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Case study: BI pulls its weight at heavy-hauler Trimac

Trimac, North America's second largest bulk hauling company, estimates an ROI of $1 million since it went live with Cognos business intelligence software.

Logistics can be a nightmare for Canadian trucking giant Trimac Corp., but the company is utilizing powerful new CRM applications to ensure its drivers don't veer off the road to profitability.

As the second largest bulk hauling company in North America, Trimac, Calgary, Alberta, controls a massive fleet of trucks and 130 different terminal locations spread out across the continent. Dealing with cutthroat competition and an ever-changing world of regulations, the company is lauding its new CRM system for helping contain costs. In fact, Trimac estimates that its CRM applications, designed and deployed by business intelligence specialists Cognos Inc., have already produced a return on investment of more than $1 million.

"By the nature of our business, our revenue model is very price sensitive," said Al Kobie, director of operations development at Trimac. "The key to success is that we're focused on being the low-cost producer on the market at any given time."

And since Trimac primarily hauls commodity items including petroleum and cement, the company's ability to keep as many of its trucks on the road as possible is principal to its financial success. Trimac must also ensure that it's 3,300 vehicles are as full of cargo as they can be, while taking into consideration the many regulations that govern the trucking industry.

While using PeopleSoft Financials, which includes some Cognos applications, Trimac got a feel for the capabilities Cognos offers. The company explored a few other vendors but then realized that Cognos software best suited its business intelligence needs. Trimac invested $300,000 in the software, which went live one year ago.

Devising a "trip standard" program

One of the applications Trimac has created using Web-based Cognos' Impromptu and PowerPlay CRM software -- the primary catalyst behind its million-dollar CRM ROI estimate -- is a "trip standard" program that collects data from the firm's dispatching system. The tool takes information from each order and compares it to a company-wide average of payload, load time, trip time, cleaning costs and driver costs to determine how efficient each transaction is. Being able to contrast the effectiveness of everything from certain routes to specific truckers has truly allowed to the company to understand its strengths and shortcomings, Kobie said.

"In our dry bulk business we were often loading cargo in places without scales, which made it nearly impossible to accurately gauge load size," said Kobie. "When we realized how great the inconsistencies tied to this process had become, we decided to build air scales onto our trailers and the difference in efficiency is substantial."

For Ottawa, Ontario-based Cognos, Trimac marks a classic example of how it can help companies become more effective by leveraging information that was already being collected but that had been overlooked as an active force in compelling change.

"The biggest driving issue is that people want to be able to manage their complete business from one perspective, not just with a departmental point of view or product focus, as has traditionally been the case," said Jennifer Cullen, senior manager of product marketing at Cognos.

Down the road

The challenge for Trimac now becomes taking its CRM to yet another level of value by identifying other areas of its business where data can be used to ferret out inefficiency. Among the initiatives underway is an assessment of key performance indicators that Trimac has labeled its "dashboard project." The idea is to create consistent reporting across every level of the organization so that when an individual wants to know the effectiveness of any particular tool, person or function, they can more easily identify the necessary data on a company-wide or divisional level.

Another application in the works at Trimac will give better information to customers about the range of services the company can offer.

"I think we're just starting to understand the tool and realize the potential of it," Kobie said. "Often that's the real issue. We get something that will create a data warehouse for us and provide certain reports, but you're left wondering how you take that tool and make it effective. In this case, we've got a lot of options."

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