Distribution Innovation Delivers Self-Service Analytics with Help from Nordcloud and AWS

Executive Summary

Nordic logistics specialist Distribution Innovation (DI) worked with Nordcloud to build a data and analytics platform so its customers can access various sources and types of data and transform it into a standardized dataset for reporting, analytics, and Machine Learning (ML). The platform uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make it fast and easy for end-users to start working with data to see hidden patterns and to use those patterns to optimize many aspects of logistics and distribution. Because it is built using AWS and infrastructure as code it can be easily replicated and used by other vertical markets like healthcare and transportation.

Distribution Innovation’s Goal to Turn a Problem into an Opportunity

DI needed a way to make its data work better for its customers. The company helps logistics and distribution companies in the Nordic region optimize the delivery of newspapers, magazines, and other products to homes and retailers. Customers use its software to make the most efficient use of delivery networks in an increasingly competitive market with several new disruptive entrants.  

DI turned to Nordcloud, an AWS Premier Consulting Partner to create a self-service platform for customers to work with their data. Previously, DI’s customers submitted requests to its data team to process. The goal was to turn a problem into the opportunity to provide customers with easier access to use and process data, initially for insight but then for foresight and prediction. Now, DI customers can analyse their own data via a dashboard rather than contacting DI’s data team.  

The goal for the platform is that every customer can optimize their operations to be more competitive in the marketplace. DI believes that going from reporting to prediction will be a key success factor in the next 3 years in a growing market, and that DAP is an important tool for success.

"Nordcloud truly understood what we needed and had the skills to achieve it. We had great people right from the start and great project management."

- Lasse Durucz, Chief Technology Officer, Distribution Innovation

Self-Service with Results in Minutes, Not Hours

The system delivered by DI with help from Nordcloud on AWS means that data can be analysed in minutes rather than overnight. Previously, DI systems would batch process a day’s data overnight, using AWS it can analyse 3 years’ of data in 2 hours.

The new system also eases the ingestion of data from customers’ systems with minimal integration overheads. Previously, DI staff had to manually handle customer requests. Now customers can bring their own data to the platform by using standardized pipelines.

Using AWS, Nordcloud and DI have built dashboards that customers access to run analytical models on their own data and to also bring on board other data sources such as weather or traffic. For a customer, even small improvements in efficiency per package can bring substantial improvements in profit when rolled out across a complex delivery network over large geographical areas such as Norway and Sweden.

But the team faced several challenges, including disparate and often dirty data from their customer applications. An advantage was to build the system on top of DI’s existing AWS architecture rather than building from the ground up. For data ingestion, DI used Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose, an extract, transform, and load (ETL) service that reliably captures, transforms, and delivers streaming data to data lakes, data stores, and analytics services.

DI uses Amazon Redshift to analyze structured and semi-structured data across data warehouses, operational databases, and data lakes. This helps to deal with data from distribution company systems that typically focus on operations and ease of use rather than on analytics.

For many distributors, a key use case is to improve their sustainability performance and also provide ways to prove these achievements to their customers. Last year, a major Norwegian retailer ended contracts with three distributors that were unable to adequately prove their environmental performance. 

One use case allows customers to create delivery routes for last-mile networks using the registration plates of its vehicles. DI systems can access Norwegian government CO2 emissions data based on the plate and work out the best routes to minimize environmental impacts. Another DI customer has used the workbench analysis to add package delivery to fixed delivery routes, which has improved its environmental footprint and operational efficiency.

Deep Customer Involvement from Day One

The relationship with Nordcloud went well from the first meeting. “They truly understood what we needed and had the skills to achieve it,” says Lasse Durucz, chief technology officer at DI. “We had great people right from the start and great project management.”  

DI was determined to involve customers from the very start of the project to ensure the project solved their most urgent needs. This required creating a transparent process called Customer Pilot Program. Customers were included in every meeting and every messaging channel. This added pressure to the system creation process because customers tended to focus on issues with the existing platform rather than looking to the future. But it helped to create a solution that was more tailored to customer needs. Even the very first pilot used real customer data and use cases. DI and Nordcloud have continued to bring more customers on board as the project has progressed.

The project has changed how DI worked with its customers. “They were used to sending in yellow notes for requests, now they can really engage with us,” says Durucz. “Close alignment with Nordcloud was also very important. Customers could not tell who was from DI and who from Nordcloud on the team, we had the same goal.”

Durucz estimates that every hour spent in workshop discussions saved 10 hours in development time. The team worked in 2-week sprints so that everyone could see the progress being made. 

Nordcloud also provided DI with access to AWS Migration Acceleration Funding. The system was built using AWS Glue, a simple, scalable, and serverless data integration system. This means that DI can offer all of these services on a pay-as-you-go basis to customers with no risk. 

Another key goal was that everything Nordcloud delivered was self-sustainable. Nordcloud shared its skills and knowledge so DI could continue to develop the system and improve services for customers.

"Because the platform is built on AWS and implemented through infrastructure as code, we can provision a copy and run it anywhere. We’re now looking at international expansion and are positioning the platform in new markets."

- Lasse Durucz, Chief Technology Officer, Distribution Innovation

New Markets and International Expansion

Because DI and Nordcloud used AWS services for the project, the system they built can now be replicated anywhere. “Because the platform is built on AWS, we can provision a copy and run it anywhere,” says Durucz. “This was an unplanned benefit, which means we’re now looking at international expansion and are ready to enter new markets.”

DI is pleased with the results that it is also looking to offer the platform to companies in other vertical market and industries. With its ambition for analytics that are easy for customers to use, DI will automate planning of future delivery runs based on its own internal data, as well as on a variety of external sources including weather, road maintenance, and predicted traffic conditions. This will ensure the fastest, most efficient, and most environmentally friendly deliveries possible.

Over the longer term, DI aims to provide customers with access to real-time data analysis. But early use cases are already helping its customers to optimize delivery routes and networks, which improves their profitability and reduces environmental impacts.

Distribution Innovation

About Distribution Innovation

Distribution Innovation creates systems for logistics and distribution companies to optimize delivery networks. Its goal is to provide services so customers can make better use of data, which is vital in a competitive market with new, disruptive entrants.

About Nordcloud

Nordcloud has a track record helping organizations leverage public cloud to balance quick wins, immediate savings, and sustainable value. Nordcloud has 10 European hubs, over 500 employees, and has delivered over 1,000 successful cloud projects for companies ranging from mid-size to large corporates.

Published October 2022