Logistics & Transportation: Ship To Sure: Tracking In Real Time - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
11:55 AM
Rick Whiting
Rick Whiting

Logistics & Transportation: Ship To Sure: Tracking In Real Time

Infrastructure improvements afford customers immediate status information

A major focus of logistics and shipping companies this year is providing customers with real-time information about shipment status and exception handling--the ability to quickly correct problems or redirect shipments. Schneider National Inc. uses satellite and cellular technology to help customers track freight-carrying trailers in real time, CIO Steve Matheys says. Schneider's IT spending this year will be 20% more than in 2002. "We see IT as a strategic weapon," Matheys says.

APL Ltd. takes a similar approach with its Quick Report system, which provides shipment-status reports in real time to customers. Ryder System Inc. has integrated its warehouse and transportation-management and supply-chain visibility systems with its customers' enterprise-resource-management systems to give them immediate order, shipment, and inventory information. Yellow Technologies, the technology-services company of Yellow Corp., has upgraded its shipment-tracking system to use a real-time database that provides fresher shipment-status information.

Transportation and logistics companies have also improved their electronic interfaces to customers. FedEx Corp. added more automated shipping capabilities to its Web site, while APL customers can file invoices directly into APL's Homeport Web site. United Parcel Service Inc.'s new Enterprise CampusShip system is used by 3,400 companies to electronically manage shipments. Landstar System Inc. developed a text-to-speech application that provides freight information to contract carriers. And Roadway Express Inc. built a quote-engine app that instantly provides service price quotes through Roadway's Web site or a toll-free call.

While some shipping companies must work with reduced IT budgets, most continue to upgrade their IT infrastructures and processes. UniGroup Inc. has spent several million dollars on an IBM zSeries mainframe, a storage area network, a wide area frame-relay network, and an imaging system. The company also has plans for a data warehouse. And Schneider has undertaken a three-year process-management and system-redesign initiative, including reengineering its entire order-to-cash transaction system, which will improve operating margins by 35%.

Rank Company Revenue in millions Income (loss)
in millions
15 Con-Way Transportation Services $2,000 $147 287
17 FedEx Corp. $22,500 $830 4,895
20 Yellow Corp. $2,624 ($94) 361
29 United Parcel Service Inc. $31,320 $3,182 4,974
30 APL Ltd. $4,642 ($330) 509
69 ABF Freight System Inc. $1,256 -- 200
81 Alaska Airlines Inc. $2,224 ($119) 250
87 Ryder System Inc. $4,776 $94 443
97 Penske Truck Leasing Inc. $3,400 -- 325
101 DHL Express $24,000 $1,590 4,500
119 Union Pacific Corp. $12,491 $1,341 1,340
128 UniGroup Inc. $1,708 -- 210
130 Roadway Express Inc. $3,011 $39 145
175 Menlo Worldwide LLC $2,748 $38 598
242 Schneider National Inc. $2,627 -- 355
278 Sirva Inc. $2,249 -- 179
298 Landstar System Inc. $1,507 $49 156
301 Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. $8,979 $760 450
364 Hub Group Inc. $1,336 $2 65
368 Watkins Motor Lines Inc. -- -- 183
374 Airborne Inc. $3,344 $15 567
415 Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group Ltd. $2,853 ($103) 44
432 Continental Airlines Inc. $8,402 ($451) 120
480 CSX Corp. $8,152 $424 602
483 Consolidated Freightways Corp. $2,200 $136 125
494 USFreightways Corp. $2,251 $33 --
Financial data is from public sources and company supplied.
Revenue is for latest fiscal year.
Employee data is from InformationWeek 500 qualifying survey.

Average portion of revenue spent on IT 3%
Average percentage of industry applications and business
processes that have Web-based front ends
Companies with real-time business processes in place 83%
Hardware purchases 20%
Services or outsourcing 17%
Research and development 2%
Salaries and benefits 31%
Applications 18%
Everything else 12%
Average year-over-year revenue change 2%
Average year-over-year net income change 16%
See year-over-year shifts in business-technology practices for this industry. Compare and contrast this year's data with last year's.

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