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Programmed for growth

Stephen Bell | Dec. 13, 2011
To be faced with a complete restructure of your company and to have your entire ICT infrastructure taken away would be a severe test for any CIO -- more so as Allister Lowe did not know, when he became IT manager of transport and logistics company Toll Tranzlink in 2008, that the big change was only 12 months away.

"Toll didn't have any historical baggage, so we looked to create something more innovative and customer-friendly; to use technology to solve the problem.

"The solution Toll came up with was 'one ticket, anywhere any weight' using the GPS capability on our scanners. It's a very good demonstration of technology innovation to solve a business problem and it's been very well received by our customers, because it's very easy to use and quite different from the way other companies operate. An added benefit for customers is they don't have to pay in advance for their tickets."

Toll NZ has just finished another project, run jointly with Vodafone/Datacom and specialist software developer VisFleet. Toll NZ has equipped its FCL (full container load) owner-driver fleet with Samsung Galaxy smartphones running VisFleet's vWork, a cloud-based visualisation scheduling system. "FCL job requests are sent to the visualisation system from Toll's Freight System. Jobs are assigned to the trucks by drop-and-drag and dispatch directly to a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. We have full visibility of the movement of the containers and the trucks up and down the country.

"That just went live a couple of weeks ago. It's been very successful, and that opens up other opportunities for Toll to use smart phones to our benefit; they'll never replace the traditional scanner, but I wonder when the likes of Motorola and Intermec will start to run Android rather than Windows Mobile."

Lowe began his career in the business rather than the ICT side -- with American Express in the UK, where he was born -- and he sees that as an asset. "I have a business appreciation of IT rather than a technical focus. My focus is making sure the people in the business understand IT and making sure IT portrays [what they're doing] to the business in a business way. Building strong relationships is key."

Toll's IT team rotates its members through an "IT hot desk" within the business. Supplier-funded barbecues and twice-weekly martial-arts classes are initiatives Lowe has introduced for ICT, general staff and suppliers to get together. "It's a great way of building relationships and helps with teamwork," he says.

Driving the business forward

After working in various departments within American Express in the UK, Lowe took on a user-acceptance testing exercise, which interested him in ICT. He subsequently spent 10 years at American Express in various ICT roles. On moving to New Zealand in 1998 he took on a project manager/second in command role with a courier business. "The freight industry is very different from the finance industry, where I'd come from. Being an American company and in the finance industry, [Amex] was very structured; lots of methodology and process and procedure. The freight industry can be quite the reverse; everything needs to happen tomorrow," he says. After 11 years in the courier sector, he moved to Toll.


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