Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation increases agility

Global company uses IBM WebSphere software to optimize processes and meet customer needs

Published on 26 Apr 2012

"The new platform has increased productivity upwards of 300 percent for certain functions, while at the same time has reduced errors by more than 10 percent, making this very powerful technology." - Russell Marky, senior vice president, global business technology, OL&T

Customer:
Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation

Industry:
Travel & Transportation

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Business Process Management (BPM)

Overview

Headquartered in Danbury, Connecticut, Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation (OL&T) is a leading global logistics service provider serving customers in North America, Europe and Asia. The company combines strategic, commercial, operational and technology services enabling its customers to reduce costs and receive the best possible service from transportation providers.

Business need:
Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation (OL&T) wanted a nextgeneration supply chain management (SCM) platform to help provide end-toend transportation solutions and reduce costs for customers.

Solution:
OL&T created the platform using IBM BPM, IBM WebSphere® ILOG® JRules, IBM WebSphere Partner Gateway and IBM ILOG CPLEX® Optimization Studio software.

Benefits:
The solution increased the company’s visibility, flexibility and responsiveness, allowing it to react quickly to constantly changing customer and marketplace needs in a global logistics environment.

Case Study

Headquartered in Danbury, Connecticut, Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation (OL&T) is a leading global logistics service provider serving customers in North America, Europe and Asia. The company combines strategic, commercial, operational and technology services enabling its customers to reduce costs and receive the best possible service from transportation providers. A sophisticated, global web-based infrastructure, proven operational processes and a vast network of logistics service providers differentiate OL&T from the competition.

Responding to increasingly complex logistics management

Unlike many companies in the logistics industry, OL&T does not own a transportation fleet. Rather, it helps customers manage their logistics processes and choose the best transportation option given each customer’s unique needs. The best option can involve multiple modes of transportation, resulting in a complex collaboration among several organizations including customers and logistics service providers. In addition, choosing the right option for each customer has grown increasingly challenging as OL&T has expanded into new markets in Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. For each customer, OL&T must consider region- and language-specific issues and give customers the ability to customize the existing business processes. Geographical data, rate calculation, transactional optimization and booking processes can vary from one country to the next.

“Switching to a task-based paradigm has reduced the learning curves of both our internal and external users, knowing exactly what to do next and taking action only when needed. This has increased productivity upwards of 300 percent for certain functions, while at the same time has reduced errors by over 10 percent, making this very powerful technology,” says Russell Marky, senior vice president, global business technology, OL&T.

Increasing complexity leads to an increase in data

The many factors involved in creating custom processes for each customer and region have increased transactional and master data, which OL&T must manage effectively. To better meet its global customers’ needs, OL&T wanted to develop the next generation of its Odyssey Global Logistics Platform, the technology it uses to create business rules and manage the many integrated components of its customers’ supply chains. OL&T sought to improve its operational efficiency, automate as many manual processes as possible, improve its ability to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) and gain greater flexibility in its business process management. “We study the big picture of logistics and we come back to each customer with a flexible plan that adapts over time," says Leonid Podoshev, vice president, software engineering, OL&T. It’s not necessarily a static plan and that’s why the right technology, total visibility into the system and the tight control matter. Because once we put a plan in place, we have to monitor it constantly, measure it and adjust it to improve on it for the long term. Since customers may want to track different KPIs—such as how often deliveries are made, how many are made in the course of a day or whether or not shelves are stocked in a timely manner—having a tractable platform is key to our reporting.”

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Helping manufacturers stay ahead of demand
When a store runs out of popular products, logistics challenges are often responsible. For example, foods and beverages cannot be delivered to grocery stores when the manufacturer lacks the raw ingredients to make them. Market volatility is an ongoing issue for many of these manufacturers, especially when it comes to managing the costs associated with transporting the raw materials required to make products and then transporting the finished goods to retailers. The new platform helps OL&T make sense of the continuously shifting transportation landscape, and more importantly, helps identify cost savings and strategic adjustments to improve service and assist manufacturers in bringing their products to market.
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Applying process innovation

OL&T applied process innovation to give its customers an intelligent, adaptive and optimized extended supply chain that’s based on demand. Process innovation is the practice of synchronizing processes across business functions and managing for the cumulative end result. Rather than developing the new system itself, OL&T chose to build it using a suite of products including IBM BPM, IBM WebSphere ILOG JRules, IBM WebSphere Partner Gateway and IBM ILOG CPLEX Optimization Studio software.

The IBM applications provide greater process automation that changes the operational paradigm so that the system guides the user to the next task rather than the user having to guess the correct choice. Plus, the IBM applications include preconstructed processes based on sets of common activities, enabling OL&T to use them to quickly assemble custom processes that meet its customers’ needs. OL&T uses business rules to manage rate structures, routing guides and carrier information, which are the aspects that change most frequently, helping to further reduce the complexity of the logistics management process.

The WebSphere ILOG JRules software enables OL&T to create decision tables including rate structures, possible routes and available carriers. Then, by using the information in its system, OL&T creates rules that enable better, smarter, automated decision-making and that can be adjusted quickly as needed. Further, the applications enable OL&T to monitor processes and track shipments in-transit.

Improved flexibility and responsiveness

OL&T has found that the new solution greatly increases its flexibility and responsiveness. For example, changing business rules used to take weeks but, using the new system, a similar change might take a few days or even a few hours. Users can simply edit the appropriate business rule, which is written in simple natural language that’s easy to understand, even by business users. In addition, the new platform provides greater automation, which helps reduce human errors. “The system provides capabilities of directed work, so we’re less dependent on the human factor because if a task is not done in time, the situation could be escalated by the system,” says Podoshev. OL&T customers benefit from the new platform as well because the company’s increased agility and responsiveness help customers improve supply chain efficiencies and keep costs down. For example, the company can now measure work process performance, using that information to fine-tune decisions and interactions between OL&T staff, customers and carriers. These capabilities have enabled OL&T to:
● Meet or exceed customer KPIs in areas of on-time deliveries, invoice turnaround and error-free shipping
● Implement best-in-class freight audit processes globally
● Provide visibility into shipments moving on any mode to anywhere in the world

The IBM solution also freed OL&T developers to focus on developing and improving business rules and logic. “The solution provides scalability, performance and security. We didn’t need to worry about those issues because they were delivered right out of the box,” says Podoshev.

Components

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
IBM ILOG CPLEX Optimization Studio, WebSphere Partner Gateway, WebSphere ILOG JRules, IBM Business Process Manager Standard

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America April 2012 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, WebSphere, ILOG and CPLEX are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions.