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Implementation of an online portal for shipment & transportation company for end-to-end job management and advanced Quickbooks integration

The project was conceived as an effort to replace manual operations with an online automated system. The project demanded a deep understanding of the company operations and freight handling, in order to be able to suggest effective solutions. Through our discovery workshops, we were able to discuss and work around various challenges posed, and we were able to deliver a solution that reduced backend operation cost by 25%, reduced error margin by a staggering 65% and improved profit margin by about 12%

  • INDUSTRY
    Logistics & Transportation
  • TARGET COUNTRY
    Australia, New Zealand
  • ENGAGEMENT
    2 years of development, ongoing maintenance

Tech Stack

Drupal 8
Quickbooks integration
Amazon AWS
Apache SOLR
Browserstack

Service Provided

Complete end-to-end shipment order management and fulfilment mechanism implementation
Intricate price calculation based on weight and size of shipment
Barcode scanning mechanism for orders
Solutions design
Backend development
Frontend development

Auxesis delivered a product that revolutionised the freight company, allowing them to shift to a completely paperless system. They delivered results in a timely manner. The team did a great job of presenting any issues for clarification and kept communication up at all times. They quickly grasped complex subjects and made them a reality.

Trent G.

Founder & CEO

About The Client

Wards Transportation is a shipment & transportation management company based in Queensland, Australia. The company was founded in 2003 and since then has been successfully serving freight and transportation management systems across a diverse range of industries.

20 years of operation
2000+ customers served
4 fulfillment locations

Background

At the point the client contacted us, their main business was handled offline through a very primitive booking system. This was causing huge issues to their expansion plan. They came to us with a vision to create a full-blown back office management system for their business. This includes the creation of shipment (called jobs), manifests, connotes, scanning of barcodes feature, integration with QuickBooks API, and a host of other features. A systematic transition from one phase to another needed to be achieved which helps in smooth transit between different branches along with the detailed record-keeping and job sheet creations through barcode scanning feature which we implemented.

Why & how we were chosen?

We were referred to this client by one of our past clients, who had an extremely positive experience with us. But nevertheless, he did a detailed review of our past case studies and technical capabilities. A series of meetings were set up, and finally we were able to convince him and his partners to engage with us.

Challenges

The main challenge of the project was to gain an in-depth understanding of the entire business operations and workflow. Since this project required an in-depth solutions design, our team needed to understand exactly how the offline operations are carried out and grasp the challenges they were facing in each step. Once we absorbed the workflow, we needed to design an efficient solution that would be robust enough to handle the traffic and job load.

Solution Design

The main goal of the project was to build a complete back-office management system for the client's growing transportation and shipment business. This would need to accommodate literally everything they do in their day-to-day business, which till that time would happen in pen and paper mode. They wanted to convert this to web-based handling which they could then use in their various branches and checkpoints. The feature set needed was job creation, price calculation based on set pricing and weight rules, branch to branch transition, connote and manifest creation, PDF generation, barcode scanning, and Quickbooks integration. The project was huge and there were complications at various levels, which our team discussed during the discovery phase. We spoke to the client, got clarity, made suggestions, and finally came up with a working plan.

The main implementational requirements were as follows:

Job Creation

The basic unit was called ‘Job’. This would contain customer reference, sender and origin branch reference, and around 42 fields conditionally displaying which collect various information about the job and later helps in tracking and finally a field collection with the actual job items. The most complicated part was the validation and calculation. Each job item, based on the selected pricing plan and weight mode needed to be validated against set criteria, and the price needed to be calculated through AJAX. Forms API, Field API, AJAX API, and validation handlers we heavily utilized and every single logical channel was handled with care keeping the performance parameter in mind. The client wanted each calculation and validation to not take more than a few sec and we needed to implement heavy performance tuning in order to achieve this.

Customer Creation

Customers were referenced at various points in job creation - customer, sender, and receiver. The customer content type had about 54 fields taking inputs on various information about the customer. It was neatly organized into various tabs through field collection tabs and field collection ajax modules. For a customer, there would be a few pricing plans attached which would decide how the pricing rules will be applied to the jobs.

Pricing Plan Creation

The pricing plan content type was designed to add prices. In addition to some fields collecting general information about the plan, it was of 2 main types; Pricing by Weight and Pricing by PL SPC. So it will have rows. For each row, you mention sender and origin branch and then you set price by PL SPC and/or weight. When you set prices, you would need to set them in chunks, say 0 - 10, 10 - 20, 20 - 40, etc. When pricing would be calculated in the jobs content type, the weight, origin, and destination branch would be passed and the right price would be returned. This was a very complicated mechanism and needed a huge amount of calculation and validation checks.

Getting Jobs, Customers & Pricing to Play Well Together

These 3 entities needed a lot of coworking. Jobs are where these 3 things are integrated. In jobs, you would select the customer, pricing plan would be deduced and combining it with sender and receiver branch and weight ranges, the price would be calculated. There were several other conditions like once automatic calculation kicks in, users can override the value through manual entry. However, for that, a marker needs to be set which would show up during the job view. Safe to say, these three things were extremely complicated parts of the project, but other features were not too far behind!

Manifests & Connotes

When a job passes from branch to branch, various manifests and connotes are created. Each manifest and connote can hold multiple jobs as a part of the shipment. We employed and created a full blow custom field type and custom selection widget for this as the client had in mind a very specific way of doing this and we were to do it exactly like that.

Job, Manifests, Connote PDF Generation

At each stage, Jobs, Manifests and Connotes needed to be exported as PDFs. These PDFs needed to look exactly like what they used to use, which was detailed tabular structure and a custom barcode printed against each. We made use of MPDF library with some patches and custom enhancements in order to set certain style elements into the PDF. The process of setting this was very time consuming and complicated, but we managed it very well in the end.

Bar Code Scanning

Client wanted a mechanism through which the PDFs generated would need to be scanned, and there would be an interface, which would allow bulk updating of certain properties. For example, a client would open the interface, scan a few manifests and connotes and then mention what change was needed, for example updating the branch and check in status. Once done and saved, all those properties for the manifests and connotes for which barcodes were scanned would update all together. This was again a very complicated process.

Quickbooks Integration

Finally, the entire system was to be integrated with the Quickbooks software which the client used to keep his finance and accounts. This means export of customers, pricing plans, jobs pricing and status, connotes and manifests data. This was again a huge and very lengthy task, in which we needed to custom code the API and finally check and fix the calculation errors through a det of dummy data. The nature of the data was very varied and there were an extremely large number of parameters that needed to be taken into consideration.

Admin Management Screens for Customers, Jobs, Pricing Plans, Manifests and Connotes

The Client needed a detailed management area where they could view these data based on certain filters and complex combinations of display parameters. For example, jobs which passed a certain date would be colour coded for better display and filtering.

Auxesis delivered a product that revolutionised the freight company, allowing them to shift to a completely paperless system. They delivered results in a timely manner. The team did a great job of presenting any issues for clarification and kept communication up at all times. They quickly grasped complex subjects and made them a reality.

Trent G.

Founder & CEO

Outcome

From the client’s perspective, the main success of this portal has been the ease of managing a business which till that point was extremely difficult as things were mainly manual. Also, the various stakeholders involved (customers, warehouse managers, drivers) were extremely satisfied not only with this entire thing being managed and operated online but also the extremely intuitive and easy-to-use UI/UX, especially some of them not being very tech-savvy.

This was a very complex project, and as they say, the more the complexity, the sweeter the success tastes. We were finally relieved to see that the client was extremely satisfied and pleasantly surprised by some of the features that we implemented, the client was not even sure that it could be implemented in a usable fashion. End result, happy customer and happy us!

Reduced backend operation cost by 25%

With the cumbersome offline processes replaced with streamlines online processes, the backend operations cost reduced drastically

Reduced error margin by 65%

Online operations introduced automations, thereby reducing the manual errors drastically making the system more efficient.

Improved profit margin by about 12%

With reduced timeline and improved efficiency, the profit margin increased significantly.

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Work only with scalable technologies

The user can also earn referrals by introducing others to this platform, by providing them with his/her unique referral link. Moreover, product is underwritten by a portfolio of property assets generating an income and ensuring the future development and maintenance of the platform.

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Client satisfaction rate