Bulk chemical hauler
Senior vp, performance planning
As the world's largest for-hire carrier of bulk chemicals, Quality Distribution has 115 terminals in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a trailer exchange agreement with a Mexican carrier. Most over-the-road bulk chemical shipments are relatively short hauls, since the industry tends to use rail for longer moves. That means each terminal essentially operates as a unique regional fleet, providing focused service for area customers, often with highly specialized bulk trailers.
Overall, however, Quality operates 3,300 tractors and 7,500 trailers. As a large but widely distributed operation, the company faced two problems: maintaining central control over operations while allowing each terminal the flexibility to serve its own customer base, and obtaining maximum productivity out of a fleet that includes highly specialized equipment spread throughout 100 local operations.
Quality's solution is a networked “enterprise management system” that offers each terminal a real-time view of the company's entire fleet and quickly helps dispatchers and load planners identify available equipment with loads, customers and locations. In August the company began installing TMWSuite, a Windows client/server fleet management system from TMW Systems that was originally called PowerSuite. Once installation is completed in April, “each terminal will have global asset visibility — the ability to view and match equipment, loads and locations systemwide,” says Margelowsky.
In addition to providing tools for managing daily operations and long-term planning, the suite's Microsoft architecture also makes it easy for Quality to integrate a number of third-party applications, says Siamak Azmoudeh, vp-information systems. Currently, Quality is adding Rand-McNally's IntelliRoute mileage and routing system, which will fill a number of functions in the overall enterprise system.
“Most of our contracts are written in household goods (HHG) miles, and Rand-McNally provides that for our rating,” says Margelowsky. “But it also provides route miles for dispatch, so we can use the same system for both rating and routing.”
In addition, the IntelliRoute and TMWSuite combination will support GIS-based, or graphical mapping, which is now in the process of being installed at Quality. “With a distributed system like ours, it's important that we make passing knowledge from one person to another as easy as possible,” Margelowsky says. “Matching loads and equipment in an operation as large as ours is much easier when you're looking at a map. When you're looking at the entire operation, you have a much better idea of what your trucks are doing, of where and when equipment is available.
“It also improves customer service, as well as productivity, when a customer can call up a map online and actually see the location of their shipment,” he adds.