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At 1,400 loads per day, document volume was the enemy for Sunset Logistics

A privately-held hauler with seven Texas terminals, Sunset Logistics handles the raw materials for concrete, serving both the source plants where product is made, and the quarries where sand or gravel is picked up. Collecting images of the PODs immediately upon delivery has reduced time to bill from 15 days to a matter of hours.

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“When we increase the velocity of data, we increase the velocity of cash flow, so we’ve reduced our billing cycle time from 15 days to less than one day. We are right on schedule with Synergize implementations and measureable results. Organizationally, we are thrilled with it.”

Ken Wilkinson, CTO, Sunset Logistics, Inc.

Business Challenges

Sunset Logistics delivers up to 1,400 loads per day of cementitious material for their Texas and Louisiana clients with 350 company trucks and 350 owner/operated trucks. “Getting a complete and accurate count of all the paperwork so that we could bill correctly was a huge challenge,” states Ken Wilkinson, CTO of Sunset Logistics. Upon delivery of a load at a source plant, for example, the scale ticket is signed or stamped as a proof of delivery (POD). This document is now a cash-equivalent, but the POD still had to get back to the terminal or central billing office to be processed. Company drivers could be counted on to return that POD every three to five days, but Owner/Operators were less prompt, resulting in billing delays of up to 15 days.

What Sunset needed was an image of the bill, plus a method to reconcile the invoice amounts and provide customers with the specific supporting documents that met their billing requirements. At that load volume, a huge amount of paper was collected by drivers, and there was nothing to reconcile against. Without the image they could not bill. “Our order to cash cycle time could drag out quite a bit,” comments Wilkinson.

An early scanning project identified that a huge amount of the documentation turned in to the terminals by drivers was unusable, or duplicated, or the scan quality was poor. The process did not provide the complete and accurate information needed for billing purposes.

Microdea Solution

Sunset moved to an integrated solution consisting of live dispatch, transportation management system TMWSuite®, a custom-built telematics app that drivers access from tablets in the trucks, and Synergize for document management. Here’s how it works:

  •          The tablet app links to the dispatch system to get orders from TMW, which puts the order to a cloud-based server.
  •          From the server, the order lands on the tablet. The driver uses the tablet to select the order he or she is on, enters the ticket order number, and using the tablet’s camera takes an image of the POD.
  •          The image of the POD is then sent to the server, which attaches the image to specific information in a subject line.
  •          An automated email is sent to the Synergize inbox processor. The email subject line contains the document type and order number, which is checked against TMWSuite, then dropped into the database.
  •          The order is then closed, and ready to bill. The image of the POD resides in Synergize, linked to the TMW invoice module.

Using recently-installed print rendition functionality, Synergize gets the right image types into the billing bundle to get the invoices out the door automatically. Theoretically, Sunset can bill within a couple of minutes of delivery, and has done this for demonstration purposes. Normal business workflow works within the payroll cycles.

The bulk of the images now come from the drivers’ tablets. Paper still comes in occasionally by courier, and is kept on hand one year for collections or audit purposes. What little desktop digitizing is still needed gets done via the Synergize Desktop tools, either by transferring an image e-mail to central billing or through traditional scanning done using desktop scanners and then indexed via the Synergize Desktop Client. Sunset’s business no longer relies on paper in order to get paid.

Results

Automated workflow provided by the integrated Synergize solution allows Sunset to do paperless billing with a zero percent defect rate: the right image is always attached to the right order. Documents are indexed automatically, and the workflow identifies any missing paperwork before the orders flow into the billing queue. Most importantly, the billing cycle has been reduced from 15 days to one day.

Paperwork is delivered faster, allowing Sunset more time to ensure quality. Errors on driver settlements have dropped dramatically. Plus they have been able to redeploy 50% of their billers to other revenue-generating roles. Says Wilkinson: “I have a happy CFO.”

In the future, Sunset plans to use Synergize to automate broker onboarding, a growing portion of their business. 

Want to learn more about the benefits of automation? Download our free whitepaper, Making the Case for Business Process Automation in Transportation.

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