The transformation of a legacy, or how to go from a family business to a state of the art freight company

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By Natalie Golffed

March 4, 2021

“We have a legacy, DNA that we need to transform”. That’s how Nicolás Rodríguez, Information Manager at Juango, feels about the transformation that the company is going through. Juango started some 30-odd years ago as a family business in the area of freight and transportation.

At first, the company started with 2 trucks. “But then, in the early 2000’s we decided to add more links to our chain and started acquiring warehouses and siloes because having a truck wasn’t a differential factor anymore. And then the soy market crashed, so we found ourselves having an identity crisis, again, because the modifications we did to our business didn’t come from a place of strategy but rather from a place of need”. The soy crisis in 2015–2016 meant that siloes and warehouses were, again, commoditized, so the board of directors again decided to incorporate new services into the company’s value chain, this time with a more strategic view. This meant not only material services, such as rice fractioning but also a turn towards intangible services.

This turn was made possible by the incorporation of a group of young managers, such as Nicolás.

“The board gave us freedom and autonomy. They let us in and in under 10 years we went from one computer connected to the internet to a wide array of technological solutions. We provided our drivers with apps to log their hours in, created an app that we use for warehouse management and in general technology aimed at decentralizing information”.

From Nicolás’ perspective, this was only the beginning. “The second phase”, he explained, “involved taking the expertise and know-how related to logistics and turning them into software in order to make better decisions that streamline our processes as well as make it into a scalable software that lets us imagine Juango in 2025”. What was really interesting about that process, from Nicolás’ point of view, was that when faced with the task of designing software that could help them make better decisions, logistics-wise:

“We realized that some of the things we thought we knew, or took for granted, needed a thorough revision. For example, we mostly focused on drivers and transport units, but realized later that we had to include trailers because they drastically changed the game.”

This, as Nicolás says, is in a way a product of the use of Constraint Programming, because it forced them to think and rethink the relevant variables regarding their operation.

The software Arion developed was named Omnius, as a nod to the Dune saga. Juango needed a way to organize the knowledge acquired through the years regarding freight transportation and coordination in a scalable way that could grow along with them. This meant defining rules and, simply put, questioning the obvious and simplifying the reality. It’s a kind of super juggler that can dispatch as many trucks as needed. Nicolás agreed with the Arion team that Constraint Programming was what they needed because it allowed them to work with a number of real-world variables. “The strategic mapping we worked on let us identify the variables that really impacted our operations, and separate them from the ones that did not”.

For Juango, Omnius is “a chance to focus. In many companies, and definitely in logistics, people who are very experienced as far as operations reach a point of saturation when their efficiency is reduced. This tool takes that pressure away from us and makes us focus on the value we bring to our customers, on competitive services’’.

“As for lessons learned”, Nicolás says, “I’d definitely include the perspective and awareness that we now have, where you need differential factors that help you deliver more value to your customers, whether it’s having siloes or having the kind of technology that allows us to anticipate our routes”. And as for the team, “We’ve learned there are three things we look for in a new team member. Skills, flexibility, and the ability to reflect. Skills are important for what they bring to the table, but flexibility is key. Being able (and willing) to go from behind a desk to a warehouse and actually see how freight is loaded and unloaded gives you a wider perspective on the way we do things and in turn on the way we can do it better. And then last but not least is the ability to reflect. In an organization as dynamic as ours, logging the knowledge that we acquire and reflecting on it is central to the growth of Juango.”

Nicolás also believes that the success of Juango is related to traditional factors such as having skilled and risk-taking directors, as well as the desire to be transformed. Also, he says, incorporating younger managers made all the difference and helped shed new light on processes that had improvement opportunities.

Nicolás believes that “more complex things were built using pen and paper than we can fathom. Technology is important when used correctly, but the use we can get out of it is limited to the discussion and mapping that each organization can achieve. All the technology in the world won’t be enough if healthy, transparent internal discussions aren’t held. Technology is, ultimately, a tool that transitions and gets commoditized, and you end up building things on top of existing things. For example, Omnius doesn’t run on a generator. It’s based on the energy that we buy from the electrical company that we use to power our computers that use an operating system made by someone else. Technology is a means, not an end in itself”.