MeeTruck SaaS Development: Collaboration Across Borders with Tokyo Techies
MeeTruck Corporation was established in April 2020 as a joint venture between Nippon Express and SoftBank Corp; MeeTruck supports the digital transformation of the logistics industry by using technology to solve the challenges faced by the industry. Tokyo Techies has contributed to MeeTruck's SaaS development through system consulting, application development, and security audits since MeeTruck's inception. We invited Ryosuke Onodera, CTO of MeeTruck, to talk about the challenges in development, the features of MeeTruck's services, and the role Tokyo Techies played in the project.
What problems and challenges is the logistics industry facing?
From the beginning of our business launch, we made numerous trips to the field and conducted extensive user research to understand the logistics industry's challenges. The industry is facing various issues, such as the declining population and the change in lifestyle habits.
The logistics industry's key players, truck drivers, and dispatchers, are aging, and the work environment requires late-night and long working hours, resulting in a persistent shortage of human resources. In addition, the rapid expansion of e-commerce also led to an increase in smaller deliveries to individual homes.
All of these factors contribute to the industry's overall labor shortage problem. In addition, the delays in digitalization efforts are also causing a decline in truckload rates. Other issues, such as stricter compliance and demands to reduce CO2 emissions and additional environmental burdens, are also challenging the logistics industry.
What efforts and initiatives is MeeTruck taking?
MeeTruck provides cloud-based web applications and mobile application services to support better transportation companies' vehicle dispatching operations. MeeTruck’s application has various features that help speed up logistics companies’ operations. Some features include the registration of delivery requests, work instructions to drivers, communication of car numbers to shippers, registration and inquiry of pickup and delivery records, billing management, and employee time and attendance management.
MeeTruck’s services positively impact the logistics industry by making it possible to visualize and centralize operations and share them with everyone. Additionally, data visualization and data management will relieve office staff from transcribing daily forms; while management can easily understand the record of daily sales and the internal resources they currently have, making it easier to formulate management plans.
The use of driver apps facilitates communication and makes it easier to keep track of drivers' work status. Dispatchers can respond more quickly to accidents, traffic jams, and other irregularities, leading to optimized delivery efficiency. Greater delivery efficiency helps create shorter working hours and improved employee satisfaction. MeeTruck has also launched a new truck matching service at the beginning of 2022. This service connects parties who want cargo transported to those capable of delivering the cargo. The app makes finding cargo and trucks that match the customer's specific requirements easier. By making effective use of the available number of drivers and trucks, this service contributes to improving operational efficiency and sales.
Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world and possesses strong technological capabilities. However, Japan still lags behind digital transformation in certain industries. What do you think is the main reason for this situation? Where are the bottlenecks?
I believe digital transformation (DX) aims to improve business processes and performance and enrich people’s lives with the use of technology. Even though DX can be necessary and urgent, in the end, there are a few scenarios where the actual goal is to digitize current business operations.
Using digital technology is essential to the advancements of DX, but it’s important to remember that these tools are merely a means to the end. It’s more important to be clear on your purpose; what do you want to achieve using digital technology? I wonder if there are cases where digitalization is being promoted without a clear vision of what you’re trying to do, and you find your efforts unsuccessful…
Another issue is how Japan needs to make more ventures in offensive IT investments that aim to improve business processes and create new value. I think Japan's DX strategy tends to be a defensive IT investment, which aims to cut costs and improve the operational efficiency of aging existing systems, which is roughly what 80% of Japanese companies have in their current DX strategies. It's important to take the leap beyond the boundaries of their current strategies. Otherwise, it may pose as a stumbling block to DX.
How will MeeTruck contribute to the digital transformation of Japan’s logistics industry in the future?
Although MeeTruck is positioned to support digital transformation in the industry, we don’t necessarily believe that going digital is always the correct answer. Many of our clients reap many benefits from analog methods, so we think it’s better to strike the right balance between digital and analog methods. In addition, MeeTruck believes in being data-driven from a customer standpoint instead of hastily promoting digitalization. We take a thorough customer-first approach by visiting our customers and listening to their concerns and issues, and using technology to meet their challenges.
In addition, MeeTruck sets our target to small and medium-sized transportation companies, which are the carriers of business-to-business logistics that account for the majority of truck transportation in Japan. Not just big transportation companies; small and medium-sized companies with few internal resources also need to improve their operational efficiency through digital technology.
In Japan, DX initiatives often make the news among large companies, but if SMEs, which account for 90% of all companies in Japan, is bold enough to take on the DX challenge, I believe that DX in Japan as a whole will become more active. With this in mind, I’d like to continue to work closely with small-and medium-sized transportation companies to address their on-site issues.
For this development, you have selected Agile and Scrum methodology. Why did you choose Scrum amongst other development methods?
In waterfall development, if the design and specifications are not firmly established, there will be problems occurring later on. However, we wanted to listen to our clients and gradually develop the system while considering their feedback to create a system with an extremely easy-to-understand and easy-to-use UI (user interface). Agile development method was the most suitable for the project. As a result, the Scrum framework from Agile methodology was adopted – because there was a better common understanding throughout the development process.
How did you hear about Tokyo Techies?
We decided to work with Tokyo Techies because we heard that they have a team of specialists with high development skills and experience, and we felt that they would be a good partner for our challenge. Also, our president Yokoi was impressed by Duc's (CEO & Founder of Tokyo Techies) high technical skills and precise comments on another project. He suggested Tokyo Techies as a good start to get advice if we were considering offshore development in Vietnam.
Was there anything you thought was unique about the Tokyo Techies team?
There are multiple things that I find unique, actually. Currently, the Tokyo Techies team is mainly in charge of web application development. Still, they also provide consulting services related to the systems before the business launch and the development of the system afterward. Also, Tokyo Techies has their cyber security team that conducts security audits prior to launch. After the cyber security team identifies the vulnerabilities during the audit, the web team within Tokyo Techies swiftly addresses any vulnerabilities discovered during the audit. In light of this, I think one of the most attractive points of Tokyo Techies is that they truly are a one-stop solutions provider.
The MeeTruck team and the Tokyo Techies team have never met in person during the course of the project, which was entirely done remotely. How could the two teams collaborate in this 100% remote environment?
Both MeeTruck and Tokyo Techies are young and fast growing companies with restricted internal resources and different nationalities, languages, and company cultures, so both companies face communication challenges.
We sought to avoid gaps in understanding by limiting our meetings to a week to avoid unnecessary communication. We also frequently documented and followed up in meetings where technical specifications and designs were communicated to avoid misunderstandings and ensure everyone was on the same page. Our teams emphasized work-life balance and were very conscious of one another’s time zones.
As a result, MeeTruck and Tokyo Techies were able to launch the vehicle dispatch management system only 5 months after the project started. I feel that our way of collaborating across oceans is a success story that we should be proud of.
In the two years of working with Tokyo Techies on the development project, were there any technical challenges that Tokyo Techies and MeeTruck have overcome together?
We had to change our structure from the initial monolithic structure to a distributed system quickly because of the changes in the services MeeTruck provides. MeeTruck and Tokyo Techies worked closely to address the complicated issues during this transition, such as communication performance issues, query performance, and communication volume issues. Through cooperation and teamwork, we successfully used the system despite the big structural changes, which I think was a great achievement.
This may be a before and after kind of question, but before you started working with Tokyo Techies, what were your expectations for a development partner?
Generally speaking, in many cases, offshore development is not commonly adapted in Japan. However, Tokyo Techies had the word "Tokyo" in its name, and I figured Tokyo Techies surely could adapt to our working style and would be a good partner for us. As expected, they were able to adapt accordingly and skillfully. I was surprised to learn that Tokyo Techies’ CEO, Duc Doba, and the CTO working in Vietnam previously worked for a Japanese company and were very active in Japanese development projects. Because of this, it was easy to work with both of them because of their great prior knowledge and experience.
On top of that, as an engineer myself, I felt that the code I read was excellent – beginning from the architecture, design philosophy, and the way the detailed algorithms were assembled. I found that being able to expose myself to excellent ideas from abroad in an environment like this was something fascinating.
Lastly, would you recommend Tokyo Techies as an IT partner to other companies? Also, what message would you give to companies considering working with Tokyo Techies in the future?
I would definitely recommend Tokyo Techies. I recommend them not only for software development but also for AI, cyber security, systems consulting, and more. Tokyo Techies has a wide range of IT consulting services – so if you consult with them about any IT challenges you may have, I am sure they can help you.
Our interview with Onodera clearly shows the challenges that MeeTruck is trying to solve, potential solutions to their current issues, and what the future holds for the firm. Most of all, our interview with Onodera displays the social contributions one can make through business. We can see that making investments in IT that creates new value is as important as making IT investments that drive greater efficiency. Striking a good balance between using analog and digital methods is an essential insight that should be considered when looking at digital transformation.
Throughout this project, Tokyo Techies was recognized for our highly skilled and experienced specialists in our team, our CEO and Founder, Duc Doba's expert comments and advanced technological capabilities, and the offshore development in Vietnam. We are confident in our ability to provide one-stop IT solutions to any challenges you may face, from system consulting before development to cyber security audits before your service launch.
We are proud of our contribution to MeeTruck’s new system development, especially because this SaaS development project was executed entirely remotely between the two teams in Japan and Vietnam. This project is a success story that Tokyo Techies is delighted to share with the world as we worked together and overcame tough challenges, transcending oceans. Most of all, we are proud to be recognized for our excellent quality of work and our ability to adapt our work style based on our clients’ way of working.