HUB 360 simplifies logistics from the cloud
16 January 2020 | 0
Spotting an underserved niche is one of the classic routes to success for a start-up.
HUB 360 is just such a company, offering customised online systems for the logistics industry. Founded by Denise O’Kelly and John O’Neill, they regard themselves as having “an almost perfect blend of front end and back end” experience from their career previous careers.
Bringing that blend together, the pair found that many Irish organisations had serious problems when it came to logistics, particularly from post production to customer. While some had enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems at their core, existing systems either extracted the information to support logistics operations too late, or not at all.
Many organisations are still using paper, or at best spreadsheets, in laborious manual processes managing the final distribution and delivery of products to customers, said O’Kelly. This often results in inefficient practices, she says, slow deliveries, lost paperwork and long wait times for payment. Loss of proof of delivery (PoD) documentation is a constant problem, she reports, and even where a tight rein is kept on such things, the processes often do not scale when a business requires it.
Many organisations that have managed to create a system that works are also now looking for greater efficiencies both from a business and environmental perspective, says O’Neill. Companies are looking to become greener, he says.
Despite there being numerous solutions in the market, such as add-ons to ERP systems, many are either too expensive or too cumbersome without extensive customisation, or both.
Digitising supply chains
In 2005, the pair worked together when tasked with digitising the end of the supply chain for a client. Using their respective experience in web and general development and within the logistics industry, they developed a system that worked well, and ensured visibility for all parties, from vendor to haulier and customer.
Though initially developed for a single company, says O’Kelly, it was deployed for all five entities within a group, scaling to meet growing needs.
It was during a demo for another client, said O’Neill, that the supply chain system was outlined. Despite the purpose of the demo being for an entirely different issue, it became all about the supply chain solution.
After those initial successes, says O’Kelly, some funding was sought and won, allowing some refinement, as well as market research to be conducted, which resulted in the HUB 360 solution.
We got a huge response, said O’Kelly, “there was a clear appetite for the system.”
O’Neill said they were surprised when they went to what were often large companies with industry standard ERP systems, and found many still had limitations on their logistics operations.
There was little local data capability, he reports. Spreadsheets were being used for logistics, as the ERP system was either inflexible, or uneconomical for the level of localisation needed.
Growth and development
As the capabilities of the HUB 360 system grew, so did the company, adding a team of developers. It began working with vendors in the market, to extend capability for organisations, says O’Neill.
“We’ll work with any ERP system,” O’Neill asserts.
HUB 360, he argues, is differentiated by being able to extract data from systems such as ERP, at any stage of the product life cycle. This means they can access the data necessary to closely support logistics, even with specialised requirements such as cold chain and food delivery.
“We talk about the true lifecycle as when the customer has the product in their hand,” said O’Neill, whereas “the ERP often sees it as closed when it is sitting on a shelf ready for out”.
The HUB 360 solution now consists of a cloud-deployed back end, connected to a client desktop application, a driver mobile application and a third-party logistics (3PL) partner application. Together, this gives complete assurance of not only efficient picking and loading, but also traceable delivery. Access is available to non-logistics personnel, allowing sales or support staff to get the information for themselves, increasing client satisfaction and reducing queries.
The driver app provides manifest checking, optimised delivery routing and customer signature capture. Automatically generated PoDs are archived and searchable, with real-time order delivery automatically updated to the HUB desktop application and ERP system. These are key differentiators for the system, argues O’Neill, as few competitors provide the full suite of services for this level of visibility and trackability.
Many competitors wait until the end of the ERP process, says O’Neill, and then take that instruction to do something with it.
“The difference with us is that in the supply chain, we go back to the start, when the order is created in the ERP system, our system takes it up in parallel and follows it the whole way through,” said O’Neill.
“Others take it at the end, or close to it. We take it at the very start.”
“We are building up the profile of the product from the moment it enters the system,” said O’Neill. O’Kelly emphasised that the HUB system also writes back to the ERP system, ensuring all data is reintegrated.
That level of visibility across the spectrum, is becoming more valuable, and not just in terms of efficiency. One customer, on using the system, found immediate savings in reduced overtime claims. Another customer found significant fuel savings through improved load planning and route optimisation that allowed it to bolster its green credentials through significantly reduced emissions.
For the future, O’Neill said barcode and QR code scanning, as well as
greater use of AI are planned. Where mixed loads are required, O’Kelly said artificial intelligence can be used to determine what most efficiently can be packed in the same loads, as well from a regulatory or compliance perspective.