There was a time that Corey Cox thought his best day at work would be running into Donny Osmond while delivering a package, but now he’s a finalist for the CanadianCIO of the Year award.
For the past two decades, Cox has risen up the ranks of the transportation, equipment and power generation firm Tandet Group. Founded in 1978, the group has evolved to own various fleets of trucks and provide backup power generation to clients across Canada. After helping Tandet work through a major ERP migration and even adapting systems to avoid a Y2K crisis, Cox cemented his role as Tandet’s key technology decision maker.
Today, he’s combining modern technology architecture involving cloud services, Internet of Things, and APIs with business-critical data to improve employee productivity and customer satisfaction. We had a chance to do a deep dive with Cox about his career at Tandet and hear about some cutting-edge projects that he’s working on at the CanadianCIO Summit in Montebello, Que.
We’re doing a Q&A and podcast series with some of the most interesting CIOs nominated for our annual awards program. Follow along as we meet the technology decision makers that are driving innovation in Canada. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Canadian CIO: You have been with Tandet for more than 20 years and have risen up to the role of CIO. Tell me about how that early career experience informs your job now and how you became the best person for your job.
Corey Cox: Well it certainly gives you some insight of what it’s like to be out on the road, dealing with traffic, and people who are working out in the hot sun all day, the different personality types, and the kind of stress you get. I think that’s driven a lot of my ability to understand what it is that we need to help improve a driver’s experience in the cab of their truck. It keeps me grounded in understand that this is ultimately what we really do – it’s all about the movement of product. No matter what is is that we deploy technically, it’s about getting the product from A to B in the most efficient way possible.
I am working for people that actually believe in technology and that technology is an integral part of the growth of a company in the modern age. I have a natural curiosity, I like that fact that things are constantly changing and I’m being challenged with something new, that has a bit of a cool factor to it. I get my chance to go hands-on with cutting-edge technology and that satisfies the curious in me.
CCIO: What was the worst day you had on the job as a courier vehicle driver?
Cox: I remember being trapped in an elevator in the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto for not too long – 20 or 30 minutes – and not knowing how we were going to get out. Or whether or not anybody actually knew that I was in there. That was fun.
How about a good day? Another time, in the same structure, I met Donnie Osmond as he was coming out from practicing for a play, Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, now that was really fun.
CCIO: You’re often asked to beta test new software by some of the major vendors you work with. How is it that you’ve gained a ‘beta tester’ reputation and how does it help you in your role as CIO?
Cox: I like to challenge myself and the people around me with new technology, new innovations, and product improvements. I think we get asked because we bring a strong technical response that’s in-depth, detailed, and provides the developer the ability to actually implement rapid fixes. That’s the point of a beta test, to have a real-world stress test, but have an intelligent response that gives the development community the ability to fix a problem as rapidly as possible.
It helps me because the developers can count on us for strong technical support during a beta phase, and we get our hands on early product development. We’re able to implement sooner in the company. It gives us a competitive advantage as we’re able to touch on these things before it goes out in the general release and is available to our competitors.
CCIO: What are a couple of things that you’re beta-testing right now?
Cox: In about two weeks I’ll be beta testing a new camera system for our trusts, a forward-facing camera system that’s meant to record traffic events occurring in front of the vehicle. What’s new is that we’re tying it into an onboard tablet that also has an independent accelerometer and other measurement devices to measure the G-forces and other things that are going on in the cab, to automatically earmark video footage when the sensors believe that an event has occurred that’s noteworthy. It will automatically earmark that and then advise our safety department that there may be footage that’s noteworthy. The driver also has the ability to earmark the footage on their own, but this gives us an independent measurement of things that are going on in the cabin for our safety and compliance review.
CCIO: Let’s dig into the nitty gritty of your technology a bit. Your speciality is in applying cross-functional software at Tandet and you have several critical components that you’re looking after in a ERP system, a VoIP system, and your fleet of drivers too. Give me a snapshot of all this and how you use this cross-functional software to help?
Cox: For ERP systems, there’s actually two major systems. One is an [IBM] i Series AS/400-based system and another a Windows-server based system. We run DB2, we run MS SQL, we run Skype for Business, Sharepoint, and another of other systems. Engine diagnostic software for connecting to trucks and diagnosing problems. I think the key thing that we do is tie these systems together through APIs.
For example with Sharepoint, we use it in a way that’s very unique and take advantage of its API infrastructure. We’ve created a billing engine that ties imaging to invoice delivery, and ties it together between two systems – so from two ERP systems we’ve created one billing engine. That allows our group, regardless of business unit involved, to be able to bill out, including sending scanned proofs of delivery signature documents, scale tickets, things that are needed. That’s the kind of thing we like to do, where we can have the freedom of choice to get the best of breed product, but tie it together using APIs, so we can create common interfaces so we can take advantage of their strengths while minimizing the stress that comes from multiple systems.
CCIO: The way you’re talking about APIs, I’m wondering if you’ve been tying into some public cloud services?
Cox: Yes, we talk about beta-testing and one of the things we’re doing right now with our cloud service provider from our Quebec-based mobile communications vendor, that provides a lot of onboard telemetry technology in our trucks, is where the drivers will be doing document scanning. We’re taking the documents, scanning them in the cab, pushing those to the cloud, and then pulling them back out and indexing them to the order that the driver is running that proof of delivery against. Then we throw it back to an image library which will then be turned immediately back out to the billing system. We’re doing that all with no touch, no human interaction.
CCIO: Can you tell me about whether you’re using IoT to help with your business?
Cox: Absolutely. Focusing on the cab, we worked with Chambly, Que.-based ISAAC Instruments, we have a solution that’s actually measuring about 100 to 150 different events a second, in a truck, from the distance that a driver’s foot is on the pedal of a brake and an accelerator, to the G-forces, horizontally and longitudinally in the truck, to the engine sensor information, coalescing all of that into GPS positioning. A tremendous amount of data we’re collecting that will allow us to improve safety and field performance.
CCIO: So does collecting all that data work? Are drivers behaving as desired?
Cox: Absolutely. When we first looked at this particular technology, we felt that’s what separated it from its competition, the propensity that it would work. It’s not a report at the end of the day or a report at the end of the week. It’s realtime feedback, in a very simple interface that simply tells you whether or not you’re hitting certain KPIs. But without the numbers, just with green dials, yellow dials, and red dials. I think there’s an innate human drive to want to be better, or at least to win. And when they are hitting green, that’s winning.