ERP System for a Logistics Company

The Challenge

GC «Alt Auto» is the largest transportation company of the Altai region.

Its fleet has more than 700 vehicles. The company has several work areas: long trips to CIS and Russian cities; freight transportation across distributors; transportation of ore and other materials from minings.

The demand for automation appeared when Alt Auto’s tasks for logistics specialists became too complicated, and there was too much work. Each specialist had to manage more than 100 vehicles. Moreover, each area has specific aspects: difference in rolling stocks, trips scheduling and calculations of driver’s salaries.

Out-of-the-box solutions didn’t really suit Alt Auto’s purposes. They couldn’t automate all the work areas in a single system, each would require a separate configuration and database. Furthermore, the existing solutions contained unnecessary tools for logistics accounting. Those tools only overloaded the interface. So, the company decided to develop an original ERP system. The development started in 2017.

The whole enormous project was implemented by a single developer — the Alt Auto’s programmer Nikita Ledenev. He has more than 17 years development experience. He started with Delphi and С++. About 5 years ago Nikita switched to Java. While creating an ERP system, he decided to use tools for development automation.

«We considered various tools. One of the options was Oracle BI, but it was too expensive. Another one was Play Framework, which didn’t suit our purposes as it represents an application basic structure without a standard set of features and components. CUBA Platform turned out to be the best possible tool. As I see it, it’s something in between RAD and a high-level framework. It’s not a “self-locked” thing or an environment with some rules that are hard or impossible to come out of. Technically, with CUBA you can implement anything that is possible in Java. At the same time, the framework has tools for rapid development of business applications and solutions for standard tasks, for example, creating entities and forms, which helps to concentrate on the app logic. The CUBA documentation is detailed and clear, and it is publicly available, so I assimilated rather quickly, though before the project Java was my secondary language,» says Nikita Ledenev.

Solution

The ERP system development began with automation of distribution trips planning. In September 2017, only four months after the development started, the solution went to production.

  • CUBA became the basis for algorithms minimizing the manual actions that logisticians had to perform before. For work planning, the specialists use an installed “Alt Auto” touch-screen terminal, where the drivers register when they are ready for the trip. The system automatically chooses the trip and sends a message with all the necessary information to the driver. Requests from the largest Russian distributors are loaded to the ERP system via Rest API.

    Each request contains information about the freight, schedule and the route. The driver’s route sheet can be created in one click based on the request.

    Further on the ERP system functionality ratcheted up.

  • Ore transportation from minings became automated. Earlier logisticians had to calculate the number of trips and vehicles required within agreement conditions on their own. Thanks to the ERP system, they perform minimum manual actions now. Logisticians can just add the corresponding agreement and route to the route sheet, and everything will be calculated automatically. After that the specialists only need to choose from the list of suitable and ready for work vehicles, offered by the system.

For each work area “Alt Auto” implemented separate logic for drivers’ salary calculation.

For managers the company created a task planner familiar to the kanban board.

Storage of information on various “Alt Auto” aspects of work is now well-ordered. The company has vehicle, driver, penalty and other catalogues and an archive of human resources and legal documents. For each vehicle it is possible to track the current status (“in work” or “stand by”) and daily plan performance.

One more global task was the fuel management and petrol card usage. The ERP system allows users to plan fueling and add it to the drivers’ route lists. Also, the application imports information on petrol card usage from Gazprom's, Rosneft’s and Alt Auto’s own filling station informational systems. The plan is compared to the actual data. The system automatically forms a report on the unaccounted fuelings.

Organization of mobile conference calls and sms notifications was implemented with the help of an unusual mix of technologies. Formerly, “Alt Auto” used the local provider’s conference services. The main problem was that the employees had to make a separate call to connect to the conference. Many of them forgot to do that. The new solution was created with the help of CUBA and Asterisk, an open-source technology for VoIP. As for the equipment, the developer used SIM cards and a gate which modifies them to VoIP trunks. It is possible to manage conferences — choose the participants, set up the start and end time — via a web application. When a conference starts, SIM cards automatically make calls to the participants. All they have to do is accept the call. This application also sends SMS notifications to the staff.

Results

The ERP system automated 80% of processes for trips planning, route sheets arrangement and payroll jobs.

This helped logisticians to meet the deadlines. Furthermore, some employees could switch to the job that the company had no resources for. One more important thing is that the manual calculations are now minimized. “Alt Auto” staff mostly check the information within the system. As a result, the number of mistakes caused by the human factor and load on the staff significantly decreased.

What is more, the fuel burn rate greatly decreased, too: compared to 42 litres per 100 kilometres, now it is only 33.

VoIP turned out to be cheaper than the conference call services, which helped to save about $400 per month.

In the near future the company plans to launch an Android application for drivers. With this application drivers will be able to register for the trip, track the route on the map, request for the vehicle support manning and receive informational messages from the company. To develop the application the company will use open-source technologies. Element.io (formerly known as Riot) - a messenger distributed on free terms - was taken as a basis. It will be modified for “Alt Auto” tasks. CUBA Platform will be used to integrate the Android application and the ERP system.