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Integrated database for computer illiterates: enables truck broker to concentrate on sales.

INTEGRATED DATABASE FOR COMPUTER ILLITERATES

We're real intense," says Allen Lund, who owns Pasadena-based truck transport broker Allen Lund Co.

The backhaul company will load 25,000 trucks this year. Half of its business comes from the food and fiber industries, highly perishable agricultural commodities including cotton and Southern California's soft fruits like mangoes and peaches.

"In our business," Lund says, "people use us because they want just-in-time service."

An on-line integrated database in place just over a year allows two-hour turn-arounds when needed.

Seven of the company's 10 sites use the system.

Lund Co.'s unassuming Pasadena data center supports locations as farflung as Vancouver, B.C., and Orlando, Fla. An IBC super-microcomputer running Xenix-based software helps dispatchers fill homeward-bound trucks in a hurry.

The system supports about 50 users scattered at terminals across the country.

Sub-rate digitally multiplexed T1 connections let all dispatchers access the same software program. There's no duplication of investment.

"Half of our sales staff is extruck drivers with no technical background," Lund says. Menu-driven application software developed by his son David, a former truck broker with an agribusiness degree from California Polytechnic, makes the system surprisingly easy to learn and use.

Users' Love Affair

"I really expected more trouble with it," Lund senior says. A single commercial mileage package supports all 50 users.

Every dispatcher has instant mileage for 110,000 cities at his fingertips, just by entering a city pair on his keyboard.

The program calculates distances and recommends optimal routes, down to what bridges to use.

Profit-center managers love the system.

A San Antonio office manager who initially fought the plan tooth and nail later wrote Allen Lund a letter apologizing for her resistance, saying her office couldn't do without the database.

At a recent meeting, managers ganged up on a holdout manager from Louisville.

"I wasn't going to make her invest in it," Lund says, "but they all told her, 'You gotta get it] You gotta get it] That's the only way you're going to make it.'"

What users may not appreciate, however, are the near-heroic efforts of local MCI rep Mike Tinaza and distributor Bob Merritt of Ezra Mintz Associates.

Lund relied heavily on them to get his project off the drawing board.

"As a truck broker," Lund says, "there's no way for me to be up to speed on these technologies."

Tinaza had the idea of splitting up one Pac Bell T1 circuit to serve the remote locations. The company has all its inbound WATS and 800 lines on the T1, as well as two fax lines. It pays $775 a month for T1 access.

The last two DS0 channels on the T1 each split into five 9.6 kb/s data channels. For every network site, an Astrocom 4100 stat mux sits between the IBC's output ports and an Astrocom 8100 sub-rate digital mux (two 8100s are in use).

The 8100s connect to a channel card in a Telco Systems D4 channel bank. From there the signal goes to MCI facilities in Los Angeles 12 miles away. DACCS service sends it to the remotes, where Astrocom 2300 DSU/CSUs and coresponding 4100 stat muxes take over.

An old Executone electronic PBX handles all voice traffic into Pasadena. It's set up without a central attendant, so every call rings at every sales desk.

Accountants Scream

Lund says that before implementing the database he had to call a meeting to ensure his seven accounting staffers it wouldn't take their jobs. "Now they're screaming for work," he says.

The department has doubled productivity. It does less keypunching and more policing of shipment information.

"We trashed the Highway Guide," Lund says. Dispatchers used to page through these two-inch volumes to make hand-written rate quotes. Now they generate professional-looking proposals in seconds through a central laser printer.

"We all concentrate on sales now," Lund says.

The integrated system also supports on-screen messaging and an intercom service. "Users talk to each other on their terminals, and we don't pay WATS charges," Lund says.

The data network also may help the company send cash advances to truckers when and where needed.

Lund is considering using its own computer to access highly secure cash-distribution systems from Memphis-based ComData Network and Cummins Cash of Dallas to zap checks to truck stops across the country.

"As soon as EDI standards are set," Lund adds, "we're ready." Many of the company's Fortune 500 freight clients already want to handle billing and payments electronically.

Wily "old truck broker" Allen Lund quips he doesn't keep up-to-speed on telecommunications.

"I just yell when it isn't right," he says.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:wide area networks
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Words:766
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