Catapulting Kiwi supply chain management onto the global market

 |   Ashlea Lynch

Cortex loading trucks

While the global market offers so many opportunities for local tech businesses, scaling up and branching out can be a daunting challenge. Where to start? Which platform works best for multiple markets? Will all the existing code need rewriting from scratch? With support from its partner, Microsoft, supply chain management company Coretex has pushed through its growing pains to become a leader on the international scene, enabling businesses of all sizes to deliver products faster, more sustainably and just as fresh as when they left the warehouse.

Supply chain management is a complicated and ever-changing challenge for businesses. Sometimes there are thousands of moving parts – human, mechanical and technological. When they all work harmoniously it can be a beautiful thing, but an error somewhere along the chain can have the whole system grinding to a halt.

Coretex was born five years ago out of the merger of two companies, International Telematics Holdings and Imarda. Its founding goal was to build technology that helps businesses manage their supply chain better, working safer, greener and more productively. As Chief Technology Officer, Akinyemi Koyi (AK), explains:

“Coretex technology brings together thousands of data points across the supply chain and gives an overview of the operation in real-time. For example, by putting connected sensors on every vehicle in a corporate fleet and building software that analyses the data collected, we can track the route each vehicle takes, the average speed, see where the driver takes rests and even provide updates in real-time to the driver about the fastest route. Then instant notifications can be sent based on driving hours to let drivers know when they should be taking a break to avoid fatigue and accidents.”

Tracking the condition of perishable items is another core function. To use a concrete example, cement trucks run on strict timings. Firstly, because they form part of a wider construction schedule and if they are late it sets the whole project out of synch, but also because the longer cement sits in the barrel the more likely it is to harden and set. This can cause huge amounts of damage to the truck and requires extensive repairs.

“We’ve gone as far as creating technology that monitors the viscosity of cement and can alert the driver when the cement is starting to harden. This gives the driver the option of adding more water to keep the product in good condition,” AK says.

In just the last three years the business has grown more than 50% and is showing no sign of slowing down. To match its customer base, the business has offices across the globe, from Auckland to New York, San Diego and Sydney. The cloud-based software platform and in-vehicle sensor technology has been proven over 16 years in the most demanding sectors possible: construction, reefer (refrigerated shipping) and waste.

But the road to success had its twists and turns.

Cracking the code to international expansion

While Coretex had a winning idea, when it came time to scale the business and move into different geographies, it needed expert support. AK and the team saw the benefits of harnessing the accessibility and breadth of Microsoft’s suite of Azure cloud products to make their solution scalable and enable it to be replicated in any market.

“We’d reached a critical point around the way we were managing applications and deploying updates within the original system. We needed to find the next generation technology that would drive us through the next phase of growth. That technology was Microsoft Azure.”

The task for Microsoft wasn’t easy, with an old legacy system making it hard for Coretex to find any form of scale.

“We have a large code base that extends from hardware to firmware, then we’ve got the back end services, UI and mobile. Add this all together and we’re a large domain to migrate to the cloud. To overcome this we had to be pragmatic, go back to the drawing board and identify our biggest pain point,” AK explains.

This led the team to realise it was the business’s data pipeline that was stonewalling its ability to scale. In the original code base, there were a lot of in-memory caches, requiring workarounds every time they wanted to deploy a new update. So, working closely with Microsoft they implemented a Redis cache database in Azure to vastly simplify the process.

Padi Quesnel, Microsoft Azure Cloud Lead says Microsoft gets a lot of independent software vendors approaching the vendor with a similar problem.

“Old legacy systems and code, stuff that was written when the organisation was in its infancy and doesn’t match the size or ambition of the organisation today is such a common challenge for ISVs. They start small, but grow quickly and then before they know it, lines of code written in the first week are getting in the way. We were happy to help with the migration and help Coretex start the next phase of its journey.”

“De-risking” the approach

Microsoft’s help went beyond the initial migration to Azure. In fact, the Microsoft team has become a core extension of the team, from sales and marketing to build.

Says AK: “Microsoft has gone beyond just helping with the migration and then being there to call whenever things go wrong. Now they are there as we make critical decisions, providing advice and guidance around architecture, cost components, scaling the system out.”

“We were overwhelmed with the support from Microsoft. Not only did their advice help to de-risk our approach, but we received dedicated support from a local engineering team that ensured any issues were ironed out quickly. We had some of the smartest people specialising in cloud architecture working with my team to help develop and help accelerate our modernisation journey. We were also given a direct line to the product teams to help us tweak and review our architecture throughout the process.”

A world of connected vehicles

These days Coretex delivers compliance and fleet management solutions to connected vehicles around the world.

“We now manage more than 70,000 vehicles around the globe and monitor everything that happens in the vehicle, from engine analytics, to the quality of the product as it’s being shipped,” says AK.

“It was through our partnership with Microsoft that we were able to achieve this scale of growth,” AK says simply. “The support we got from the team in the early days was second to none and we are so glad we chose a tech partner that was established in the market. Without the background knowledge and experience of the team it would have been impossible to grow to where we are today.”