June 2000 | Case Studies | I.T. Toolkit

On-the-Go Transport Management

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Palm Inc. partners with freightquote.com to provide on-the-go bidding, scheduling, and shipment tracking.

Better than the proverbial bird in a hand, users of Palm VIITM handheld products can rely on freightquote.com's FQXpress solution to gain 24/7 access to the company's network of carriers. Sales people, warehouse managers, and customer service representatives can automatically view competitive quotes, distribution assignments, and shipment status from any remote location.

"Business today moves at hyper-speed, requiring both flexibility and immediate response," says Tim Barton, chairman and CEO of freightquote.com. "Our FQXpress product provides a wireless solution for logistics managers that accommodates their busy schedule. By using our software and the wireless capabilities of the Palm VII product, they can get the job done wherever they are and not have to rely on their phone or personal computer."

The only tangible difference in the Palm VII application of the freightquote.com services and the typical service received via Internet access from a PC is the receipt of the actual bill of lading. With a PC connected to a printer, a simple click of the mouse commands the bill of lading to print on the peripheral equipment. The Palm VII does not carry printing capabilities, so users simply key in a fax number and the bill of lading faxes direct to the specified recipient.

By downloading FQXpress from the Palm web site, sales people, warehouse managers, and customer service reps can automatically view competitive quotes, distribution assignments, and shipment status from their Palm handheld computers.

A Loyal Following

Since launching the web site in May 1999, freightquote.com has earned a loyal following with impressive transaction volumes. More than 13,000 commercial customers have enrolled to use the site's services and the company has integrated its freight solutions tools via a real-time XML exchange directly into more than 85 B2B marketplaces. Users benefit from the dot.com's strategic relationships with more than 60 national and regional carriers including industry leaders such as Roadway Express, Emery Worldwide, Watkins Motor Lines, Covenant, Swift and Overnite.

In addition to large corporations and thriving e-commerce sites such as Equal-footing.com, an online marketplace for industrial supplies, construction and manufacturing equipment, freightquote.com is ideally suited to small or mid-size companies as well as start-up ventures.

Dave Wilkerson, plant manager for Ashley Metals Inc., Bensenville, Ill., raves about the service and the benefits associated with freightquote.com. Although he has not used the Palm VII application, Wilkerson began using freightquote.com in February.

One Call, No Paperwork

"It's great to be able to make one contact instead of having to haggle with 100 different carriers," says Wilkerson. "Using the Internet or a single phone call, freightquote.com will give me the price ranges and lead times on multiple carriers for all my shipments."

Ashley Metals works with all types of steel, and its finished products entail shipments that run as small as one pound or less, on up to massive loads of 20,000 or 35,000 pounds.

"The biggest advantage is being able to expedite my shipments more quickly," says Wilkerson. "We probably save 70 to 80 percent in labor because there is only one call to make and no paperwork to process."

Because freightquote.com is negotiating large volumes of transactions, it is in a better position to secure best-price carriage. Wilkerson confirms that even though he had earned discounts with the carriers Ashley Metals was consistently using, the prices he gets from freightquote.com are 10 to 15 percent better.

Other departments within the company also benefit from improved efficiencies. Rather than having to process an invoice for every shipment and every carrier, freightquote.com provides a single invoice listing all the transactions.

"In addition to using freight-quote.com to deliver to our customers, the company also handles a large portion of our inbound freight from vendors," says Wilkerson. "In fact, freightquote.com has every one of our vendors listed on its computer so it can automatically help us get the best price and best service on incoming materials."

Freightquote.com is on the verge of introducing a multi-location system that will expand the functionality for managing inbound freight, according to Barton. The product, which has undergone BETA testing by 10 users and is expected to be available over the summer, allows a corporate headquarters or master office to create sub-accounts for its multiple divisions or locations.

Each sub-account will be able to schedule and track its own shipments, with invoicing going direct to the master account if preferred. The headquarters has visibility to activity from all the sub-accounts, so freightquote.com becomes a tool for internal auditing and comparative analysis as well as for streamlined management.

Although Wilkerson initially was skeptical about using the dot.com company because it sounded "too good to be true," he has been so pleased with the results that he recommends the service frequently.

"I tell every other plant manager I know about how well this is working," says Wilkerson. "Freightquote.com only has carriers running closed top trailers, but I'm hoping they will add flatbeds."

In fact, Wilkerson has actually given the company's contact information to the flatbed carriers he does business with to encourage their participation in freightquote.com. Barton confirms freightquote.com is close to adding both flatbed and refrigerated carriage to the site. Rail service and imports are not part of the immediate agenda, however freightquote.com does offer international air service and processes shipments into Canada.

Customer service reps are on call although initiating a shipment via freightquote.com is an elementary process. A shipper enters origination and destination ZIP codes, shipment weight and product class, then selects a carrier from the options displayed. Freightquote.com expedites the entire process, automating arrangements for pickup, paperwork, and billing.

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