e-VAN – a powerful logistics platform based on Oracle APEX low-code technology

By—June 23, 2023

VAN group – one of the leading Polish transportation & logistics companies in Poland – wanted to create a Transportation Management System that would help with handling data, route planning, cargo monitoring and freight calculations. Pretius was the outside vendor tasked with this project, and Oracle APEX was chosen as the best technology for the job.

With over three decades on the market and successful operations in several European countries, VAN group is one of the leaders of the overland transport sector of the Polish TSL industry (Transportation, Shipping & Logistics). To keep up with the company’s rapid growth and respond to the rising competition from international corporations, VAN group needed to find a way to manage data, plan transport routes, and monitor cargo easier and more efficiently.

Meeting all these goals required upgrading the company’s IT infrastructure and tech stack. The big challenge, however, was to ensure swift and smooth adoption – the new system couldn’t differ too much from the old one. “The technological leap began with building a new development team that was able to create original solutions based on agile methods” – explains Adam Kasperowicz, CIO of VAN group, in a statement for the Computerworld portal.

The answer

This project was first and foremost about technological transformation. VAN group moved from Oracle Forms to APEX, which is infinitely more powerful and future-proof. The company can now utilize the cloud, scale its software solutions easily as it grows, and even think of implementing Machine Learning/AI capabilities. The system is also web-based, which means you can simply access it using a browser (with mobile and progressive web apps on the way).

The most important aspect of this digital transformation is that it was all done very carefully and responsibly. When you hear the word “transformation”, you probably imagine a huge shift, a revolution that turns the world upside down and leaves behind everything and – very importantly – everyone who can’t adapt. This wasn’t how this project progressed at all. In fact, in many ways, it was the complete opposite of that.

VAN group had a small in-house team of IT specialists who knew their technology and business inside out because they’ve been with the company for many, many years. Moving towards, for example, a shiny new Java-based system would alienate these people, force them to adapt to something very different, and the company really didn’t want to do that – as they really appreciate their employees, especially the long-serving ones.

The VAN group also had other valuable assets, such as existing DB structures and PL/SQL code. The choice to use APEX meant the company stayed inside the Oracle ecosystem, could keep using what it had, and keep relying on the knowledge and professionalism of its team. It was also very cost-effective thanks to existing database licenses (APEX can be used for free if you’re already using Oracle DB).

“This project was all about thoughtful and safe transformation. We had to find a way to answer the company’s business needs without leaving valuable people and assets behind. APEX allowed us to do all that and more, and our cooperation with VAN group continues for over 5 years now” – says Przemysław Staniszewski, the CEO of Pretius Low-Code.

And what about the new software itself? It’s a powerful Transportation Management System (TMS) that allows employees to plan transport routes and monitor shipments using a sleek, easy-to-use, and familiar interface. Moreover, Pretius developers have also implemented an algorithm that will allow VAN group to fully automate the solution. It’s already working in the background, helping minimize the amount of work the company’s people have to do and maximizing productivity. As a precaution, some employees verify the calculated prices generated by the system, but the Pretius team is sure that soon – when enough data is gathered – it’ll work without such supervision.

The TMS platform is currently used by around 600 people. Since the new e-VAN is a web-based app, application virtualization license is no longer required – this allowed VAN group to save several hundred thousand PLN over the years. The old e-VAN system needed twice as many servers to work, which meant the infrastructure was more complicated, much harder and more expensive to maintain. Moreover, the old servers ran on Windows, which generated additional license costs, and the new machines are Linux-based, which results in even more savings for the company.

The co-creation approach

At the beginning of this project, the Pretius team decided to adopt a unique, co-creation approach that allowed them to include the client’s people in the process of developing the new solution. This also meant that they could share knowledge – and both sides have gained something valuable from this exchange./p>

The Pretius team have taught VAN group’s developers a lot about Scrum, which allowed them to fundamentally change their approach to project management and software development. Pretius has also trained them in the use of Oracle APEX, so they can maintain the solution without outside help. The next step is introducing APEX to employees who are not tech-savvy, preparing them to become so-called citizen developers. All in all, VAN group got both a powerful new platform, based on future-proof technology, and the know-how necessary to operate and improve it.

“The effect is the e-VAN system, which has become an innovative tool and work environment. The development team allows us to use the potential of the latest trends and technological solutions: kasper mobile development, responsiveness, integrations, low-code, cloud computing, etc. I have introduced formal principles of cooperation with business, which enable the participation of the business side in the software development process. e-Van is the actual backbone of our company. So, there is an expectation that the new software will support and directly improve our efficiency and business results” – says Adam Kasperowicz in an article for the ITWiz portal. At the same time, the Pretius team learned a lot about the nature and intricacies of the TSL industry – which proved to be very useful in other projects.

Thanks to the Oracle APEX low-code platform, VAN group’s digital transformation was very smooth – it was carried out safely and responsibly. The company refreshed its tech stack, got access to plenty of new possibilities and achieved all that while considering the needs of its employees. The unique co-creation approach also turned out to be a big success for both parties, and the continued collaboration of VAN group and Pretius serves as a testament of that.

e-VAN system has become an innovative tool and work environment. The development team allows us to use the potential of the latest trends and technological solutions: web & mobile development, responsiveness, integrations,low-code, cloud computing

Adam Kasperowicz, VAN group, CIO