for something completely new.”
Butterworths team chose Black Pepper for a variety of reasons, its experience, its rapid and automated testing programmes, its agility and also its proximity to XPO’s offices as Butterworth said: “While we are all connected over the Internet via WebEx and so on, we get a much better understanding of what we are all doing by seeing each other in person.”
Another significant factor in XPO’s choice of provider was the speed that Black Pepper could design the system. Also that XPO would own the IP of the product which meant it could train its own people and also not pay a license fee. This allows for system expansion without further cost.
“The system is now a key selling point for us to offer to our customers and we can customise it for a client as we know how it is coded, for example,” said Butterworth.
Automated testing yields great results
Simon Jones asked Butterworth what could have been a tricky question: “Some customers say a major challenge is that the quality of a system can be a problem. Have you had any bugs?”
Butterworth was enthusiastic about the quality and error-free nature of Black Pepper’s software: “We have not had any problems. Your (Black Pepper’s) team tested the system in your quality assurance (QA) department before it came to our QA department and you did this very quickly, I imagine partly because you used automated test mechanisms. We didn’t find any issues other than minor tweaks and these were more customisation than correction.”
One unexpected advantage afforded by the system has been that, as well as greater visibility of order fulfilment for the customer, XPO has benefitted from being able to plan some routes better, as Butterworth explained: “We can track a driver’s progress so accurately that we can predict if he will hit the expected delivery times at different points on his route. This then allows us to re-route him if necessary, ensuring that our targets are met. Some deliveries are more time-critical than others and the system allows us to juggle routes to make sure that deliveries are made in the order of importance and time sensitivity.”
Scalable success story
Butterworth went on to enthuse about the platform: “As a product, it has been massively successful in our business. It is very stable for our customers and it is easy to scale up for any contract. We have also started to roll it out throughout our European operations.” Jones asked about the timescale of XPO’s testing and usage. Butterworth ran through the timelines: “It went into full production about six months after we started the project; before that we did live testing with our customers so that they could see its potential and we tweaked the system to suit them over three months, then it went straight into use. It first went live with two of our customer service teams and we have increased that to 30 of these teams. Now every new customer goes into the system and we have not seen any performance issues whatsoever. The success just keeps growing and growing.”
View and listen to the complete webinar here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6306540692889900291