Everyone in manufacturing and distribution understands how smart logistics underpin today's highly competitive industries like retailing. Yesterday's transport companies have long since become logistics and fulfilment partners, which in turn compete on the quality of their services.
Smart ICT is now integral to all of those services, a development that has been the basis of the growth of Reynolds Logistics, a third generation family company that was named European Transport Company of the year in 2012. In fact it has received an international award almost every year for over a decade.
Established 85 years ago, Reynolds has evolved into a specialist operator in the distribution of hydrocarbon fuels, lubricants, chemicals and bitumen. It employs over 270 people between Ireland and Britain with a fleet of 150 specialist tankers serving three islands and a growing business across Northern Europe. Customers include blue- chip brands such as Maxol, Topaz, Shell and BP.
Andrew Reynolds is chief executive and a longstanding advocate of innovative ICT as a key to growth and success. "In our offices we moved early to virtualise our servers, while our in-cab technology has progressed to an on board office, effectively making every driver an autonomous business unit to a high degree" he said "That is important because 95 percent plus of our business is conducted electronically. We also have a very high level of integration with our customer's systems"
Reynolds was essentially a distribution organisation for many years with four main offices, notably Dublin and Ellesmere Port, ten or 11 other sites in Ireland and no real central HQ. "They were always connected, of course, but from a management point of view that was really the principal requirement. In a sense, all of our users and sites have been working on remote access for years. For instance, we have been using VoIP telephony for over eight years with great benefits given our geographical spread," Reynolds said.
"In many ways, that all helped us see the forward transition from a virtualised IT infrastructure, which first gave us the reliability and redundancy we needed, then into a data centre and then onto the cloud as a natural progression. We are actually well positioned for the move to cloud." Today the company uses a wide range of cloud applications, from Office 365 for all its communications and collaboration, to the US Accellos suite, which is its core logistics and transport management system. Reynolds is also a SAP Business One User which is integrated with all of the key systems hosted by Ergo, which is its ICT services partner across everything from support desk to data backup and business continuity.
"We also have a number of key software elements that we develop in house, notably integration pieces and other solutions to our own specific needs," Reynolds said. "Mostly the key systems are hosted in a Dublin data centre for the level of robustness that we could not cost effectively provide for ourselves".
The on-truck systems now combine three main elements all linked to the cloud systems. There is 24x365 GPS tracking which is independent of all other systems, and telematics for vehicle and driver performance monitoring. The driver systems include stock and proof of delivery recording, plus in essence a mobile office in the cab.
"All are supported by the ICT infrastructure and as well as the obvious operational efficiencies they deliver business benefits because we can, for example, optimise cashflow by invoicing automatically on delivery" said Reynolds. Overall he said, Cloud as the major part of Reynolds ICT infrastructure, has delivered several main benefits. "The Opex model for all ICT services suits us very well, especially for business flexibility. In some basic applications like email and general collaboration, cloud solutions today are so robust it makes little sense to use anything else.
"In general, although we still have some core systems in the data centre, we do not intend to invest anymore" Reynolds said. "We are heading towards a complete cloud ecosystem to serve the business as it develops, not least because 80 per cent and more of our users are essentially moblie"
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