QA with Mike Garvin


“We’re always trying to push ahead on new technology which makes the whole business process better for ourselves and the customer.” - Mike Garvin

Mike Garvin is the Director of Government Services for Matson, a U.S. owned and operated transportation services company headquartered in Honolulu. Matson was the initial ocean carrier selected to participate in the test of the USTRANSCOM Transportation Management System (TMS) prototype. 


Q: Why was Matson selected to participate in the TMS prototype?

A: Matson’s shipments are on a well-travelled lane for USTRANSCOM between the west coast and Hawaii and so it’s a pretty standard set of origins and destinations. The customer chosen to participate, AAFES, has a lot of cargo movement every week so that made it a good fit to start with these shipments. Matson likes to be the innovator and has made no secret of that. We’re always trying to push ahead on new technology that makes the business process better for ourselves and the customer.


Q: What are the benefits of implementing a new TMS system?

A: As an ocean carrier, we see a lot of benefits. The biggest one is that we should take this as an opportunity to standardize many of the current business processes that USTRANSCOM uses to move its cargo so that all stakeholders will have access to complete shipment information housed in a single repository. What we’re doing for Nexcom should be consistent with what we do for AAFES which would be like what we do for DECA and DLA.


Q: Why is standardization so important?

A: It means we will no longer be confined by the stove-piped, legacy systems that cause a lot of independent communication to get from order to order fulfillment, invoicing, and to bills being closed out by final payment. Standardization gives us the ability to communicate all shipment information across the supply chain in a timely fashion. There will be standardized data so people who need information for whatever job they have will be able to go to one place and access it.

The data should be accurate, consistent, timely, and complete. TMS users won’t have to go to several different systems to get the data they need on a particular cargo movement. They can use the data to complete their jobs and use analytical tools to determine trends and help their forecasting. It’s a real breakthrough in collection and use of data for USTRANSCOM, shippers, and vendors.    


Q: How difficult do you think the change management aspects of this program will be?

A: Implementing a new system is always a challenge, especially if a new system can do 90% of what they wish. They may have to refine their wishes to make the 90% workable for their needs with the upside that a new system brings new capabilities and will be more sustainable. Because that’s what an off the shelf system is – it’s not a totally custom-made system. There must be some give and tolerance on the part of the user community to make it work for them.

Once there’s a commitment made to the system, from top to bottom – especially starting at the top – there’s got to be a commitment that there’s no turning back. This will be the new system with a new discipline, and everyone collectively works to make it usable for everyone. There’s a big leadership component, not only from the top executives to the supervisors, but also from the rank and file to get on board. Real-world training is another component. Once a new system gets started, it’s amazing how resourceful people can be to make it work for their particular requirements.


Q: How would you define success for the TMS prototype?

A: We are making the new system and process more user friendly with templates for repetitive cargo movements and EDI connectivity that complements the business process. One of the primary goals is to limit the keystrokes necessary to get a task done. That’s a big requirement of the system – that we don’t do every booking as a one off and get the booking task done correctly and quickly.

In the future this will also include bringing in the financial systems for Transcom (IPP) so that we have an integrated process from order to cash. These EDI communications we have worked on with Telesto will be important to make the system complete. 


Q: What has been your experience working with the Telesto team?

A: It’s been a really good experience. Telesto is a good implementation partner. When you implement a new system there’s a feeling out period between all parties involved. You go from sort of a generic capability to fine tuning it with yourself, the customer, Telesto, and Transcom to work through the process and make it more efficient. Telesto has a very good understanding of SAP’s TMS product. Connecting all the dots and adding EDI took some time, but Telesto was very responsive to getting all of that done. So good experience, good response. This has been a real partnership between Telesto and Matson leveraging Telesto’s SAP expertise and Matson’s deep experience in all forms of logistics, eCommerce, and interaction with the U.S. military.


Q: Do you have any recommendations on how to proceed forward?

A: I’ve heard a decision is coming regarding moving from prototype to authorizing a TMS solution. It would be good to take advantage of all the preliminary work that has been done and move forward with a standardized TMS system. We would hate to lose momentum. This SAP-based system is sustainable over time and the legacy systems used now are going to have to continue to be updated. Changing over is a long process, but we see it as all good.