2020 Innovator of the Year: Polaris — ready for robotics

Dave Cox, president of Polaris Transportation Group (PTG), wanted to invest in advanced technology to unlock human capital. “People are creative and want to use their talents,” he says.Dave Cox, president of Polaris Transportation Group (PTG), wanted to invest in advanced technology to unlock human capital. “People are creative and want to use their talents,” he says.

The company had an immediate need for a technology pillar in order entry. As a less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier, PTG’s local pickup-and-delivery operations feed 35 line haul schedules south bound and 35 line haul schedules northbound every night.

The assets go no further than 500 miles out and return, loaded with freight into and out of the Toronto area. All the line-hauls have daily cutoff times for orders that have to get through a series of complex operational steps. Each order has unique touch points for data and documents.

“We deal with a high level of variation of documents,” Brajkovich says. “Nothing is consistent.”

Besides dealing with a large volume and variety of shipping documents, PTG’s order entry and customs departments exchange information with customers to clear orders for border crossings.

Before the line-hauls depart, PTG has to send an electronic load manifest or “customs invoice” to border-crossing agencies at least one hour before drivers arrive at checkpoints to prevent transit delays.

As CTO, Brajkovich evaluated several RPA platforms to alleviate workload in the order entry, customs and operations departments. RPA uses algorithms or “bots” that replicate human workflow and integrate with various applications and back-end systems to automate data and document processing.

PTG selected an RPA platform from WorkFusion and built its own proprietary application layers for its unique business needs as a cross-border LTL carrier.

The effort resulted in a Control Tower system that automates workflow for about 80% of the cross-border freight transactions. For transactions that are not straight-through processing, the system identifies exceptions for “data stewards” at PTG to manage, Brajkovich says.

Since the initial RPA rollout, PTG has added machine-learning technology that recognizes new documents and continues to increase the level of straight-through automation of orders.

About the award

Commercial Carrier Journal’s editors recognize innovators throughout the year and select one for special recognition as the CCJ Innovator of the Year. Innovators considered for the current award were those recognized in the magazine in 2019.

Innovation in any aspect of the operation is eligible for recognition. To qualify, the carrier must operate at least 10 power units in Classes 3-8 and maintain a satisfactory safety rating, if rated. Selection of innovators for recognition is at the sole discretion of CCJ’s editorial staff.

This year’s award was announced and presented at the CCJ Innovators Summit, a networking event for current and prior-year CCJ Innovators held Feb. 5-7 in Key Largo, Fla. Representatives of the innovative trucking operations updated one another on their initiatives.

The CCJ Innovators program is sponsored by Freightliner Trucks, Omnitracs and Shell Lubricants. For more information on the program and links to previously recognized CCJ Innovators or to fill out the online nomination form, go to CCJInnovators.com, or contact Jason Cannon, CCJ editor, at 205-248-1175.