Logistics provider drives companywide innovation with Azure Databricks

September 21, 2018

When LINX Cargo Care Group, a national supply chain and logistics provider headquartered in Sydney, Australia, broke away from its former parent company Asciano and was purchased by an investment firm, it took the opportunity to jettison its legacy IT systems and forge a more innovative future. Partnering with Empired, an IT solutions provider based in Perth, LINX adopted Microsoft Azure and Azure Databricks to benefit from a scalable, flexible, and agile cloud and analytics platform, which it uses to quickly develop IT solutions that propel its business forward.

“By using Azure Databricks analytics to understand payment patterns, our customer service reps will be able to make targeted, proactive collection phone calls…. We expect to recover 90 percent of outstanding funds by their due dates.”

-Thomas Gianniodis: General Manager IT

LINX Cargo Care Group

Mergers and acquisitions are notorious for leaving organizations scrambling to navigate a host of legacy systems. But LINX Cargo Care Group took its recent acquisition as a chance for a technology reboot.

LINX provides transport services and end-to-end supply chain and logistics solutions for a broad range of industries, including agriculture, aluminum, steel, automotive, forestry, food and beverage, mining, marine, oil and gas, major retail, and resources. When an investment firm purchased 70 percent of LINX Cargo Care Group, the company took it as an opportunity to leave their legacy technology behind and prepare the business for the future.

“We wanted to use IT to innovate rapidly and offer better service at a lower cost—and in the process, drive a new culture by showing the business how easy change can be,” says Thomas Gianniodis, General Manager IT for LINX Cargo Care Group.

As the company searched for a new technology platform, it had no specific projects in mind. “Instead, we wanted an agile platform that we could use to come up with new ideas and execute them quickly,” says Gianniodis.

Because LINX had only its General Manager IT, but no IT team, the company partnered with Empired to manage and develop new IT solutions. Together, LINX and Empired deployed Microsoft Azure and Azure Databricks, a fast, easy, and collaborative Apache Spark–based analytics service, as a fully managed environment that could provide a platform for the present—and the future.
A flexible, cost-effective, and scalable platform for driving change

As LINX left its previous IT systems behind, hosting IT solutions in the cloud gave it a cost-effective platform for rapidly adopting innovative technologies. “By moving to Microsoft Azure, we gained a platform that was ready to use in two days, at a cost that was three times less than our previous solution,” says Gianniodis.

One of the first projects the company developed was a data warehouse to provide visibility into its financial, payroll, and operational data. LINX deployed Azure Data Factory to integrate structured, unstructured, and streaming data from disparate systems and Azure Data Lake Storage to create a hyper-scale, Hadoop-compatible repository. Azure Databricks runs on top of the data lake to perform analytics at scale while Microsoft Power BI is used for reporting.

Azure Databricks delivers the requisite scalability, flexibility, and agility. As one example, says Gianniodis, “Some of the datasets we get from the business aren’t standard. We couldn’t have loaded that data without a platform as flexible as Azure Databricks.”

Most importantly, continues Gianniodis, “The new platform allows us to do things we couldn’t do in our old platform without additional, expensive tools.” For example, LINX and Empired are currently taking advantage of Azure Databricks seamless integration with services like Azure Cosmos DB and interoperability with Microsoft SQL Server to more easily create knowledge-based bots that can perform text categorization and classification to answer repetitive user questions, which reduces work for support staff.
Greater visibility for proactive action

One recent data warehouse project built on Azure Databricks is an application that staff can use to see whether customers have paid their invoices. Previously, staff went into the financial system to access invoices manually, and then matched them with payment records. If customers hadn’t paid, an employee telephoned the customer, asking for the expected date of payment.

“Using Azure Databricks, we created a dashboard in three days that shows what was paid, owed, the gap, and payment history—and reveals patterns or trends,” says Gianniodis. “That would have taken three weeks to build manually.”

LINX and Empired will soon roll out a second phase that takes advantage of Azure Databricks predictive analytics to look at payment patterns and determine whether the customer will pay late, or not at all, as well as what behavior LINX needs to change to get them to pay on time. For example, if the system determines customers aren’t paying on time because they’re unhappy with customer service, LINX can address the issue.

“By using Azure Databricks analytics to understand payment patterns, our customer service reps will be able to make targeted, proactive collection phone calls rather than reactive ones,” says Gianniodis. “We expect to recover 90 percent of outstanding funds by their due dates and thereby return capital to our investors.”

Find out more about LINX Cargo Care Group on Facebook and LinkedIn.

“By moving to Microsoft Azure, we gained a platform that was ready to use in two days, at a cost that was three times less than our previous solution.”

-Thomas Gianniodis: General Manager IT

LINX Cargo Care Group