EKA provides a digital freight management (which it calls dFEMX) platform to manage all the customer’s freight businesses, including freight exchange and third-party services. EKA serves as the system of record across multiple applications and seamlessly ties into other freight solutions (TMS, driver apps, etc.) and third-party services.
“EKA Omni-TMS for carriers is a native cloud-based [software-as-a-service] TMS that provides affordable, quote-to-cash, best-in-class, intuitive, easy-to-use functionality to empower small- and medium-size carriers with the functionality and services to grow and perform as well or better than large fleets,” said JJ Singh, Founder, CEO.
The platform features asset and revenue management tools, real-time availability of data and information, automated work processes that allow for exception management, real-time load movement visibility, and live ETA.
According to the company, the platform allows small-to-medium brokers, carriers, and shippers to leverage real- time information and trade fluidly across a verified network with key trusted partners and support vendors.
J.J. Singh, a longtime transportation and logistics executive, decided to launch a digital freight management solutions company a few years ago after he realized that many small and medium-size shippers, brokers and carriers were not ready for “the Amazon world,” a pressure cooker environment that requires an immediate answer to the question: “‘Where is your load?’”
“We knew from the start these folks were at a cost disadvantage and an effectiveness disadvantage,” said Singh, whose previous experience includes stints at C.H. Robinson and Flying J. The reason for starting the new venture, he said “was to respond to the new business environment, help digitize folks and provide them with services so they are at least on par with larger companies that have a lot more resources.”
Founded in 2015, EKA Solutions offers a cloud-based logistics platform designed to facilitate collaboration and data exchange among small and medium-size shippers, trucking companies and brokers.
The Sacramento, California-based company is developing a range of products aimed at helping customers connect and thrive. Among the offerings: a broker, carrier and shipper transportation management system (TMS), a private marketplace platform, 4PL solutions, and solutions for service providers such as insurance companies.
“We are building an ecosystem for freight management,” said Singh, EKA’s chief executive officer.
Several features distinguish the company’s products and services from others in the supply chain technology management sector, the company’s executives said.
EKA’s platform is end-to-end, “from order to cash,” Singh said. A centralized system of record, the platform enables real-time load management, shipment tracking, trade partner negotiations, payment and more.
Customizing offerings for different freight participants, EKA starts with a supply chain engine, then crafts different “lenses” on top of that engine, said Mark Walker, EKA’s president and chief digital officer, explaining there is a tailored TMS for carriers, for shippers and for brokers.
“The nuances of each of those lenses allows each party to run their business,” Walker said, “and it is highly configurable as well, so one company could have a completely different look and feel in a lot of their use of the system.”
A broker TMS launched last fall, and a carrier TMS will be ready on July 1. A shipper TMS is ready to deploy.
The company’s supply chain platform features an intuitive interface and reports can be generated throughout the day in an easy-to-read dashboard style. Because of the “intelligent design,” the cost to deploy is a fraction of what other systems might charge, according to Singh, and the company offers its lowest pricing for the smallest customers, upending the common practice of giving large customers discounts.
“Our whole model is price as you need it,” he said.
Connected to the platform are web portals for any vendors, allowing customers to extend capacity and loads, and enabling “digital freighting in a marketplace environment,” Walker said.
But unlike the large freight-matching services, typically wide open to all carriers and brokers, EKA’s offering is built around “trusted relationships,” the executives said. Customers can extend information to outsiders, but it is not suggested, Walker explained. “We are not trying to open freight up so they can get the lowest price or generate the highest profit.”
EKA is not a brokerage, but digital brokerage is a subset of what they offer broker customers. “We give them a whole gamut of lanes based on relationships, rather than a singular one-touch or touchless lane for doing their business,” explained Singh.
Looking ahead, the startup aims to broaden its ecosystem to include service providers such as insurance companies for brokers and carriers. That will debut in the second half of 2020.
Mirroring the experience of other technology companies, EKA Solutions experienced a tough time for sales in March and April, as the pandemic upended the economy, according to Singh. But the platform “shines” as a work-from-home solution, he emphasized. “All you need is high-speed internet and we take care of the rest. It’s just like running an airbnb platform.”
As the team continues to build out its product suite, “we are very close to delivering to the marketplace our vision of an end-to-end supply chain platform,” Singh said, “where the shipper can run their business end-to-end, the broker can run their business end-to-end and the carrier can run their business end-to-end. And they can all collaborate very effectively.”
For one logistics company, the need for employees to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has been made easier with technology. In fact, ProServ Logistics had a head start, as some of its employees were already working remotely.
“Honestly? We didn’t really intend to be virtual,” says Brian Johnson, founder and CEO of ProServ Logistics, headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
“Not all the best people wanted to work in Eden Prairie,” admits David Buhl, co-founder and COO. “They wanted to work but didn’t want to commute.”
“So, I guess we went virtual,” Johnson says with a laugh. “Maybe reluctantly, at first. Before we were comfortable with it. Certainly, before we really knew what it could do for us.”
“And what it can do for our customers,” Buhl adds.
Some of ProServ’s key personnel have been remote from the beginning. One of them was Diane Johnson (no relation to Brian), vice president of operations.
“I just reached a point in my life where I wanted to be closer to my family,” she explains. “I love logistics, supply chain, the constant challenges, helping people, preventing problems. But I can do that from home…or my cabin,” she adds, like a true Minnesotan.
Eric Jex, vice president of operations, climbed every hill his “out of college” career choice presented him with. “But I’d chased that rabbit long enough,” he says. “I just wanted to have more meaningful relationships with family, friends, co-workers and customers.”
Jex, initially the most remote employee, joined ProServ when Brian Johnson and Buhl said he could come aboard without being on site. “The lifestyle I want is miles away from Eden Prairie,” he says. “When they said they were cool with me being remote, it was the easiest – and best – decision I ever made.”
ProServ had an office, where most of their employees showed up daily, intent on serving each customer, and committed to growing their business.
“I like coming into the office,” says Perry Torgerson, manager, business development. “I’m a people person, and that’s what ‘having a job’ always meant to me. Until this Coronavirus,” he adds. “Now, a lot of offices are just risky.”
Finding tech solutions
In addition to Johnson and Jex, they added a third remote employee, working from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“At first, it was easy to communicate the important stuff,” Johnson says. “We were small, and we didn’t always have a lot that we needed to work together on.” But the business grew, and success presented challenges.
“As a service provider, you need your team to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate,” Johnson says.
Buhl, whose expertise is technology, looked on the situation as an opportunity. “We’d been looking at what was out there, kicking some tires, so to speak. We knew it was time to upgrade our technology.”
ProServ agreed to be a beta tester for EKA Solutions, which developed a cloud-based Omni-TMS to allow brokers, shippers, and carriers to more easily work together. They went live the first of this year. That gave the company an advantage when the COVID-19 crisis forced the entire office to work remotely.
“And you know how all of our people are able to work remotely this week?” Johnson says. “Because we’ve been doing it. Working remotely, communicating with each other, helping our customers and carriers use our technology.”
“EKA is a distributive platform,” Buhl explains. “Its security protocols are second to none, but it allows our people – and trusted partners – single sign-on access, and, it’s role-based.”
“So, was it hard to tell everyone to not come to the office because of the pandemic?” Johnson asks. “Yes, because we’re all used to what we’re all used to. But, did I worry about our business? Or about taking care of our customers? No, because we’ve got the best people, and the EKA platform does everything we need it to.”
Noting that EKA is regularly adding new features to the platform, Buhl says, “I tell them they need to keep pace with ProServ. Our team is working remotely, but we’re going places.”
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