Unitrans: taking data the extra mile with Qlik

Unitrans: taking data the extra mile with Qlik

For Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions (USCS), willingness to go the extra mile to deliver exceptional client service is critical. The company is able to do this thanks to Qlik.

As the South African division of the broader Unitrans Group, USCS is more than just a trucking company that moves goods from A to B. It handles warehousing, freight forwarding and clearing, vehicle loading and offloading, yard management, and a range of other related activities at which other logistics operators may balk.

“Wherever we can provide customers with efficiencies and synergies, we get involved,” says Christo Röder, finance innovation manager at Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions.

Another area where Unitrans strives to make a difference, both to its own operations and those of its clients, is innovation. “Our core business is service delivery – it’s all to do with solutions. When we sign up a customer, it’s not just about performing an operation, it’s about the value-add, and analytics adds that value,” he continues.

When Röder joined Unitrans in 2014, he had rolled out business information systems in previous manufacturing business roles and already had a solid working relationship with Johannesburg-based business intelligence (BI) consultancy Business 2 IT (B2IT). He was ready to take the next step, and quickly realised that Unitrans was sitting on “heaps of data” that was largely underutilised, both in a customer-facing context and internally. Slow processes also meant that any data being used was not at its most effective.

“It could take us two weeks just to prepare basic data,” he reveals. “In this industry, data that’s two weeks old can be essentially useless for management teams looking to make informed decisions. That’s where Qlik came in.”

In a short space of time, Röder and B2IT established which platform would be the best fit for Unitrans. A combination of QlikView and NPrinting, later supplemented by Qlik Sense, gave the business a plug-and-play solution that met its unique combination of demands while also reducing the need to move large volumes of data between locations.

“Qlik is so flexible; it can talk to different sources that don’t have to be live all the time,” says Röder. “For example, one of our contracts just has a single PC running out of a container. Whenever the team is online, they can upload basic CSV files and Qlik takes care of the rest.”

Such was its simplicity, securing funding and achieving the essential buy-in from stakeholders across the business was significantly more straightforward than Röder had anticipated. Even long-standing spreadsheet enthusiasts quickly overcame any initial scepticism when they saw Qlik’s potential and how it could align with the company’s broader strategy.

“Suddenly they had daily reports showing them rankings, exception reports, and stuff a spreadsheet can’t do because you’re waiting for an accountant or admin clerk somewhere to update a file or macro,” Röder explains. “It spread like wildfire; all of a sudden Qlik was the hype word around the company. Everybody was on board within a year.”

Unitrans deployed a suite of Qlik solutions including QlikView, NPrinting, and Qlik Sense to access, process, and visualise data across Africa. As a result, the company is now enjoying a number of benefits. Accelerated and more accurate reporting gives Unitrans greater control over operations, for example. Improved processes free up staff time and enable more effective decision-making, while customer-facing dashboards provide improved visibility and planning processes.

Month-end processes are also significantly accelerated, with reporting times cut by half: Qlik usually completes what was previously a 10-day process in five days, enabling more timely management decisions and quicker responses.

Röder also cites Qlik’s software-as-a-service option as both an opportunity and an inevitable strategic shift for Unitrans. More broadly, he now sees Qlik spreading a process of cultural change across Unitrans, with him acting as enabler and gatekeeper.

“We now have an environment where people can think innovatively on a continuous basis,” he says. “If one individual can find a way for Qlik to make them more informed and more effective in their job, it might be scalable for 20 other people in similar roles, or even the whole organisation. That’s a game changer for us.”

Published by

Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
Prev Cry our beloved drivers
Next Never a dull moment…

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.