Young Australian logistics company, LINX Cargo Care Group, has deployed a new integration platform to connect its cloud infrastructure and support the creation of a data lake that provides more visibility into its supply chain.
Established in 2016 following the divestiture of freight logistics giant Asciano, LINX comprises the LINX, Autocare, C3, and GeelongPort companies, which employ more than 3,800 staff across 60 sites in Australia and New Zealand. The company had a startup mentality from the beginning, building a cloud-first tech strategy, deploying all new systems, including key logistics, safety and human resources platforms in Microsoft Azure’s cloud.
The company is using the Boomi integration platform to connect its core operational systems in Azure and its own data centres with in-field mobile and devices and in-vehicle telemetry systems. This is enabling the company to realise gains in safety, compliance and operational performance in the field.
Thomas Gianniodis, head of IT at LINX told CIO Australia that the organisation had a ‘very short window’ to migrate away from Asciano’s platforms. Currently, its finance, payroll and HR, Office365 and Dynamics, Citrix desktop, and scheduling apps are in the cloud with an in-house written vehicle transport system for its Autocare business the only app that’s running in-house on an AS400.
“We had a short amount of time to get this going and if we tried to put in an Oracle SOA or something along those lines, we were going to have to get teams of people which would have introduced a lot of risk around the transition program,” he said.
The new data lake receives structured and unstructured information from tablets used by workers in the field and sensors on heavy machinery. Data may indicate when a forklift is operational or idle or the performance of a vehicle such as a truck and the behaviour of the driver behind the wheel.
“Something we do which is a bit unique is we do interview the drivers occasionally. We get feedback from them around what is good and bad practice with driving and then we analyse that feedback and other data we have collected to see if we have been able to save fuel. We focus on [vehicle] configurations that [drivers] claim are more efficient – we collect that information and apply it to see if there’s a real world impact,” Gianniodis said.
LINX is also assigned what it calls ‘data insiders’ – people who take care of certain data assets inside the organisation. These insiders are being paired with data specialists.
“This is one thing I am very keen on driving in the business,” said Gianniodis. “We [the IT group] want the business to own some of those data assets and we are educating them about it [data analysis].”
The next step will be to evaluate and rollout artificial intelligence tools, said Gianniodis. The company has already been experimenting with Microsoft’s AI offering.
“AI is a different mindset and it takes time for people to adapt,” said Gianniodis. “One thing we do ask people is when they do a report is to ask who they are delivering the report to, what [the recipient] is doing with that information once they have it and [how it informs] their decisions. Once we know this, we can select the appropriate AI and machine learning tools.”
Gianniodis expects chatbots to play a significant role across LINX. The company is piloting a ‘QA bot’ that can be trained by content owners to act as an extension of their individual teams – providing answers to certain questions.
“Bots are a repeatable deployment and we will be able to create many bots from a single code set and those bots can be internally and externally facing. What we’ve found with these new technologies is that we spent quite a bit of time training the business on how to actually use them. That’s been the more time-consuming bit, the technology is there, it’s just about how we are applying that technology to our business and our maturity level,” he says.
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