Developing an SaaS Platform for a Logistics Company: Overcoming Performance & Scalability Issues

Digitalization is revolutionizing every industry, and logistics is one of them. Today, for supply chain networks to sustain their business in a competitive marketplace, they need to move from disparate legacy systems to connected and scalable ones, offering end-to-end visibility and stable performance under heavy load.

No wonder that in this new reality managers are paying more and more attention to advanced logistics systems, driven by the top technologies of the moment:

  • Cloud computing;
  • SaaS structure;
  • IoT tech advances.
Hence, a number of cloud-based Software-as-a-service solutions is growing fast, with many of them adopting connected technologies to provide additional services and drive business growth.

Logistics SaaS solutions are offering a wide array of benefits, including:

  • Low cost of entry for businesses, which are expanding fast but have limited IT resources and tight budget constraints. On-demand and pay-as-you-go payment models make SaaS solutions easy to deploy for businesses of all sizes.
  • Extreme flexibility, first of all when it comes to the notion of scalability. Such solutions can be scaled up or down according to business needs without infrastructure changes.
  • Concentration on business development issues and not on the technical part of the project.
Not long ago our web development team was engaged in building from scratch a new load planning & route optimization SaaS platform for a major logistics services provider from Germany. Always interested in applying our expertise in building complex mission-critical enterprise-level solutions to a growing number of projects, we stepped in to address the outlined challenges.

Starting the Project & Defining Its Scope

Mic Commerce & Consulting is one of the major and quickly expanding logistics services providers in Germany, which is developing its portfolio of digital projects in the supply chain industry. They wanted to offer a brand new solution to shippers, carriers, and suppliers facilitating their daily routine. The solution was envisaged as a platform which would combine different cargo types of and provide an optimized delivery solution, improving customer service and reducing transportation costs.

The idea was extremely attractive, but rather vague, and the project was kicked off with business process analysis and formalization within an initial discovery phase. Our analysts conducted intensive business analysis, suggested the vision of the product, and formulated a strategy of the platform’s further evolution.

As a result, the customer received a comprehensive description of optimized business processes. In parallel, our developers were helping the customer select the optimum technology stack and drawing the solution’s architecture in full compliance with the client’s expectations from the project.

Once we defined the project scope, business priorities and main technical features, created a workflow for our future work, and designed a visualization concept for the platform, we proceeded with the development stage.

Building the Project Skeleton

Right from the start, the aim of the SaaS platform was to empower effective load building, that is, to build a platform capable of processing large datasets containing cargo description and info on collection and delivery points.

Our web development team built an advanced algorithm working with massive amounts of data and offering the most cost-effective solution to logistics and supply chain managers.

Right from the start, the aim of the SaaS platform was to empower effective load building, that is, to build a platform capable of processing large datasets containing cargo description and info on collection and delivery points.  

Due to the implemented algorithm, the system works the following way: once the data on load building and transportation is uploaded manually or via CSV, the algorithm processes the data to provide a list of possible transportation solutions, optimized in accordance with the end user’s requests. For example, shipment consolidation can be offered as an optimal solution to create a full truckload shipment.

For delivering the API-driven solution, our team went for the full-stack Symfony framework to create a consistent dev environment, empowering pagination, data validation, access control and a cache proxy.

Other elements of the tech stack include:

  • API Platform for building API-first projects. Our developers consider it one of the most fully-featured open source web frameworks for delivering RESTful API-based solutions, and it determined our choice.
  • OpenAPI Specification (formerly Swagger Specification) for providing concise and clear documentation of the project. Good documentation accelerates quicker project development and makes it easy for developers to quickly adopt the APIs into their project in the future. The tool automatically generates and updates interactive documentation on Rest APIs in a form, readable both to machines and humans.
  • React.js for the presentation layer. The API Platform is built on top of the JavaScript library, and our team was happy to apply this tool, working its best with large scale apps and data that changes over time – this is exactly what we needed for our SaaS platform with its dynamic user interface.
  • MySQL 5.7 for the database part. The new database version boasts better performance and stable functioning, which was essential for the complex project.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the solution’s cloud provider. Our team has worked with AWS in multiple projects, and has got experienced enough to perform a seamless and secure migration on the cloud.

Adding Extra Features to the SaaS Platform

In addition to the project’s main functionality, we added the following features:

  • Integration with Google Maps for building cost-effective routes. We tapped into its API to implement the route optimization system, critical for logistics software. As a result, our platform was empowered with automatic assigning of geographic coordinates based on the specified address and defining an optimal route.
  • Development and implementation of a custom Magento plugin. Thanks to the implemented custom element, payment transactions for logistics services can be performed within the system.
  • Role-based access control approach to the system. As an enterprise-level solution, it was essential to provide different levels of permission for the system, further aggregated with customers’ inner products, like ERP or CMS. The access system, built and integrated by our developers, allows to distinguish the required number of roles and attribute a specific level of permission to each of them.
Have any questions? Ask our team!

Leveraging the Most of Today’s DevOps Practices

The SaaS solution was delivered in full compliance with the web development latest trends.

  • Following the PSR-2 Coding Standards. Symfony is based on the set of rules, serving as an ameliorated extension to the basic PSR-1 coding guide. The PSR-2 Coding Standards ensure the code consistency, establishing the same rules to all developers engaged into the project.
  • Using Docker-based tools. This allowed us to create a consistent development environment, so that all specialists involved in the development process, would have the same libraries, language, runtime and other elements.
  • Applying JSON-LD specification for a REST API format. We chose this format to provide a structured markup, that is, annotating an entity and establishing facts around it. Marked up this way, elements are better indexed by search engines and generate better SEO results.

As a result of applying these dev practices, we got a more organized web overall, which simplified our team’s work and will be of great help in future development.

The Project Outcome

The project was delivered against the client’s deadlines and within the established budget frames. The client got fully functioning software that helps stay ahead of the competition in the logistics industry.

Impressed by our project management practices and profound tech expertise, Mic Commerce & Consulting is thinking about engaging R-Style Lab team into the project’s further development, primarily into its IoT part.

Michael Ernst, Owner: “R-Style Lab is the right partner for complex projects. From the first contact to the platform launch and afterwards, the team displayed excellent contact and project management skills, and impeccable technical expertise. There is nothing else to add except that we are definitely going to pass more projects to R-Style Lab”.

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