This year, TransCore launched a new freight matching Web service called Connexion. Traditionally, brokers and carriers that use TransCore’s freight matching system -called 3sixty Freight Match – had to log in to a website to post loads and trucks, and to search for matches.
“With Web services, you don’t have to use our application anymore,” says Gordon Ferlitsch, TransCore’s vice president of technology. With Connexion, fleets and brokers can integrate freight matching directly into their own transportation software, making freight matching part of their workflow. TransCore customers can “utilize the data from freight matching in any way they can conceive of,” he says. “These are things that were never possible until XML Web services.”
Online Freight Services (OFS), a third-party logistics provider based in Mendota Heights, Minn., was among the first companies to test and implement Connexion. The company integrated TransCore’s freight matching within its custom-built freight management system, Freight Track.
“We use their Connexion interface to pass data back and forth,” says Jeff Burns, OFS chief technology officer. “We are posting loads that way automatically. Our load posting is real time when we use their product.”
Anytime one of OFS’ 65 broker agents enters loads into the company’s Freight Track system, they can check a box in Freight Track to post their loads directly into the 3sixty Freight Match website. The load information is transferred immediately.
“From our standpoint, that is a competitive advantage,” Burns says. Before using Connexion, agents would spend about 10 to 15 minutes per load going to the website to post and remove loads. Connexion also provides truck-load matches in real time to Freight Track.
“We are trying to be leading-edge, and to gain efficiencies where we can to make it easier to move more freight,” Burns says. Building the interface for Connexion to work was easy, he says: TransCore provides its users with a software development kit that has code samples for integrating its load posting and load matching features.
A Web service uses the universal computer language, eXtensible Markup Language (XML), to describe and structure the data to be exchanged in a file. The Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is used to encode the XML file to make it “readable” by any operating system – Windows, MAC, AS400, etc. In other words, XML is used to tag data, and SOAP is used to transfer data.
When a Web service from one application is embedded into the computer code of another application, the latter is said to “consume” the Web service. In other words, a Web service allows one machine to ask another machine a specific question and receive a succinct answer.
In this particular case, OFS uses Web services to consume freight matching services from TransCore and provide its own Web services back to TransCore in the form of load postings.
For TransCore, Web services ultimately means that customers and business partners that have a need that relates to freight matching, “they can access the kinds of services we provide anywhere, anytime, without restrictions. It’s a pretty powerful thing,” Ferlitsch says.