To strengthen its market-leading position, the Allen Lund Company needed to provide value-added services while managing huge increases in transactions and partners—without breaking the bank.
The Allen Lund Company is moving to a highly automated and flexible approach to B2B integration—enabling it to eliminate many time-consuming management tasks and manual onboarding processes.
Reducesmanual administration requirements
DoublesEDI volumes in just three months
Enablesthe company to serve a larger customer base
Business challenge story
Pulling ahead in a competitive industry
Transportation is one of the most competitive growth industries in the United States—and there are valuable opportunities for companies that can meet the demanding requirements.
Carey Iwahashi, EDI Solution Architect/Developer at the Allen Lund Company, explains: “In recent years, the business has grown rapidly. Our aim is to keep winning customers by continually delivering better services at lower prices than the competition.
“In addition to helping small producers get their goods to market quickly and cost-effectively, we offer services for less-than-truckload [LTL] freight, dry goods and flatbed freight. In recent years, we have seen increasing demand for data-driven services such as freight temperature monitoring, mobile location tracking and price comparison for carriers, and we partner with specialist information service businesses such as Locus Traxx, FourKites, Sensitech and project44 to help our clients use these capabilities to improve their freight.
“Like all leading transportation companies, we depend on thousands of electronic data interchange [EDI] messages flowing every day between our customers, carriers and shippers to keep our supply chain processes flowing smoothly.”
He continues: “In the past, onboarding new trading partners to our EDI systems was a complex process, and we were limited in the number of new customers and carriers we could take on and manage, and our ability to accommodate an exploding variety and volume of document formats. To capture opportunities ahead of our competitors, we knew that we needed a more efficient approach to partner integration.”
Onboarding new trading partners rapidly
To solve the challenge, the Allen Lund Company is migrating its trading partner base to an enterprise-class B2B integration platform—enabling higher levels of automation to streamline the onboarding cycle, reduce manual administration requirements and lower cost per transaction.
“Our migration process is completely transparent to our user community—which is essential, as our EDI systems need to be operational 24/7,” explains Iwahashi. “To ensure that our integrations are set up correctly on the new platform, we first run them side-by-side for verification, and then decommission the connections on the old platform. The entire process is seamless for our partners, which means that business can carry on as usual in the background.”
Today, the Allen Lund Company adds all new trading partners directly to the new EDI platform. By utilizing the Lightwell B2B Framework, the company is cutting out much of the manual work required to add new partners.
“Our work with our IBM Business Partner Lightwell is helping us to onboard new partners more efficiently and more clearly communicate the value of EDI to the business,” says Iwahashi. “For example, we recently created some visual reports on average dollar value per document, showing that a hypothetical two-hour outage on a Friday night will cost the business around USD1,000 per hour—while downtime early on a Tuesday morning will cost around USD10,000 per hour.
“These reports are now helping us to have productive conversations with parts of the organization that are increasingly reliant on EDI, but have not traditionally had visibility into the business processes and systems that support it. Having a clear view of our costs makes it possible to prepare accurate quotes—for example, when one of our lines of business requests customized EDI services that are outside of our normal offering.”
As well as gaining deeper insight into the true cost of delivering EDI services for the business, the Allen Lund Company obtains granular information about the performance and health of its supporting software and systems.
“In the past, it was very difficult to see the way that variations in our EDI volumes affected our infrastructure requirements in terms of storage, memory and performance,” explains Iwahashi. “Today, that’s all changing. Because we now have access to dashboard reports, we can clearly see how the demands on our system are evolving as the business grows—and this insight is already helping us to optimize our environment to drive performance.
“We realized that our EDI volumes were doubling every quarter, and this explosive increase meant that we were quickly outgrowing our capacity for data retention. By cutting our retention policies in half, we measured a dramatic improvement in overall performance, which enables us to continue adding new partners without driving up the risk of unplanned downtime.”
Creating headroom for rapid business growth
By embracing an automated approach to B2B integration, the Allen Lund Company is driving up its service quality—even as it adds an increasing volume of trading partners.
“Succeeding in the domestic transportation industry means offering high-quality services at scale and low cost—and for a lean organization such as ours, automation is a powerful tool to deliver on those expectations,” says Iwahashi.
“On average, we are now adding between three to ten net-new partner documents to our EDI platform every single week. In the last three years, the number of relationships per document has increased from 80 to 628—and managing this kind of volume and complexity would have simply been impossible with our old way of working.”
Today, the Allen Lund Company can use the time saved on managing and maintaining its EDI systems to invest in developing new services for the business.
Iwahashi comments: “Once we add a partner to our EDI network, managing their connections is extremely straightforward. Upon completing the migration, we will vastly reduce our manual administration requirements, which we can devote to building value-added EDI services for specific use cases from within the company.”
Looking to the future, the Allen Lund Company is already planning to develop new EDI capabilities, enabling the business to work more closely and effectively with trading partners across the United States.
“In the past, it was very difficult to determine whether or not it would even be technically possible to service an EDI request from the business, or the likely timeline for delivery,” explains Iwahashi. “Not only are we now confident that we can deliver on these kinds of requests, we can provide an accurate estimate of the time it will take to roll a new EDI service into production.”
Iwahashi concludes: “Transportation and logistics is all about timing, and we want to be the first call a company makes when they need to move something. Thanks to our automated approach to EDI, we are serving a constantly expanding trading partner base with high-quality services—creating the headroom for years of successful future growth.”
About Allen Lund Company
Founded in 1976 and headquartered in La Cañada, California, the Allen Lund Company is a national third-party transportation broker with over 30 offices across the United States. Employing more than 400 people and managing over 300,000 shipments annually, the Allen Lund Company works with shippers and carriers to arrange dry, refrigerated and flatbed freight.
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Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, Lightwell provides expert services and solutions for B2B integration, order management, e-commerce, managed file transfer and more. An IBM Premier Business Partner, Lightwell has helped hundreds of midmarket and Global 2000 companies across North America and Western Europe to develop, implement and support their technology portfolios. To learn more about Lightwell, please visit: lightwellinc.com To learn more about IBM Sterling B2B Integrator solutions, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/software/products/en/b2b-integrator