July 2000 | Case Studies | I.T. Toolkit

ACCUSHIP.com: A Leader in the Pack

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ACCUSHIP may come closest to providing a single-source solution for managing motor freight on the web.

"As an objective third party, we can take the high ground and direct our customers to the best routing plan for each of their shipments—whether they are sending a postcard, a parcel, or a pallet."

One of the classic lines in movie history hails from The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy is told the majestic, colorful stead pulling her chariot is merely "the horse of a different color." The noble beast is doing exactly what all horses do, but the magic is in its varying hues—and, like Dorothy and her compatriots, we are all instantly enchanted.

Of the assorted and colorful logistics providers launching online, the majority seem to provide identical services and offerings despite the claims each makes to be the first and only dot.com logistics company of its kind. Essentially, the world wide web is overpopulated with hundreds of different-colored horses. And while it may prove advantageous to have more than one mount in the stable, what matters most is not the kaleidoscope of choices as much as the power and performance each offering sustains.

AccuShip.com comes close to leading the pack—it's a workhorse, racehorse and show horse all rolled into one. When Mason Kauffman, chairman and founder of AccuShip, challenges anyone to name a company that approaches the breadth and depth of services his company provides, he knows full well there are few, if any, contenders.

Fostered by the natural evolution of its predecessor, Express Logistics, a company that Kauffman founded in 1994 following his 16-year career with FedEx Corp., AccuShip.com launched in November 1999. AccuShip.com (that's "Accu" for accuracy) brands itself with a STAR acronym for Shipping, Tracking, Auditing and Reporting.

Of the current offerings, this dot.com may come the closest to providing a single-source, one-of-a-kind solution because it extends from carrier assignment through delivery to freight payment auditing and performance reconciliation reports. The customer base is lengthy and weighted with the likes of Coca-Cola Corp., Sprint, and The Home Shopping Network.

"We were an ASP (application service provider) back in 1994 and didn't even know it," says Kauffman. (Granted, 1994 preceded anyone's concept of an ASP.) "We realized we had a strong web-enabled product offering that would apply just as well to truckload auditing as it does to parcel deliveries."

Express Logistics started as a supplement to parcel express providers, such as FedEx, to help companies with payment auditing and reconciliation. The company then expanded into carrier assignment and shipment tracking. AccuShip.com takes the next logical step and offers the same level of optimization, visibility and reconciliation for truckload and LTL shipments.

"If we could successfully manage several thousand parcels a day for companies such as The Home Shopping Network, then I knew it would be no more difficult to capture the data required for managing truckloads of freight," says Kauffman. "From an information and auditing standpoint, it's virtually the same data, whether you're dealing with a one-pound parcel or a 40,000-pound truck.

"I can appreciate that many carriers are very good at what they do, and there are good reasons for using each of them in varying circumstances," he says. "As an objective third party, we can take the high ground and direct our customers to the best routing plan for each of their shipments—whether they are sending a postcard, a parcel, or a pallet."

AccuShip works with 530 carriers and processes some 500,000 transactions daily to save its customers "hundreds of millions of dollars," according to Kauffman. The company has the capacity to grow to 300,000 transactions an hour, but is approaching the expansive potential with the attitude of a "tortoise rather than a hare," he says. "We're not like most dot.com startups." Kauffman describes an experienced executive management team from corporations such as Goldman Sachs, IBM, GE and Xerox, who prefer to work in a suit and tie, and are building the business primarily through company profits rather than venture capital investments.

Sprint North Supply, based in New Century, Kansas, uses AccuShip.com to audit all its transactions with FedEx, says Chuck Smith, Sprint's transportation specialist. "AccuShip monitors the activity to make sure the transactions and invoices are what we have contracted for."

A monthly report from AccuShip shows Sprint North Supply areas where it has saved money because of the sophisticated auditing processes. "Those savings are then passed down to our customers so it becomes a win-win situation for all parties concerned," adds Smith.

Another value-added capability AccuShip provides is web site linkage. Sprint North Supply is currently exploring the idea of linking its web site—www.sprintnorthsupply.com—with AccuShip's to make it convenient for Sprint North Supply customers to track and trace their shipments.

A visit to www.accuship.com allows potential users to service demonstrations with minimal effort. Transaction fees for using the service are nominal—literally a few cents, according to Kauffman. The majority of communication between users and the web site is done with a mouse click. In walking through demonstrations, the only time it was necessary to use a keyboard rather than the mouse was if the user wanted to increase the amount of insurance or add customized instructions.

Kauffman predicts the days of the traditional mailroom are numbered because single-source dot.com logistics solutions such as AccuShip allow any employee to achieve cost-efficient, expedient distribution direct from a desktop. With just a few mouse clicks, a shipper can compare numerous options for next-day delivery of an eight-ounce parcel—from delivery by 5 p.m. for $3.12 to delivery by 8 a.m. for $41.

It's much easier to select the best plan when all the carriers, delivery times, and costs are defined in a single chart across the bottom of a PC. Employees, who typically might not spend time comparing multiple options, can make educated decisions that will result in significant cost savings. Click on the best price and a bill of lading appears on the screen. It can then be printed and used for immediate distribution.

The true magic of AccuShip.com is in the simplicity of the execution. Kauffman says the Internet is a pipeline or conduit for transactions, and web-based logistics should be as easy as ATM banking: "You don't go to an ATM to apply for a mortgage, you go to get quick cash."

The dot.com logistics providers that enable transport managers to expedite their processes more efficiently and accurately will no doubt win out over those that attempt to build complex solutions.

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