Logistics in Africa can be challenging. The continent’s infrastructure and terrain, combined with its scale, demands agility, perseverance and resilience – factors that are better achieved with access to real time business intelligence.
For Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions (USCS), the willingness to go the extra mile for client service is critical. USCS, the South African division of the broader Unitrans Group, is more than just a trucking company: it handles warehousing, freight forwarding and clearing, vehicle loading and offloading, yard management, and a range of other related activities.
“Wherever we can provide customers with efficiencies and synergies, we get involved,” says Christo Röder, Finance Innovation Manager at Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions.
“Our core business is service delivery, it’s all to do with solutions,” Röder adds. “When we sign up a customer, it’s not just about performing an operation, it’s about the value-add. And analytics adds that value.”
When Röder joined Unitrans in 2014, with a solid working relationship with Johannesburg-based Business Intelligence (BI) consultancy Business 2 IT (B2IT) already in place, he quickly realised that Unitrans was sitting on ‘heaps of data’ that was largely underutilised. Slow processes also meant that any data being used was not at its most effective.
Röder and B2IT quickly established which platform would be the best fit for Unitrans. A combination of QlikView and NPrinting, later supplemented by Qlik Sense, gave the business a plug-and-play solution that met its unique combination of demands, and reduced the need to move large volumes of data between locations.
This resulted in the following benefits:
• Accelerated, more accurate reporting.
• Improved processes, enabling more effective decisions.
• Customer-facing dashboards providing improved visibility and planning processes.
FASTER DATA, BETTER DECISIONS
Qlik’s deployment across Unitrans is classified into two main categories: internal and customer-facing. Within the business, Qlik is enabling vastly improved reporting, with new levels of speed and accuracy enabling the business to take more control over its operations. Month-end processes are significantly accelerated, with reporting times cut by half.
Data sources can be sanitised and cross-referenced and files merged to provide a single point of reference. Qlik has assisted with ongoing data hygiene to maintain the quality and integrity of data. This simplifies access to critical information and analysis, while also providing a reliable and centralised source of the truth for management information.
Tools and dashboards built on Qlik include fuel management, workshop and planning systems, and a tracking database that monitors past vehicle activity. All these contribute to Unitrans’ auto asset verification system, a quarterly exercise similar to a stock count that verifies all Unitrans assets across Africa.
“It’s a massive exercise. In the past we’ve even found a R2-million truck that we didn’t realise existed,” says Röder. “With Qlik it’s much quicker and more controlled – and we know exactly where all our assets are.”
DELIVERING CULTURAL CHANGE
Customer-facing information is the other key area where Qlik shines. Now, processing telematics and tracking information and then presenting it to the client as a dashboard transforms the visibility experience.
“A Qlik dashboard can tell clients where their products are all over the country, even the continent,” says Röder. “Maps show the locations of each truck, which means arrivals and turnarounds can be planned more effectively.”
Next steps for Unitrans include deploying Qlik Cloud to enable access to data for the business’ growing analytics team, expanding the use of automation for repetitive processes, and deploying Qlik AutoML.
Röder also cites Qlik’s software-as-a-service option as both an opportunity and an inevitable strategic shift for Unitrans. More broadly, he now sees a process of cultural change, enabled by Qlik, spreading across Unitrans.
“If one individual can find a way for Qlik to make them more informed and more effective in their job, it might be scalable for 20 other people in similar roles – or even the whole organisation. That’s a game changer for us,” he concludes.
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