Ryan Pikus – Roadrunner Transportation Systems
Imagine you’re the newly minted manager of a Midwest auto plant. You just put in your first big order—a six-figure mishmash of machines and tools for the assembly line—and you need to know where the shipment is. It’s three in the morning, and the worry has got you tossing and turning.
So, you log into the logistics providers website, click on the “Track a Shipment” link and enter the order number. Within seconds you’re given a detailed overview of the shipment: estimated time of arrival, the driver’s route, weather updates and more.
Turns out, the shipment is slated to arrive the following day—a few hours ahead of schedule. You’re asleep before your head even hits the pillow.
“We do a lot of expedited freight for the auto industry, and they want to see where their shipment is every step of the way. Timing is crucial. The faster, more accurate data we can deliver to our customer, the better,” says Ryan Pikus, Senior Director of Information Technology at Roadrunner Transportation Systems (RRTS), “These are the types of tools that give our customer peace of mind.”
Delivering the goods
Though logistics is a buzzword in this digital age, much of the transportation sector remains behind the technology curve, forced to rely on outdated tools and systems. Since joining the Illinois-based transportation company in early 2018, Pikus has worked to change that narrative.
When RRTS acquires a new company, as it’s done multiple times since 2014, improving the new entity’s traditionally manual processes—for example, replacing paper invoicing and warehousing processes with software-based solutions, custom applications and other cutting-edge tools—can prove a daunting task.
“Traditional trucking operations tend to have a lot of overhead, so it’s in our best interest to evaluate the pros and cons of the operation and make it as lean as possible,” Pikus says, referring to the method for minimizing waste within a company’s internal processes. “It’s all about incorporating as much automation as possible, with the goal of improving the bottom line.”
Take the company’s custom TMS integrations. Built in collaboration with internal and external design teams, these features allow customers to see where their shipment is at any time, thanks to an increasingly integrated network of systems that are in constant communication.
“Transportation seems like a straightforward thing—ship one truck full of product from one location to another,” Pikus says. “But there is a myriad of complex systems that enable that process to happen.”
According to Pikus, Roadrunner’s most critical systems reside in back-office operations. As such, these systems have received perhaps the biggest facelift.
As part of the company’s long-term strategy, Pikus and his team are developing an enterprise integration strategy designed to synergize dozens of disparate systems from throughout the Roadrunner enterprise, including transportation management systems, warehouse systems, and ERP platforms.
Once completed, not only will the enterprise bus give employees the best operational tools available; it will also make it easier to integrate newly acquired companies. To date, Roadrunner has over 15 operating companies within its portfolio.
“We’re creating an enterprise environment that is more centralized and seamless to operate and manage our business. The goal is to give our internal teams the most advanced toolsets possible that enables our employees to work more efficiently”, Pikus explains.
In addition, Pikus is working with his internal development teams to create new, proprietary software tools to help streamline business operations.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to remove as much waste as possible, replacing manual processes with efficient automated solutions,” he says.
According to Pikus, the overarching challenge—leveraging technology to make Roadrunner as profitable as possible—was what drew him to the role in the first place; one for which his previous experience and his lifelong love of software development prepared him well.
After receiving his first computer when he was seven years old, Pikus knew right away where his career path lay. After graduating from DePaul University, Pikus jumped headlong into the world of software engineering, working for the Chicago-based consultancy, S2 Consulting.
During his eight years at Illinois-based manufacturer ATS Automation—where he was promoted to IT manager at 25 and then to IT director by 28—Pikus got an up-close look at a company squarely on the forefront. Now, he’s using what he learned to bring RRTS, the $2.3 billion-dollar transportation company, up to speed.
“My real enjoyment is derived from staying on the cutting edge of the technology world. You learn pretty quickly what works and what doesn’t.” Pikus says. “When I came to Roadrunner, it was pretty apparent I needed to wear multiple hats, to help the business figure out where and how to invest our time and energy.”
For Pikus, the goal is to better align his department with Roadrunner’s broader business needs, to both improve service and optimize automated solutions.
“I think it’s hard for young IT managers to have a sense of the bigger picture,” Pikus says. “But I was really fortunate to have the roles and responsibilities I did early on. That really helped me appreciate all the stakeholders involved.”
Down the road
Pikus has also sought to forge a more collaborative and cohesive relationship with leaders on the operations side, ensuring that the company’s upgrades—from software platforms to fleet-specific tools—are properly integrated.
His focus is never far from the technology itself, however. For instance, Pikus and his team are currently developing a web-based platform that will allow customers to track their shipment from anywhere using a mobile device.
All with the aim of letting customers rest a little easier.
“What I love about this industry is there’s virtually no ceiling—there’s endless opportunity to automate processes,” Pikus says. “We have a real chance to set the curve in our industry. And I think we have just the team to do it.”
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