Doug Bartholomew, Samuel Greengard, Glenn Hasek, John Jesitus, Scott Leibs, Kristin Ohlson, Robert Patton, Barb Schmitz, Tim Stevens, and John Teresko contributed to this article. For many companies, transportation logistics are still figured with pencils, paper, and plenty of erasers. When customers want to know when their order will arrive, only Joe in shipping is able to puzzle it out. Back in 1992, when Metasys first moved to close this gap in supply-chain management, it introduced Enterprise Transportation Management (ETM) -- a complete suite of products to manage transportation planning, execution, and performance evaluation within the client/server model. This year, Metasys has introduced a Java-based Internet version of its ETM application suite, a transportation management system designed for the World Wide Web. The advantages of the new Web-based system are significant, says Ryan Walcott, development manager of applications technology. Companies can deploy web-ETM without having to install specialized software on each client PC. Instead, webETM is installed on the company's computer network. The company is then given a URL, a user ID, and a password -- enabling users to access the webETM system with any Java-enabled Web browser. The Internet version offers the benefits of fewer installation costs and no ongoing maintenance costs. Even more important, webETM opens up the company's transportation operations to anyone with a stake in the process, no matter where they are located. Equipped with a Web browser, associates throughout the company can access the site to check shipment status, view summary reports of shipping information, or sort through rates and routing information. Even while on the road, transportation and logistics executives can use PCs -- even laptops -- to check the progress of major orders, correct shipping arrangements that have gone awry, and make other strategic transportation decisions. That saves the considerable costs formerly spent on making these connections by phone, fax, or electronic data interchange (EDI). Customers, too, can easily access the company's Web site to check their shipments. "That's the beautiful part about it," Walcott says. "After the software is installed on the company's applications server and database server, all they have to do is send an e-mail to their customers or anyone else that might want to have access to this information. They just send them an e-mail that directs them to that URL." At the heart of the ETM package is MetaFreight, which expands the system's global shipping features. MetaFreight automates shipping activities from the moment an order is received. It selects the best mode of transportation, equipment, routing, and even the carrier-of-choice. It also determines the freight bill and schedules pickup. MetaFreight then follows the order's progress through a range of post-shipment activities, such as the auditing of freight bills to check for overcharges and monitoring of the claims process. With the new Web-enabled product, information will move at lightning speed, allowing companies to shave transportation costs -- Metasys claims 5% to 20% -- and critical decisions will be made faster. For instance, when companies create load tenders on webETM, carriers are automatically alerted via e-mail and invited to accept or reject the tender through the company's ETM Web site -- an improvement over the many phone calls, faxes and EDI transactions typically involved in such activities. Similarly, Web deployment allows ETM's late-shipment alerts -- triggered when orders fail to reach warehouses, pool points, or other milestone destinations on schedule -- to reach the entire system and all its users instantly. Walcott expects most enterprise applications to move to Web deployment. "What we're seeing is an evolution from companies publishing information on the Web to having mission-critical systems operating on the Web. Our product is one of the first to take that step."
Metasys Inc.Charlotte, N.C.