After 30 years in the transportation business, Ralph Shepley has become an expert at a number of things. One of those is how to effectively use transportation management software (TMS) to streamline operations and business processes. Another is how to efficiently deploy those resources and realize a faster return on investment. This experience was particularly important when looking to move to an SaaS-based TMS.
For the past 16 years, Shepley has served as the general manager of John Grant Haulage Ltd., a Mississauga, Ontario-based dry bulk hauler and part of the Grant Group of Companies, running about 350 power units. Given his previous experience, one of his first responsibilities after joining the company was to assess its transportation management system capabilities and needs.
“We’re in a demand driven business, and not just for hauling capacity,” Shepley says. “Shippers are demanding more visibility and support in the form of information and streamlined business processes. Recognizing those needs, we needed to make a resource-based decision involving people, software, hardware and network capabilities.”
Today, John Grant Haulage operates its business on Innovative Access Plus, the web-based version of Trimble’s Innovative IES Transportation Management Software. The TMS on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform offers operations, administrative, financial and maintenance management capabilities. Included are integrations with Microsoft Dynamics GP accounting and TMT Fleet Maintenance software.
Straightforward Decision to Move to an SaaS-Based TMS
“By late 2003, I’d had a dozen plus years working with Trimble’s hosted solutions, so it was a fairly straightforward decision to switch to Innovative Access Plus,” Shepley states. “It provides all of the functionality we require, and it is more economical. Simply on staffing alone, we’re spending nearly $100,000 less annually with the cloud solution compared to an on-premise application.”
The need for qualified people is a large part of the consideration when choosing a TMS platform, according to Shepley.
“An on-premise solution carries with it the risk of finding the right people as opposed to not requiring the position at all if you select an SaaS option,” he says. “And because IT people seem to be fairly mobile, we felt the odds were good with an in-house platform that we’d have to source this job several times over the upcoming years. We also understood that an on-premise solution would require ongoing education in order to stay current, and that would further drive up costs.
“Doing the math on human resources costs alone supported the decision, without even having to consider all of the other value offered by an SaaS platform,” Shepley continues. “The difference in cost between thin clients or dumb terminals and PCs wasn’t a deal breaker and server prices were coming down, but there was still the need for that capital investment. There were also ongoing operating costs for server hardware and support, while upgrades are included in a subscription model so we can economically stay current on features and benefits.”
Scalability is also readily managed with a SaaS platform, Shepley notes. At John Grant Haulage, that meant having the ability to consolidate the management systems of four business units in a fairly short time period and avoid some initial and ongoing costs. It also eased the integration when a new company was acquired and would play a similar role in any future expansion.
Another value proposition that Shepley says is inherent in a hosted solution like Innovative Access Plus is built-in redundancy and data security. “Cybersecurity has been a growing concern, and a small company like ours cannot begin to keep up with the education and resources required to fight data breaches,” he relates. “A cloud provider such as Trimble has the know how to combat those risks, and they’re on top of it with the latest technologies.”
Best Practices When Considering SaaS-Based TMS Solutions
For companies considering solutions on a SaaS platform, Shepley advises first making sure master files are sound and that peripherals like scanners and printers are fully compatible. A vendor that offers robust network connectivity, including speed, dependability and built-in redundancy in case a connection is dropped, is another area to consider, he adds.
“Another important part of successfully moving to a hosted platform is to make sure everyone from the operations staff to senior management is committed to achieving the goals you’ve outlined,” Shepley states. “Buy-in across the board and a willingness to get rid of old tools and habits are critical. “Burn the boats” is the best advice.
“In our business, we sell promises,” Shepley continues, “so an SaaS supplier that has that same level of commitment to providing support and solution options is essential for gaining the confidence to go live on the cloud. With Trimble we had no concerns about going forward, and we’ve never looked back.”
Making the Switch with Trimble
As John Grant Haulage has experienced, moving to an SaaS-based TMS can help streamline all aspects of your transportation operations. Are you ready to experience the advantages of a web-based TMS?
Uncover how to harness these benefits in your business by checking out our guide, “When to Move to the Cloud.” This resource details key considerations of evaluating providers, how and when to make the switch and how to ensure you are set up for long-term success.