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How SPI Logistics used Orkes Conductor to Maximize Business Operations

SPI Logistics transformed and optimized its tech stack and business workflows that allow its agents to deliver exceptional customer service.

Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, Canada and with 65+ locations throughout North America, the premier network for freight brokers SPI Logistics provides the highest quality of service in its industry through personal service, dedicated account management, and customized logistics services. That unmatched service includes access to an extensive network of vetted and approved carriers. SPI Logistics monitors all its carriers for operational authority, insurance safety rating, and performance reputation.
SPI Logistics' effective use of technology also fuels its exceptional service, says Ezequiel Peralta, VP of technology at SPI Logistics. At its core, SPI Logistics' tech stack provides its agents with custom solutions to allow the fulfillment of any request from shippers. SPI Logistics ensures that each detail regarding how customers' freight will get to where it's needed and when it’s needed is worked out flawlessly.
However, as its tech stack grew, so did its dependency on proprietary integrations and proprietary software. The technology team needed a way to improve the manageability of its software and also wanted to move to open-source. Ultimately, they found Orkes Conductor, delivered by Orkes Cloud, to provide the developer-friendly features, managed services, and event-driven workflow orchestration they needed to meet their goals successfully.
The core of most shipping logistics companies is the transportation management system (TMS). These systems help businesses to plan, execute, and optimize the physical movement of goods, including planning and forecasting network needs, optimizing routes, managing carriers, executing and tracking shipments, and automating processes like load booking and tendering, handling payment and settlement, and reporting on key performance indicators.
To maximize operations, SPI Logistics integrates its TMS (built on Salesforce) and other third-party data services for such capabilities as load tracking, carrier procurement, ingesting market rates, and load posting. It was here where SPI Logistics relied too heavily on proprietary integrations to exchange data and needed to decouple itself from these proprietary connectors and develop its own custom connectors. Peralta explains they wanted better control of these integrations in-house, which would also help streamline their agents' daily workflows, increase quality, and reduce vendor lock-in.


Shipping Logistics

Business Problem

SPI Logistics needed to streamline its agents’ applications and get away from proprietary applications and data connectors.

Why SPI Logistics Chose Orkes Cloud

  • Orkes Cloud enables the SPI Logistics tech team to focus on creating and improving business workflows, and not managing complex IT infrastructure
  • Orkes Conductor delivered via Orkes Cloud supports event-driven architectures
  • Orkes Cloud enables swift creation of critical business workflows
  • The SPI Logistics tech team was able to move away from proprietary software and embrace open source thanks to Orkes Cloud

The move from point-to-point, proprietary integrations

"We knew we needed to move away from these point-to-point integrations between our TMS and various third-party integrations whenever possible and move to integrations where we can control the relationships between the TMS and external systems," Peralta says. The various integrations and associated user interfaces were also hampering the efficiency. "We started working to integrate everything into the TMS using our own APIs to control integration," Peralta adds.
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"We knew we needed to move away from these point-to-point integrations between our TMS and various third-party integrations whenever possible and move to integrations where we can control the relationships between the TMS and external systems,"
– Ezequiel Peralta, VP of technology at SPI Logistics
Initially, to achieve the integration autonomy Peralta and the team sought, SPI Logistics turned to an Apache Airflow managed service and Good Cloud Composer as its workflow orchestrator.
The team hoped this would enable an integration point for batch-loading data from their data warehouse and TMS, and run other data pipelines that supported their operations. "We've started using Airflow as that integration point," Peralta explains.
The system worked well for certain types of data, such as pulling data from their TMS and pushing that data to their payments processor or pulling the data necessary to update their customers on the precise location of their freight. "We started quickly designing everything so that our system was highly configurable and could scale," Peralta says.
It wasn't long before they encountered hurdles with the system. Peralta explains that as long as the team created generic and basic functions, everything worked. However, as the team added more functionality, they learned there were requirements they couldn't adequately meet with Apache Airflow — especially regarding transactional and event-based data. Further, the team believed they were becoming too dependent on vendor-specific features and too locked into a single vendor.
The team decided it would be better served by moving to an event-driven architecture. "An event-driven architecture would be a better fit. It was then that we realized we'd need to find an alternative way to manage our workflows," he says.

Orkes Conductor delivered by Orkes Cloud "the best option"

The team expected several critical factors in its new search for a workflow orchestrator. First, it had to be open source, developer-friendly, and ideally delivered as a managed service.
In addition to Orkes Conductor, the team considered Cadence and Camunda. After a careful evaluation, the team selected Orkes Conductor as its ideal workflow orchestration platform due to its effective management of workflows, orchestration of data pipelines, and support of event-driven architectures. As the team preferred to focus on building business workflows and maximizing SPI Logistics' operations instead of managing the supporting infrastructure, Peralta and the team selected Orkes Conductor as a fully managed service delivered via the Orkes Cloud.
"We are a small team. We didn't want to have to manage the day-to-day support and maintenance. That's one of the biggest reasons we selected Orkes Conductor delivered via Orkes Cloud," Peralta explains. Orkes Cloud is a fully managed platform that delivers Orkes Conductor and helps improve workflow management. And Orkes Cloud provides the workflow platform for optimizing complex, long-running tasks and comprehensive logs and metrics for troubleshooting and optimization.
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"We are a small team. We didn't want to have to manage the day-to-day support and maintenance. That's one of the biggest reasons we selected Orkes Conductor delivered via Orkes Cloud,"
Further, Peralta says they preferred a developer-focused tool rather than a business-user-focused tool. That's why they appreciated Orkes' software development kits (SDKs). The simple Python SDKs also helped place Orkes over the top. Finally, Conductor, created and used within Netflix, is a proven workflow orchestration platform that will scale.
Before selecting and getting a sense of how Orkes Conductor would work, the SPI Logistics Team deployed Orkes Conductor on their own AWS instance. "We succeeded in getting a conductor instance in our own AWS infrastructure. We realized quickly that we didn't want to maintain it continuously," Peralta says. "The support we had from Orkes in our implementation was phenomenal. Being a small team, we can't afford the learning curve required to configure such systems," he says.

Orkes Cloud enables SPI Logistics's tech team to focus on building better business outcomes

With Orkes Conductor hosted on Orkes Cloud, Peralta details the benefits the SPI Logistics team has reaped since the switch. These include significant time savings, deep observability into its business workflows, and a successful transition to an event-driven architecture. "It enabled us to focus on improving our business processes," he says.
With Orkes Cloud, the team could collaborate with business users to develop business workflows much more quickly. "The business user will provide a diagram, then we will quickly develop and implement the entire workflow process," he says. “For example, we implemented risk mitigation workflows that constantly check our carriers against multiple data sources of fraud reports and alerts our carrier setup team in case we detect any loads assigned to carriers that have been reported as fraudulent. This allowed us to act rapidly and be proactive to prevent incidents and claims.”
Peralta also appreciates how Orkes Conductor provides the team with centralized control and visibility into their workflows and their creation process. "There has definitely been a time savings, along with increased reliability and traceability. Orkes Conductor via Orkes Cloud provides us with all the necessary troubleshooting and management capabilities. Today, if a carrier is rejected, we can trace through the process and see why and what potentially went wrong, thanks to our improved workflows."
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"We have everything we need out of the box for analyzing the workloads in a way that's much more efficient than if we had to build all of this ourselves,"
– Ezequiel Peralta, VP of technology at SPI Logistics
Most importantly, the SPI Logistics team succeeded in their primary goal of decoupling from proprietary connectors, which has proven to become a competitive advantage because they are no longer dependent on third parties to change or update their data connections. The big success here is how Orkes Cloud and Orkes Conductor helps SPI Logistics own more of its technology, and we can now innovate at our own pace," Peralta says.
To start building complex workflows with high levels of reliability and observability, start a free trial of Orkes Conductor today.