A transport company, which has shipped a dinosaur to Dubai, carried trees to Ascot and delivered to Buckingham Palace, will improve its haulage operations after investing in new driver communications technology.

Rainham-based Forest Freight, which operates in excess of 60 vehicles clocking-up more than 8.5 million miles a year, is rolling out the Manifest app from transport management technology specialists Mandata Ltd, across its 62-strong driver workforce.

The investment will help the £9m turnover transport operator, which was established in 1971 and provides a range of specialist transport and distribution services, to migrate to an advanced digital POD (Proof of Delivery) solution, in a move designed to improve customer deliveries and add further value to existing distribution services.

Drivers are currently being equipped with new smartphones, which will allow them to click into the app at the touch of a button to confirm that deliveries have been completed before sending a confirmation to the customer.

In time, this will enable Forest Freight’s Despatch Department to significantly reduce the period it takes to invoice for jobs as it moves away from paper-based systems.

The Mandata Manifest app is an advanced digital solution, which sends work instructions to the driver enabling him to see at a glance the sequence of jobs, obtain signatures as proof of delivery and POD photos of paperwork and non-conformance. Incorporating a range of accessible and convenient features, the mobile app offers a reliable connection between Forest Freight’s office-based systems and its drivers to power swifter paperless, and more secure sharing of data and information.

The delivery of a dinosaur to a museum in the Middle East is one of a number of unusual transportation jobs the company has completed which do not normally involve the delivery of trees as the name suggests. Previously, it has shipped a rare Porsche 356 Speedster to the US, pulled a Mercedes AMGF1 Trailer to Silverstone, and, more recently, shipped in a band to the Nottinghill Carnival.

Charlie Lunn, IT and communications manager based at the Rainham office, says that Mandata’s technology plays a vital part in ensuring these unusual items are delivered successfully. Overseeing the integration of Manifest and the supporting training programme company-wide, he says that while it’s early days, the app is already proving popular with drivers, who appreciate its easy-to-use features.

These include manifests, job status updates, electronic documents and images of paperwork – effectively streamlining the transfer of timely information to provide greater transparency throughout the supply chain.

He says: “We are investing now in the latest mobile app technology to drive significant cost and time saving advantages, and streamline our operations as we look to future proofing the company.

“While we’re only at the initial stages of technology’s roll-out, it’s clear that Manifest’s ease-of-use is proving a key benefit. Simple, easy-to-follow instructions enable our drivers to quickly grasp the platform’s many user-friendly features and access the database of information.

“The ability to easily and quickly call-up a customer expecting a delivery to let them know about any issues or delays due to traffic problems, is also proving to be one of the app’s more popular features with drivers.”

The Manifest App is the latest Mandata technology used by Forest Freight to boost its operations. A transport management system (TMS) was first introduced in 2001, which is currently in use by 22 members of staff, while fleet-wide vehicle and trailer tracking was adopted in 2006.

The company also uses Mandata-supported Sage payroll technology, which operates between the TMS and accounts, and the Drag and Drop traffic pad-planning product, which came online in 2016. Mandata also provides PCs and related software and IT services as part of a broad package of support that Charlie Lunn and his colleagues appreciate: “Their technical support and back-up is excellent,” he adds.

Mandata’s adaptable products add value no matter what customers deliver says Kevin Marshall, the firm’s development director. He adds: “Each Mandata customer has unique needs and ways of working. The adaptability of our products is making the shipment of the extraordinary, ordinary for our customers. Whether you’re shipping pallets, bulk liquid, cars, sugar, foodstuffs or even dinosaurs, our technology can cope with any idiosyncrasies.”

Looking to the future, Charlie firmly believes that the Manifest app has huge potential to help in streamlining the business even more and enabling drivers and office-based staff to work ever smarter. He’s currently considering trialling Mandata’s Vehicle Checks app in a move that will align him closer than ever before to technologically-driven ‘smart’ solutions that deliver financial savings, drive operational efficiencies and convey the highest standards of driver and vehicle safety.