IFS was first established in 1998, growing from its initial focus on the provision of multi-carrier transport management software for the effective despatch of domestic bound freight shipped from IFS customers within the countries where it operates. The company expanded into New Zealand in 2005, followed by Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2006, South Africa in 2009, and, over the last 24 months, has courted customers shipping internationally from Singapore, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the USA back into countries where IFS is represented.
SmartFreight Online is IFS’ web-based freight pricing product, developed to stand at the beginning of any online retail experience through the accurate pricing of freight for consumers purchasing goods from IFS customers’ web sites. The core range of IFS’ multi-carrier transport management software has been developed to cover all nature of shippers. SmartFreight Express, an IFS-hosted web-based system, is designed for lower volume shippers of 1 to 150 consignments a week, while SmartFreight Professional, currently the company’s most popular product, is a multi-featured installed solution designed for mid-range shippers with weekly consignments ranging between 151 and 2500. Finally, SmartFreight Enterprise is a complete SQL installed product, created to meet the demanding needs of high-volume shippers.
The SmartFreight Tracker product delivers enhanced visibility of shipped consignments via an own-branded online tracking portal hosted by IFS. Apps for both Apple and Android mobile devices have additionally been developed to compliment the product, allowing customers to monitor their shipments on the go. “This extends IFS’s customer experience through the provision of transparency, and thus, visibility of freight movements,” says Global Channel Manager Ben Woodward.
To expand upon its Track & Trace solution, IFS have developed SmartFreight Tracker4Transport, a hosted freight tracking solution designed for small to medium transport companies looking for an alternative to cost-prohibitive high end track and trace technologies in order to remain competitive within the transport market. Tracker4Transport enables the client to introduce electronic Proof of Delivery technology via a SmartFreight-hosted Tracking Portal, using smartphone-scanning technology in conjunction with 2D or QR barcode symbology. “This will see the transport company able to compete with the Tier 1 Logistics providers, and enhance their overall service offering,” says Mr Woodward.
Underpinning its broad selection of products is SmartFreight’s ability to produce over 600 global carrier compliant label formats, and route optimise shipments through the selection of the best price and/or service time to any destination, coupled with seamless integration integrating with every market leading ERP/WMS/eCommerce/Accounting platform.
“IFS SmartFreight provides solutions to traditional brick and mortar, B2C and B2B customers, from Pharmaceutical to Car Parts, from Balloon manufactures to Wineries, and all industries in between,” Ben says, emphasising the modular, scalable design of the offering, allows customers access to a product that will continue to meet the needs of their business as they grow.
Carbon footprint visibility has become a serious priority both to IFS carrier partners and IFS customers alike. “It is on our development roadmap for the next release,” says Mr Woodward. SmartFreight will initially be capable of calculating the Carbon footprint of a shipment, no matter where or how the consignment is shipped, with future releases providing an offset option for customers to select. “This is a big undertaking, but the IFS Management team are very serious about both environmental sustainability as well as its corporate responsibility.” Mr Woodward also states that such responsibilities extend well beyond the environment; the company is also a proud UNICEF Platinum Sponsor, making regular company and staff donations. “When we were considering which charity to support, UNICEF was a standout,” explains Interactive Freight Systems Project Manager Kate Aitken. “Not only does it do exceptional work globally to promote and protect the rights of children, but it has one of the highest percentages of direct contribution to the field compared to other organisations we considered.”
In addition to its role as a key provider to the supply chain industry at a number of levels, SmartFreight is also critical link at the tail end of the distribution process. “Selling goods, picking and packing them is fine,” Ben explains, “but if these orders cannot leave IFS customer warehouses in a timely fashion, be tracked as they travel, and then be able to be reported upon retrospectively, the whole supply chain fails. IFS SmartFreight ticks all these boxes.”
An active participant in Conferences and Tradeshows on a global scale, IFS makes use of such events not only as a means of positioning its solution in the market place, but also as a knowledge sharing opportunity with its peers and partners. “We find these sessions provide access to old and new partnerships who are both strategic and complementary to our product and, in most cases, the industry as a whole,” says Mr Woodward. “These partnerships give us a different industry lens to look at how to enhance how we exist in the Logistics and Supply Chain eco-system.”
IFS first entered the awards show arena in 2011 through the submission of three category entries in the prestigious Australian Business Awards program, of which the company won two. IFS found success in 2012 as well, again winning two of the three categories it entered. In 2013, IFS made three further submissions, winning all of them. The company additionally ranked as a finalist in both the 2013 Australian Export Awards in the field of technology excellence, as well as the Australian Supply Chain and Logistics’ Association of Australia award program. IFS has also recognised twice as a Platinum Champion for Children by UNICEF, in 2014 and again in 2015.
Visibility, coupled with customer experience, stand as the industry’s two greatest priorities for the coming years. “As online purchases increase in the tens of billions yearly, customers are less inclined to visit a store front,” says Ben, who points out that the purchase process via the internet means that the ‘pay now’ button generally stands as the last point of contact between the customer and seller. “Online retailers cross fingers and hope your carrier partner provides a great delivery experience to round out the offering.” With email and SMS notification and hyperlinks to tracking websites, customers receive information from the carrier about the latest scanning event, and the status of their purchase on its delivery journey. Mr Woodward feels that through the branding of such email and tracking websites, the online retailer is able to extend its customer contact to the point of the goods being received, thus avoiding delegation of the final mile delivery experience to carriers whose service ethos may differ from that of the shipper.
Ben also notes that the ongoing debate over hosted, web-based solutions remains a heated topic as well. “Some organisations want locally installed software solutions, where others want hosted ones,” he says. “The ownership of data remains a hot topic, and it appears vague as to what the answer is from the industry experts.” Mr Woodward emphasises that IFS will remain vigilant on movement within the area, especially as its own product offering moves further into the hosted space.
IFS prides itself on the ability of the innovative and intelligent staff present on its team, as well as its sophisticated software solutions, to realise the dreams and aspirations of the company’s customers. “Human Beings remain the dominant force in solving complex transport and logistics solutions,” says Ben, “however, these brilliant ideas require sophisticated and robust technology solutions to make them happen.”