Knowing “where” is fleet management 101: knowing “what’s next” puts you ahead
Readers of this article will be well-aware of the benefits that fleet management solutions have been offering the industry for over a decade. But like the old PC that’s been sat on your desk for a few years now, the capabilities of the newest technology can fundamentally improve the business value that resources produce.
To continue with the desktop PC analogy (you’ll have to forgive us — after all, TechHQ is a business technology website), the latest and greatest hardware and software will undoubtedly improve the way your computer behaves. But, because your business isn’t a pure technology business, the PC is probably just a tool, a means to an end.
For an IT company, having that fantastic new model of PC is essential — after all, technology is what the business does. But logistics, supply chain, and field service organizations’ heart blood lives in their vehicles and equipment. It’s intriguing, then, why many companies aren’t looking anew at fleet management tech. After all, the possibilities have moved on considerably, and some companies most definitely are looking. Unfortunately, those companies might be your direct competitors.
So, what’s new?
The fundamentals of vehicle tracking, for instance, are pretty much unchanged. After all, satnav relies on networks of satellites, and those networks take a while to upgrade. But the first thing that’s new is the availability of full fleet information in (pretty much) real-time, and the way that the information is presented.
Most people are much more comfortable with technology than ten years ago. The user interface standards developed by giant companies like Google and Apple are now the norm. So that’s the type of presentation that the latest platforms use — or should — familiar, simply laid out, but with the insights professionals seek just a tap/click or two away.
The nature of real-time information gives companies using the latest technology a further advantage over and above having staff happier to interact with the information than they might have been a while back. The service level agreements your company offers can be very much more exact and offer more granularity and measurement points — just the type of detail that today’s businesses have come to expect.
Conversely, the progress towards hitting those SLAs is better measured, and if things are looking like they might slip, the real-time data means that decisions can be taken quicker to correct the possibility of expensive clauses being triggered.
Fleet management solutions or any asset tracking system never exist in isolation. Having them integrate with the rest of the technology in daily use has always been imperative, but with the latest API technology, it’s now more possible than ever to give safe and reliable access to information to systems outside the organization.
That means partners elsewhere in the supply chain, like distribution centers, subcontractors, warehouse providers, and so on, can all be presented with key information that ensures they are up to date with every shipment, consignment, delivery, or truck roll. That provides what marketing teams call a first-rate “customer experience,” and those rely on accurate information, well-presented and available on-demand.
The same interfaces between a management platform and external systems naturally work for internal services, too — APIs don’t discriminate as long as the language spoken is recognized. Existing ERPs that run different parts of the business can send and receive information in real-time from fleet management databases, and the ERP can be on-premise or in the cloud. That means data isn’t duplicated in multiple places, systems auto-update, and time spent keeping everything up to date is won back.
There are also massive possibilities too with linking fleet solutions with systems whose purpose seems to be unconnected. But these interfaces increase the value of both pieces of software and lower costs significantly. Linking field service information systems with Finance’s software platform might seem odd, for example. But suppose you offer driver incentives for best performance, or adjust billing or POs according to vehicle metrics. In those cases, manual processes can be removed with costs recouped from every corner of the business.
On several of the pages here on TechHQ, you can read about how industrial internet of things (IIoT) technology is extending the lifespan of machines in many different industries, like manufacturing, engineering, mining, and utilities. But to draw another technology analogy, a sensor that integrates with a vehicle’s ECM system is an internet-of-things device, like a steel press attenuator, or conveyor belt monitor.
And like those examples from other industries, the technology exists in specialist software to better predict vehicle or machinery downtimes, to flag up any mechanical issues, and to even start a chain of scheduled maintenance processes. For businesses of any size with anything over a couple of dozen vehicles (or high-value assets of any description), the savings accrue remarkably, especially at scale. With today’s cutting edge platforms, it’s perfectly possible to:
– Plan when your assets need mechanical attention,
– Better schedule drivers’ or operators’ shifts,
– Predict when machinery failures are more likely to occur,
– Prevent drivers and vehicles losing time (and money) pulled over on distant roadsides.
Over the next few weeks, TechHQ will be diving further into the technologies that are changing the way that haulage, logistics, maintenance, and supply chain companies are doing business.
Just a few commercial telematics vendors today are offering these types of highly advanced technologies, but they do exist. Named as industry leader in a survey published just recently, for example, Verizon Connect’s platform ticks many of the boxes mentioned above but goes well beyond in terms of function — if you really want to get a jump on the competition.
The differences in capabilities between a five-year-old desktop PC and the latest, speedy models are apparent; but, the same goes for logistics technologies too. How about using artificial intelligence on those vehicle telemetry stats? Predictions of vehicle failure points depending on truck manufacturer? Discovering why certain routes seem to cause erratic driving? Fleet management technologies that answer questions like those mean market advantage, lower costs, and increased efficiency.
The advances in technology (and the advantages) are there for the taking; all you need to do is learn what’s possible and take the next steps. You can read that ABI Research paper here and progress by adding some up-to-date computing muscle to your organization’s fleet. Start the latter by getting in touch with a representative from Verizon Connect.
16 December 2020