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Case Study

Enamic Develops Custom Logistics Solution for Vanguard, with Directus

By Rijk van Zanten on April 25, 2022

Headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa, Enamic provides custom software support and development skills for a variety of digital projects to customers of all sizes. Their services range from building out digital infrastructure, web experiences and mobile apps, designing friendly UI/UX, or handling the backend development and maintenance for any project. According to Wayne Eldridge, Founder of Enamic, the sky’s the limit. “We’re all about building and innovating according to customers’ needs, whether that means updating and customizing an existing system, creating something from scratch, or anything in-between,” he said.

Enamic’s client Vanguard Rigging, the leading neutral freight consolidation service, has a thriving South African network, with facilities in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. However, their legacy logistics system, Systematix, was built in the 2000s and couldn’t keep pace with Vanguard’s evolving needs. “The system was clunky,” Eldridge said. “For example, the search function was extremely slow, and filtering was limited.” As demand for Vanguard’s services grew, these performance issues were impacting productivity and driving up operational overhead.

In 2020, Vanguard enlisted the help of Enamic to build a modern, customized system, and it was up to Eldridge to find a solution for developing the internal app. After evaluating several solutions including Strapi, he came across Directus and was sold. “I evaluated several headless CMS solutions that could be used for building an internal app,” he said. “Strapi positioned itself as a solution for blogging and content management, whereas Directus offered robust capabilities for building applications, such as role-based access control and the ability to browse and filter data with ease. It was a packaged solution.”

Open-source, Modular and Extensible

Directus provides unlimited flexibility, with no hard feature ceiling and no vendor lock-in. It installs an API and no-code collaboration app on top of any new or existing SQL database, without altering schema or content, so the data remains pristine and portable. The solution makes it easy to create internal apps for managing any kind of data – inventory, assets, projects, customers and more – using a complete set of building blocks for intuitive layouts and interfaces.

“Most of the platforms out there have a solution for either the front end or the back end, and you have to build the other half of the solution,” Eldridge said. “With Directus, you have both, so you don’t have to build everything separately. It sits on top of your database, without altering any of the data, so if we had to introduce or combine new data – for example, Vanguard’s accounting database – we can simply add it to Directus and it’s there for us to access, browse and navigate.”

Eldridge started using Directus v8, years ago, and was impressed then with its power and speed, and how easy it was to get up and running. When Directus 9 was rebuilt from the ground up in 100% Javascript, the difference in performance was remarkable. "The PHP version of Directus was great, but Directus 9 is lightning-fast," Eldridge said. "We're running it on the same hardware, but it's 2-3X faster."

Eldridge uses the Directus Discord channel to connect and engage with other developers and pick their brains for ideas, tips and insights. “There’s a lot of valuable content on Discord, and the community is a great resource for finding solutions to development challenges,” he said. “Everyone's fast to respond, as well.”

A Customized, High-Performance Logistics Solution

Thanks to Enamic and Directus, Vanguard’s new logistics system includes the following capabilities:

  • Easily search and browse client records from various regions worldwide and locate branches, contacts and other pertinent information, with near-instance results.
  • Search for clients by name, project code or other parameters and see results instantly.
  • Drag and drop supporting documents into client records, including emails, specifications and other documentation.
  • Manage project images to improve collaboration and use for promotional purposes.
  • Capture photos on a smartphone and directly upload them into client records.

In addition, Directus supports an array of microservices, such as the ability to create and send project quotes as Word Documents. “When somebody creates a new quote, we can generate a quote number, populate all the information from what's happening in the project, and put it in a nice word document,” he said. “All of this all happens automatically.” Additionally, the solution offers support for revision management, which makes it fast and seamless to edit or update quotes while maintaining complete documentation for compliance purposes. Directus propagates any changes made to the document instantly and automatically into the database, via the Directus API.

Importantly, the new logistics solution enables Vanguard to set up and manage roles and permissions. “Once the roles and permissions are established, the administrator can simply apply those permissions to new users with a click of the button, ensuring policies for access and security are consistently enforced,” Eldridge said, adding that while the permissions can be very granular, they are easy to define. “If the client calls and tells us a new person is joining their team, we just load them into the user directory, associate them with a role, and all of the permissions are applied automatically,” he said.

Through integrations, the new application enables Vanguard to pull data from other business-critical systems, such as the company’s Accounting or CRM system, for a holistic view of their clients. Eldridge used this functionality to develop a custom sales module for managing quotes and costing projects. “Using Directus, we were able to easily mold the solution to fit their requirements, as opposed to wrestling with a rigid, out-of the box solution.”

Flexible and Highly Scalable

Vanguard has already uploaded about 300 clients and 700 projects into the new system. Roughly 2,400 quotes and 600 costings have been generated. Eldridge said the Directus interface is simple and intuitive, which enables users to leverage the app’s capabilities without extensive training.

Additionally, the system’s performance is exceptional. “With Directus powering our solution, the search function is top-notch,” Eldridge said. “The ability to turn users on and off in terms of what they can see and what they have access to is a great feature.”

Since this functionality comes out of the box, Eldridge can easily add employees as they join the company or move into different roles. “Directus is super flexible and scalable,” he said. “If the team at Vanguard scales from 100 to 300 people, it's not a problem at all. Whereas setting up new permissions used to take hours, with Directus, it’s a two-minute change.”

In addition to building the custom logistics app for Vanguard, Eldridge is looking into other use cases for Directus with clients in other industries, such as developing a comprehensive application for managing rental properties. “Directus would make it easy to build a system for tracking move-ins and move-outs, managing property repairs, providing access to tenants and handling other critical tasks,” he said. Such functionality could be adapted to fit other use cases, as well. "With Directus, Enamic has the tools we need to build highly customized, easy-to-use internal apps that meet the unique needs of a wide range of customers.”

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