Net Interactive Safe Handling Inc Provides On-Line Tracking

Dec. 1, 1999
Ford Reiche and Paul Turina, owners of Safe Handling Inc in Auburn, Maine, say they have been surprised at the attention the company has received from

Ford Reiche and Paul Turina, owners of Safe Handling Inc in Auburn, Maine, say they have been surprised at the attention the company has received from shippers after the partners custom designed an Internet program for Safe Handling's intermodal and bulk transload business.

What caused the stir began when Turina and Reiche decided to consolidate their operational logistics into one web package so that not only did they have immediate access to the information, so would their customers. Consolidation was a boon for Safe Handling and its growing business. This year, the company has added tank cleaning facilities to its services and increased its for-hire carrier fleet to 15 tank trailer-tractor units.

Safe Handling's shippers access their data by going to the Customer Service Center on Safe Handling's web site,

"Our shippers have called and asked if we could provide it to other facilities," says Turina. "Now, we have companies who want to purchase and use it. We have begun discussions with several terminal operators to license this program. Safe Handling is promoting the customer service feature as the e-Link in the Supply Chain.

"The Internet program controls every bit of our business," Turina says. "We log on and handle all of our orders on it. That includes bills of lading, tracking product loading and unloading, and reporting to customers. We have the daily production schedule always at hand. The program also handles all repackaging and warehouse activities and generates invoices."

Shippers have password entry procedures that are guaranteed for security by the Internet service provider. Information is encrypted, but it isn't likely to be a target for hackers. "The data doesn't lead to companies' sensitive information," he says.

"We want our shippers to see exactly what is happening to their shipment at any given time. A shipper can give a consignee or customer entrance to the data - if they want to share the information. It's only a matter of time until everyone is doing it this way."

When an order comes into Safe Handling, the information is entered and immediately available for viewing by the customer. An e-mail message is automatically sent to the shipper to confirm that the order is being processed. When the product is loaded, the driver reports the loading number, destination, date, time, and any other important information such as product temperature or quality assurance test results. That information is entered into the system and is available for immediate viewing. Similarly, information is entered upon delivery. E-mail notice follows each action.

But there are also wakeup calls. If a truck or rail car does not arrive on schedule, an alarm clock pops up on the screens to notify both Safe Handling and their customer.

The Y2K-compliant system is based on a profile of the shipper so that orders will be matched only with the railroads and truck carriers it uses. Searches for information are connected to a shipper number and/or a rail car number.

"This is just the beginning of Internet use by our industry," says Turina. "Safe Handling designed this system to serve a broad range of requirements. It was developed with a consultant who has designed other web-based systems used worldwide. The program has been in operation at Safe Handling since February and has dramatically improved overall terminal efficiency and performance."

Following are other web sites related to the intermodal industry that are also on the e-commerce track. For the most part, companies are using the Internet in a two-way process, one to give information and the other to receive queries via e-mail from people who are reviewing the site. Others are already turning their web addresses into multi-processes that allow for many different kinds of interaction. Bulkmatic has designed a web site that specifically addresses its services that include dry bulk, liquid bulk, and inedibles. In addition, the Griffith, Indiana, company provides extensive details of the types of tank trailers that make up its fleet. Categories for discussion include self-loading trailers, pneumatic trailers, and MC307 and MC312 trailers.

Not only are diagrams presented for each trailer, photographs and diagrams of components are also at hand. The information covers what products are hauled in each vehicle and tank trailer capacity. Safety features and loading and unloading capabilities are noted.

Another important element of a carrier's services is its driver training program. Bulkmatic gives an overview of the training subjects covered and includes photos of visual displays used in the sessions and computer training programs that are applied.

On another page, a locations directory lists company personnel and contact information, including e-mail access. In that section, driving directions to the offices are available.

The company supplies valuable links to industry topics, Bulkmatic partners in progress, news and information, and special transportation topics, such as the Weather Channel for current weather forecasts. Canadian National railroad of Montreal, Canada, has an electronic tracking system that lets customers keep up with their shipments at any time. The system is flexible and adapts to each customer's resources and needs, according to the web site information. A choice of access by electronic query is available from a PC, mainframe, or through the Internet.

CN offers several options for shipment tracking to shippers, receivers, and other parties to the shipment.

Shipments can be tracked with an "Individual" or "Fleet" trace. With Individual (or Demand) trace, customers enter equipment initials and number to find the current location of shipments. With Fleet (or Parameter) trace, they define certain criteria in advance and select all shipments matching the criteria.

Shipment tracking options include CN's Internet site that offers up-to-date information on shipments located on CN's network.

The company also tracks customers' CN shipments across other railroads (a 30-minute reporting delay is normal), according to the information. NetREDI offers slightly delayed reports on shipments on any railroad in North America. R-EDI, a rail-industry-sponsored PC software, connects with a central site to retrieve slightly delayed reports for shipments on any railroad in North America. Along with shipment tracking, it provides electronic messaging and EDI bill of lading capabilities.

EDI Shipment Status messages are created as a customer's shipment moves to continuously update directly into the customer's internal system.

An e-mail program allows a customer to receive a copy of a tracking report into the customer's e-mail at pre-arranged times of day. CSX Transflo of Jacksonville, Florida, applies the Internet to its North American network of specialized bulk product transfer terminals. A button for e-commerce information is placed prominently on the home page, an indication of the company's commitment to the use of the Internet in its operations. CSX offers a wide range of electronic options that provide customers with 24-hour-a-day service.

The e-commerce service covers transactions from ordering to billing to tracking rail cars. The information can be sent and received directly from the customer's mainframe computer. CSX Transflo's TWSNet is an Internet product providing a graphic interface for the exchange and management of information, according to the web site information.

Another electronic service allows customers to trace rail cars, containers, or trailers by telephone. Four types of tank containers and a chassis can be viewed on the web site of Eurotainer SA of Paris, France. The photographs provide a quick glance at the company's products. More information is available on additional pages.

The web site index remains at the left of the page for easy access to additional selections. A great deal of information is available about the service that Eurotainer provides, including data plates, repairs, and maintenance. A list of satisfied customers also is provided.

Another information list shows that tank containers are approved by authorities and comply with various international approvals, recommendations, conventions, standards, and regulations.

To request a proposal or to gather more information, e-mail is provided. Converta-Vans Inc, Buffalo, New York, has launched a home page with a virtual demonstration of the company's trailer converting from van to tank. Free of involved graphics that slow down some computers, the rest of the site provides effortless information browsing.

The Index lists benefits, construction, cleaning, special features, and operation. Browsing is enhanced because the index remains on each page.

The first button, benefits, covers uses for the product and includes a graph demonstrating economic benefit, comparing the convertible van to conventional bulk trailers.

Additional buttons lead to information about the tank's clean-in-place washout system.

Descriptions include weight, capacity, dimensions, configurations, valves, and fittings. The trailer can be equipped with in-transit heat and/or a refrigeration unit. Contacting the company is easy through e-mail.