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If you can’t find it, build it — that’s what Evans Transportation did

Unable to find the perfect transportation management system for its operations, Evans decided to develop its own

Evans Transportation needed to update its TMS platform but couldn’t find exactly what it was looking for in the marketplace, so Ryan Keepman, president (top) and Jason Mansur, COO (bottom) guided the company through development of its own platform. (Photo: Google Maps/Evans Transportation)

Nearly 18 months spent testing and reviewing more than 15 transportation management systems didn’t turn up exactly what Evans Transportation needed to optimize its operations and assist its customers in improving their efficiency.

After such an exhaustive search, it may have been easy to give up and settle for the best fit, but not the perfect fit. Evans chose a different route – build it.

“It’s been something that didn’t happen overnight, but we think it is something that happened pretty quickly,” Ryan Keepman, president of the Brookfield, Wisconsin, third-party logistics provider, told FreightWaves.

Evans, which was founded in 1985, is projecting more than $150 million in revenue in 2021, Keepman said, up from $70 million in 2018. The company has offices in Minneapolis, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Just before Christmas, the company announced Evans 2.0, which it said represents an “overhaul of the logistics industry that leverages modern technology to streamline processes, increases speed and accuracy, and provides real-time visibility and transparency on costs,” the company said in a release.

With hundreds of options available in the marketplace, the Evans team felt it important to control the process in designing a system that worked for its specific needs.

“There are a lot of pretty good solutions [in the marketplace],” COO Jason Mansur told FreightWaves. “Being a highly customized managed transportation provider, though, it was hard to find a TMS platform that does it all.”

After the extensive search, Mansur said Evans found functionality it liked in many of the systems that it reviewed, but no system was complete enough to warrant a full purchase. “[Finally, we said] let’s do it ourselves … and use off-the-shelf platforms where it makes sense,” he said.

Ironically, this is not Evans’ first foray into a custom TMS platform. In 1998, the company, which Keepman’s father Charlie founded along with Marty Johnson, built a TMS that Keepman said was called “Mother.”

“My dad and his partner at the time had no idea they were holding this Golden Goose,” Keepman related.

Eventually, though, Evans outgrew that platform and adopted MercuryGate’s system in 2012. It still uses MercuryGate’s TMS as well as several other systems that complement its own TMS.

“We tried to take a big step back and holistically say, ‘We want to fix this and that,’” Mansur said. “But we had to build an integration hub … to have communication across all methods of integration. That was our goal in creating our own integration hub. The good thing we had going for us is that about 85% or 86% of the transactions from our customers are fully integrated. … So we already had this nice initial start from an integration [standpoint].”

Evans 2.0 features the aforementioned Integration Hub as well as the Evans Rating Engine and the Evans 2.0 Freight Pay & Audit platform.

The entire platform is designed to complement the best of other solutions, including MercuryGate, that Evans deploys.

“We did do a lot of our homework to determine what was the best solution for us moving forward,” Mansur said. “We have a model where it’s our goal to make our shippers better. I think what we tried to do is take a holistic approach — not just what makes Evans better but what makes the customer better.”

Mansur and Keepman both said the three components released now will not be the end of Evans 2.0, which will evolve over time. The initial goal was to solve pain points that were most pressing for Evans and its customers.

That meant adding the Evans Rating Engine.

“[It provides] the ability to continuously load both API (application programming interface) and traditional standard tariffs [through contract database management] and our ability to pull in parcel ratings and our own specific truckload ratings and bring that into a single dashboard,” Mansur said. “We feel really good about that.”

Mansur said in designing the platform, Evans needed it to meet three basic concepts:

  1. Be fast.
  2. Be accurate.
  3. Be consistent.

“When you start to bring in the different components, and bring in outside APIs and different modes, you start to see different latency issues,” Mansur said. “We think Evans 2.0” eliminates this.

The majority of Evans 2.0 was built with in-house developers, although Keepman noted that the company does employ a few outside consultants, and one of the company’s board members is a chief technology officer at a large security disaster firm and he contributed input into the development.

The final piece of the initial rollout is the Freight Pay & Audit platform. Mansur said it was important to have a TMS that provided end-to-end coverage, including back-end audit and payment processes that utilized robotic process automation to review pay cycles.

“Being able to do an end-to-end order and cash cycle with a full audit and identify the 45 details on the invoice and ensure all the details match is really powerful,” Mansur said.

In a press release announcing the platform, Mansur noted that unaudited freight bills could be costing shippers between 5% and 7% more on an annual basis as fuel schedules or contracts change.

“Our new Freight Pay & Audit platform was built to eliminate the guesswork and surprises that were part of the normal in the old way of doing things, while providing our customers with the level of transparency, speed and accuracy they should expect and deserve,” he said.

Keepman emphasized that Evans will continue to utilize outside vendors where it makes sense, but the Evans 2.0 platform provides the company a “competitive advantage.”

“In an era where most logistics businesses operate with off-the-shelf platforms and applications, we decided to leverage the latest protocols and technologies to build out our own core internal and external systems,” he said. “Evans 2.0 was designed from the ground up to provide a new level of value, transparency and usability, propelling the logistics industry into the new decade – for both vendors and customers.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]