How Tripplo centralized apps and microservices data to save engineering time
October 27, 2021
Tripplo connects customers who need to ship cargo with verified drivers to deliver it, and provides software for transporters to manage their businesses. To provide a great customer experience, Tripplo business teams and agents need visibility into driver availability, truck capacity, delivery status, and a slew of other details. But as cargo volumes increase, it gets more difficult to give every team the unified information needed to manage transactions and grow their network of customers and suppliers.
On the engineering side, the team ran into multiple constraints while connecting their microservices to 3 separate internal apps—a PHP admin panel, a custom React app, and spreadsheets. In this post, we'll share how and why Amo Moloko, a tech lead at Tripplo, pivoted to Retool to make it all happen.
Amo started out with a simple PHP admin panel—based on a GitHub template—to make calls to their servers directly. But they quickly outgrew this solution after adding new features and services to their core product.
He then built a custom app using React and GraphQL to replicate and expand upon the functionality of the original PHP app. Even so, he remained concerned about how his team would maintain this new app and what issues he'd run into. One of the issues: new features and screens needed to be designed in Figma before building, which added to the team’s workload and added the time for the functionality to ship.
On top of that, other teams still relied on the functionality of the PHP app and used it every day. Instead of fully replacing the outdated app, there were now two apps being used in tandem. This was on top of other teammates using spreadsheets to fill in other gaps. Maintaining 3 systems created significant data hygiene challenges. For example, Amo had to build three tables to interact with data in separate truck, trailer, and driver services. He knew this wasn’t scalable.
“We kept on adding new features to our product and, as a result, jammed stuff into our PHP app. It was getting out of control—getting this PHP app to work with the new services we were spinning up was a huge headache,” Amo says.
As Amo searched for other solutions, he only consider those that he could easily connect to their AWS Lambda, DynamoDB tables, microservices APIs, and other internal databases. Any solution he chose also needed to digest information like commodity type, weight, and cargo size from multiple services, and output computations like how many loads were delivered on a single day, how much weight was transported, and fulfillment percentages.
Amo first built an admin panel in Retool within 15 minutes. “Then I was able to rebuild my entire PHP app in like 30 minutes. Compared to spinning up a new repo and all that’s involved, Retool is way faster,” Amo says.
Because Retool connects to any API and most databases, Amo found that it was easy to pull data from all his microservices into one Retool dashboard, allowing his team to operate from a single source of truth. For instance, Amo created a Retool app that synced data from 3 different services to show revenue generated, loads transported, and more.
“Retool connected to our microservices and allowed our team to see all the information in our systems,” Amo says.
Amo created another Retool app to show where loads are in transit with details on the shipment. It uses a map component that syncs with their DynamoDB. Amo estimates that this app would have taken him at least 4 hours to build, instead of the 30 minutes it took with Retool. “It helps the entire team visualize loads in transit. We can now quickly estimate if transporters will make it to their loading and unloading points on time,” says Amo.
After centralizing his internal apps in Retool, Amo saved at least 5 hours of engineering time per week. This is not only a result of faster time to value and less maintenance but also from having a centralized source for all of their data.
Another big contribution to time savings: before Retool, Amo performed complex queries daily for business teams and agents who didn’t have the technical chops to access the information they needed. Also, when an app was down, agents would interrupt Amo for help, which meant that he’d have to perform scans in DynamoDB to get agents what they needed.
Now that Tripplo uses Retool, business teams and agents can access the data they need to do their jobs without asking Amo for help. “Our fulfillment team has access to more data to empower them to fulfill loads in a compliant and efficient manner. And our business and operations teams have insight to data that can inform any investment or sales initiative, like accessing numbers to pitch to potential investors and customers,” says Amo.
This new way of working has accelerated the productivity of the entire organization and facilitates delivering better experiences for their network of customers and suppliers.
Tripplo was able to save transporters up to 80% of the time they spent on manual tasks through its efficiency software. This came during a time when mass strikes and looting swamped South Africa’s distribution centers, disrupting the supply chain industries.
Tripplo’s access to thousands of vehicles and the ability to communicate with customers registered on its platform allowed the team to help with forwarding food parcels to severely affected towns in Kwazulu-Natal when they needed it the most. Tripplo earned Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company award in 2021 and continues helping the communities of South Africa today.
What’s next for Tripplo?
Amo is thinking about what other problems he can solve with Retool. “What I love about Retool is that the biggest limitation is your imagination. I still feel like I’m only using 20 percent of what Retool is capable of,” Amo says.