Watkins Manages Change—On Time

Serena software tools help the delivery company control distribution applications.

When youre No. 2 in any business, as the saying goes, you must try harder. In the shipping and delivery business, Watkins Motor Lines Inc. isnt even close to No. 1 FedEx Corp.s $25 billion in revenue, but Watkins does try harder.

And with revenues closer to $1 billion, the Lakeland, Fla., company isnt really worried about the giants of the industry, not when it is a leader in a specialized delivery niche.

Watkins specialty is known in the business as an LTL (less than truckload) delivery. As opposed to large shipping companies that fly every package to a central location and route packages from there, LTL enables delivery companies to consolidate many loads on each truck, and as they move through various delivery hubs, the loads get further consolidated or get routed for local delivery.

LTL delivery companies can purchase shipments that are less than one full load, right down to single-pallet size, said Ben Carr, senior production control analyst for Watkins.

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read more about FedEx delivery workers using Bluetooth-capable PocketPC models, click here.

The company picks up packages in one region and transports them to regional "break bulks" and combines loads there.

Local drivers then take packages to each person or individual pallets to their destination.

New pallets are then picked up and taken to the next regional stop.

"So we load 10 or 11 customers freight on that one truck," Carr said. "They each paid for their load, and we combine into one load. Add it all up, and we get paid more ... if we ship one load in one truck than if we shipped them in 11 separate loads."

The business model requires sophistication, coordination and good timing so that packages due to be dropped off at a break bulk are there when the next truck is ready to go. In a word, the process requires teamwork.

Thats the philosophy of the company and of the developer team that keeps the delivery management system up-to-date and as flexible as possible, enabling Watkins to get the right packages to the right customers right on time.

"Were not the cheapest shipper in the world, but we try to be the best," said Carr. "Lately that has meant rolling out things to our customers that others arent willing to offer or is a premium product.

"Were services-driven," said Carr. "We have to improve service to our customers and increase overall efficiencies across the U.S. because shipping is a very time-schedule overhead business. If we are late [our systems] share information as fast as [they] can, recalculate as soon as possible what freight gets on that truck to meet the deadlines."

Next Page: Constant updates are needed.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...