It’s easy for important information to get lost from truck to office, 1s to look like 7s, names misspelled, and directions inaccurate when using a paper-based system. Is your company one of the many still holding on to these paper-based systems? There’s a better way. Darren Chan, co-founder of Vector, leads design for Vector’s products such as LoadDocs. LoadDocs is an easy-to-use, mobile-first document and workflow management solution.
MWS: CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF RUNDOWN OF LOADDOCS AND WHAT SPARKED THE NEED TO IMPLEMENT SUCH AN IDEA?
LoadDocs is a mobile-first document and workflow management system focused on logistics. Workflows are traditionally done on paper, which leads to delays, errors, and additional work transcribing and inputting data into other systems.
Witnessing first-hand through my family’s distribution company in New York City, as well as having our company’s founding members visit a family friend’s trucking company in California, we realized how big a hassle it is to have a paper-driven operation. We quickly realized we could simplify a carrier’s operation by developing a platform that digitally processes paperwork, reducing errors that could arise from handling paper copies. Still, it’s a big deal to change the way a business operates—moving from paper to digital. Ease of use was paramount in developing LoadDocs.
So, we worked within a company’s current processes, which led to the document capture solution. For those that were able to change their workflows holistically, we transitioned them off of paper and onto our custom mobile workflow solution. The LoadDocs solution leads to more efficient workflows where data is received in real time without any transcription, and folks are only alerted of exceptions.
MWS: AS LOADDOCS IS MOSTLY KNOWN FOR ITS DOCUMENT CAPTURE SOLUTION FOR OTR TRUCKING COMPANIES, WHAT MADE THE APPLICATION ALSO BENEFICIAL TO FIELD SERVICE CARRIERS?
Our first few customers were carriers servicing Northern California’s utility company, PG&E. Its deliveries were more complicated than your typical over-the-road delivery, which means more paperwork. With these deliveries or any other service activity performed, there was a lot of data that eventually had to make its way through the carrier’s dispatch and accounting teams before landing on PG&E’s plate. All this manual collaboration was error-prone and led to lengthy delays.
With the LoadDocs mobile app, a lot of metadata is captured alongside the driver’s workflows. This data is automatically routed to the correct parties back at the carrier’s office, relevant teams at PG&E, and even teams at the materials manufacturer. At the end of the day, field service carriers either need access to data while in the field or need to broadcast data regarding the job. LoadDocs streamlines a lot of these workflows without the need for long implementation or training times.
MWS: WORK TRUCK OPERATORS CAN BE QUITE DIFFERENT FROM ONE OPERATION TO THE NEXT. FOR A GIVEN IMPLEMENTATION, DO YOU TAKE A MORE CUSTOMIZED APPROACH, OR DO YOU SUGGEST BEST PRACTICES GAINED FROM EXISTING USERS TO ACHIEVE A MORE STANDARDIZED PRODUCT AND IMPLEMENTATION?
It’s a mixture of both. The operators are the experts at what they do, so during the implementation process, we’ll learn as much as we can from them. We’ll make suggestions drawing on what we glean from their operations and what we’ve seen across our customer base. It’s unnecessary for us to force operations to change overnight just to adapt to our software. We’ll gauge their immediate needs, their appetite for change, and go from there.
Our solution is heavily customizable, so it’ll grow and mature with the operation. There are times when things are moving so fast it isn’t possible to change much of the process during the initial implementation. In those situations, our out-of-the-box solution with its document capture can address most of the required workflows without drastic process changes. As we observe how carriers use the product, we’ll phase in customizations in the product coupled with process changes to help streamline more of their operations.
MWS: PG&E USES LOADDOCS TO ACHIEVE REAL-TIME VISIBILITY OF DELIVERIES TO JOBSITES. WHAT DID PROCESSES LOOK LIKE BEFORE, AND HOW HAS YOUR APPLICATION SOLVED PAPER PAINS?
Typically carriers get a request for materials such as utility poles to be dropped in remote areas. Due to lack of infrastructure such as roads, private property, or safety issues, the materials are dropped nearby instead. Before unloading, the driver typically writes down the GPS coordinates on the Bill of Lading, fills out a safety survey, then drops the paper packet off with the dispatcher when back at the yard. When the dispatch or accounting team has time, they’ll transcribe those coordinates and notes in an email that is sent off to PG&E to work its way through the organization.
Sometimes a digit may be transcribed incorrectly throwing off the location a few hundred feet or a few miles. There are instances where a utility crew shows up at a jobsite and has trouble locating the pole or, in certain situations, a pole was never placed. This kicks off a phone chain through the ranks and through the carrier’s organization to discover a pole’s location. In certain cases, if they are unable to locate the paperwork in question, the driver is phoned in hopes they’ll remember where they dropped the material.
But with LoadDocs, a driver can simply take a photo where the pole was dropped along with embedded GPS location and complete the safety survey via a digital form. There’s no manual recording of GPS coordinates, date, time, or driver information. Once it’s uploaded, all interested parties at the carrier, utility company, and materials manufacturer are notified. The utility crew can click on a notification that can route them directly to the delivery site, and if they have trouble locating it, photographs taken by the driver give them more context to locate the pole. LoadDocs enables real-time collaboration amongst all parties via manual sharing in addition to automated triggers along with messaging that is centralized around specific deliveries. As an extended team, we’re trying to put an end to the burden of paper through a mixture of both software and process.
MWS: FROM WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED AND BUILT THROUGH IMPLEMENTATION FOR PG&E, ARE YOU CONSIDERING CATERING YOUR PRODUCT MORE TOWARD THE UTILITY INDUSTRY, OR WILL ENGINEERING FOCUS ON BROADER FIELD SERVICE WORKFLOWS?
We fully recognize that every company has its own nuances, and it’s not in anyone’s best interest to force a generic product onto a specific company or industry. We’ve productized the platform that enables turn-key customized workflows on both the mobile and web applications. Frequently, new customers sign up for our base, generic solution, and as they familiarize themselves and realize how powerful LoadDocs is for their other workflows, they’ll supply us with their current document templates and walk us through their processes. From there, sometimes it takes less than 30 minutes to turn around a custom workflow—a carrier’s employees don’t even need to update their mobile apps.
MWS: CAN YOU PROVIDE A GLIMPSE INTO YOUR ENGINEERING ROADMAP TO GIVE US A SENSE OF HOW THE LOADDOCS PRODUCT WILL EVOLVE IN THE YEARS TO COME?
What we see from our customers is that after data is collected from the field, there are extensive workflows that follow. Whether it’s verifying and analyzing that data, inputting data into other systems, or communicating data to outside parties, we’ve built a number of modules that enable customers to complete these workflows quickly on our platform.
For LoadDocs specifically, we’ve reinforced our transitionary modules allowing paper to still be a major component of customer workflows but without the pain, applying machine learning to catch errors or to automatically doctype, and index paperwork before extracting key fields. Furthermore, as we onboard new customers and build out their workflows on our platform, we’re constantly designing new components to enhance the platform overall.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Darren Chan is the co-founder of Vector, a company dedicated to empowering logistics companies with tools to achieve operational efficiency and gain intelligence to act with unparalleled insights. Prior to Vector, Chan built and led the design team at Addepar, a financial technology software company. Find out more, visit www.withvector.com.