June 2002 | Commentary | Supply Chain Technology

Elite System Boosts Supply Chain Visibility

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Web-based businesses continue to grow and become more sophisticated, especially when it comes to the supply chain. Technology that was once the exclusive provenance of CAD programs and complex industrial or financial GUIs now has a good chance of being used in applications that serve the supply chain.

Clearly companies need greater visibility along as much of the supply chain as possible, with technology configured to suit their particular needs. Users want programs with easy access, familiar tools, and a broad reach into the elements of their business processes. They also want to be assured that their core business and transactional data is fully protected.

One logistics company, Elite International Transportation, has recently enhanced its business to meet these needs. Elite International, based in Houston, Texas, concentrates on serving chemical, petrochemical, and food shippers. The company was founded in 1985, and now operates 21 offices worldwide with 500 employees.

The web-based technology Elite offers spans track and trace, electronic documentation, and data mining. The company recently announced a series of enhancements, starting with a timeline that demonstrates shipment events and status (see illustration, next page). The timeline allows users to request bookings and specific vessel sail and arrival times, among other factors.

The system also offers automated alerts to online access customers. Customers can receive alerts for status updates that include changes to estimated or actual dates for shipment events, such as cargo release date and cut-off date. Elite has rounded out its technology offering with an export dashboard that displays shipments by port, division, places of receipt, carrier, and type of move.

The system's various features, such as the dashboard, status alerts, and timeline are interactive, according to Michael Loup, Elite's vice president of business development. "The automated alerts can be configured to occur for both normal and exception events," Loup explains. "Users can choose to be notified only for events that are not occurring as scheduled; they can also choose to be notified when shipment events are occurring as scheduled.

"Most customers, however, choose to be notified only for exception events," he notes. "They find that exception alerts are a more efficient way to keep track of shipments, while reducing the number of e-mails they receive."

Elite's graphical timeline, a component of the web track and trace application, operates independently from the alert process from an execution standpoint. The timeline graphically represents all the events a user has selected to see, as well as the associated estimated and actual dates. That information is displayed at the top of the track and trace page.

"Alerts are sent via e-mail to the user as dates along the timeline are reported or changed," Loup says. "Alerts are also sent by a process that runs several times during the day. It looks for events that have not happened within the time period selected. For example, if two days past the estimated sail date, the vessel has not sailed, an alert can be sent. All alerts can be customized for each user who has access to the shipment."

Elite's dashboard can also be configured to meet the needs of the user. "The dashboard can be tailored for each user to show the information most relevant for analysis," Loup says. As a user requests to view the dashboard, his selections can be saved, named, and recalled at a later date. "This makes it quick and easy for each user to view the shipping transactions most important to them," he says.

The Elite system employs many security measures. "From a very high level," Loup says, "the backend transaction processing systems are protected behind a complex firewall strategy. Information available from the web is a view-only access into an operational data store that was built from our transaction systems. Elite's internal administration group assigns user access to this data to a very finite subset of transactions."

Elite continues to build its business by creating partnerships, with one main objective. "We set up our partnerships with one goal in mind: to improve the logistics process for shippers," Loup says. "As business rules change, new technologies emerge, and new organizations enter the service and supply chains, Elite and its customers evaluate each one for its potential value-add to our processes. We are constantly searching for process improvement opportunities that partnerships offer."

What are the plans for Elite's future growth? "With offices in more than 20 countries around the world, our capacity for growth is boundless," Loup says. "We are much attuned to the world market and trends in the industries where we focus, making quick, informed decisions on strategy and tactics. Our customers appreciate how quickly Elite responds to changes in their own business strategies. We customize our logistics services to maximize the revenue and profits of our customers."

For more information on Elite International Transportation, go online to www.eliteint.com.

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