Categories
Energy Transportation and Logistics

3 Ways IoT Takes Fleet Management to the Next Level

The Internet of Things (IoT) will link billions of smart devices — smart homes, medical devices, thermostats, cars, machinery — to the Internet and enable unprecedented levels of remote visibility and control. While the IoT is still in its nascent stages in many industries, fleet operators have been using similar technology for decades to manage expensive assets. The IoT is now poised to take fleet management to the next level of visibility and productivity.

Traditional fleet management solutions primarily focused on location — owners wanted to know where their assets were. As these solutions evolved, they also enabled visibility and control of driver behavior. By using data from the vehicle, owners could monitor speed, harsh braking, accident status, and even received maintenance reminders based on mileage. But the IoT can further expand these capabilities, roping in more sensors and systems on the vehicle and combining those inputs with data from other sources (traffic, weather, customer information, etc.) to further optimize operations.

Consider these three important advantages that IoT-enabled fleet management can bring to operators:

Unprecedented Visibility

The IoT enables efficient route planning, even during traffic incidents or bad weather. Fleet management solutions provide location data that can then be combined with traffic and weather information via a route optimization engine to provide on-the-fly scheduling. Stops can be re-assigned in real-time based on new information. This not only helps save time and fuel, it also improves customer service. Route restrictions, such as required for hazardous materials or oversized vehicles, are taken into consideration.

You can see where drivers are at any time. Without automated fleet visibility, you have to rely on drivers to phone in their status and location. If there is a last-minute change to the schedule or a customer emergency, your staff will waste time on the phone trying to track down the nearest available driver or technician. IoT-based fleet management helps find the closest available vehicle and driver.

IoT systems can also be used to track items contents while on route or at delivery,  This includes tracking returnable assets, such as bakery trays, pallets, shipping containers or even entire trailers.

The IoT can even improve space utilization. The majority of trucks on the highway are transporting empty space. That’s because while most companies know the weight of the goods they are carrying, insight into size and volume has been difficult to obtain. Emerging solutions that can sense all of these attributes — weight, size, and volume — can be analyzed to make sure every inch of space in a truck is utilized productively. This can help unlock new revenue streams and improve efficiency.

Solutions such as Zebra VC6090, an in-vehicle fixed mount mobile computer, can help maximize productivity by keeping drivers and their vehicles connected to network devices via wireless WAN (WWAN), wireless LAN (WLAN) , Bluetooth, GPS and telematics. Cost Savings

The IoT can also boost fleet management cost savings. With sensors providing data on vehicle operations and driver behavior, fleets can reduce fuel-wasting behaviors like excessive idling and speeding, while also reducing drive times through route optimization.

By automating many of the manual tasks associated with tracking and managing vehicle fleets, companies will also save time and labor hours that can be put toward more value-added or customer-focused activities.

Visibility makes it easier to see how the fleet is being used and where your money is going. Do you have too few trucks serving a given area, or too many? IoT-enabled fleet management will give you an instant, graphical representation of your asset utilization patterns, enabling you to shrink or expand the size of the fleet based on usage and demand.

Fleet management solutions also make it easier to take care of regulation compliance, hours of service (HoS) or fuel tax reporting in an automated fashion, saving countless hours of manual record-keeping for both drivers and administrative staff.

Optimize Shipment Conditions

For shippers and carriers, damage to goods can result in financial losses and erode customer confidence. This is especially true when it comes to perishable goods. The United Nations, in fact, estimates that one-third of all food spoils or is lost in transit.

IoT-enabled fleet management leverages on-board sensors to provide real-time temperature visibility and control. Companies can be alerted ahead of time if a shipment is in peril of falling outside of require temperature parameters and then instruct the driver to remedy the situation.

Sensors for vibration, humidity, and other conditions can help companies better monitor shipment status and provide an auditable record that can help protect the driver or fleet operator if damage is reported upon completion of a shipment.

An experienced solution integrator, such a omniQ, is required to tie in the hardware, software, infrastructure, security, services, data management, device management and operations so that all components work together for optimizing your enterprise, from design to deployment to ongoing performance.

The IoT is not just a vision for the future. Fleet operators are leveraging it now to facilitate management, save money and ensure products arrive in good condition. Companies that embrace this approach can improve fleet performance, optimize costs, gain new visibility, and enhance their customer service.

Categories
Data Interchange Energy Field Sales and Delivery Industry Solutions Mobility Route Accounting Transportation and Logistics

3 Ways Technology Optimizes Productivity for Your Field Employees

Field employees — whether they are technicians, delivery drivers, route sales reps, or some combination of those jobs — are an extremely valuable and expensive part of your operation. If you don’t properly optimize their schedules or daily workloads, you can wind up with idle employees and equipment or find yourself over-hiring and investing in more routes or vehicles than you actually need.

Technology and planning can help you improve the efficiency of your field employees. That’s good for the company (you can log more jobs or sales without hiring additional employees) and also good for your field staff since they can spend more time earning money and less time driving from job to job.

Here are three examples of how technology can benefit your field operation:

Route Optimization: No matter how skilled your schedulers and dispatchers are, if they are still managing routes manually then your field employees are probably not working to their full potential. Manual routing is prone to human error.

By using an intelligent, automated routing and scheduling tool you can ensure that all routes are optimized based on your own efficiency/productivity goals. Route optimization tools can ensure that stops are organized to minimize time and distance, but within key customer time constraints and expectations.  Route optimization can also ensure that employees take the fastest route between stops, intelligently schedule pick-up/drop-off stops for delivery applications, and even schedule service technicians based on both location and skill set.

Modern route optimization solutions with real-time capabilities can even reroute employees based on traffic, weather, and road construction information. If a job is taking too long, the next stop can be automatically rerouted to another employee.

These features can keep the schedule on track, improve customer service, save fuel, and boost productivity — and routes can be optimized and communicated even before the shift begins.

Anticipate Customer Needs: Inventory management tools can help your delivery or route sales drivers arrive at each customer stop with the right merchandise and equipment on hand. New predictive analytics and forecasting tools can help sales operations forecast what their customers need before an order is placed or the driver arrives, which can help improve the efficiency of each stop.

In field service applications, sensors, automation, machine-to-machine interfaces, and cloud computing resources can help companies remotely diagnose (and in some cases repair) assets and equipment. By knowing what is wrong with a machine before they arrive to fix it, technicians can be sure to have the right tools and parts, which will improve both the first-time fix rate and overall productivity.

Leverage Technology on the Truck and in the Field: With mobile computers, GPS technology, and/or telematics solutions in your company vehicles you can further boost employee productivity.

By deploying automated delivery, inventory, or work order management solutions on mobile companies or tablets in the field, employees can quickly provide status updates, document their work, obtain customer signatures/payments, and close out work orders without time-consuming paperwork.

Combined with real-time wireless communications, these systems can also automatically update ERP, CRM, and route optimization solutions in real time. Managers and dispatchers can see the status of each job/stop and use that information to adjust the schedule if necessary.

GPS-based fleet tracking units on the truck can also update the location of each employee, time-stamp arrivals and departures to improve documentation/billing, and help automatically populate driver logs, hours of service documentation, or fuel tax forms, saving even more time for field employees.

The technology can also provide solutions for electronic logging devices (ELDs), hours of service (HOS) management, driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIR), and other compliance and operations requirements.

With the right technology solutions in place to optimizing your routing and scheduling, anticipate the needs of each work order/customer, and track the progress and location of your staff and vehicles, you can greatly enhance both the efficiency and productivity of your field employees.

Categories
Data Interchange Energy Field Sales and Delivery

What is the Secret to Providing Better Field Service Support?

For field service organizations, meeting service level agreement (SLA) requirements and delivering excellent support are critical for maintaining customer loyalty and profitability. How do you get there? The key to providing better field service support for both your customers and your technicians is mobility.

Armed with a mobile computer and a real-time wireless connection to the enterprise, your technicians can more effectively complete their work at the point of activity without costly return trips to the depot. By empowering your field technicians with mobile data, you can help them provide better, faster customer service and increase profitability.

With field service management software and mobile computers, you can provide technicians with complete details of every work order, including customer information, equipment service history, trouble ticket details, and other information that will help ensure they arrive on site with all of the information necessary to complete the repair correctly on the first visit.

Mobile technology can improve field service support in a number of ways:

Improved Efficiency: Electronically communicating with technicians and providing them with the ability to document their work will make them more efficient. You can eliminate paperwork and phone calls, along with unnecessary trips to the depot for parts, and more jobs can be completed on first visit. Improved efficiency will also empower technicians to complete more service calls per day.

On-the-Fly Scheduling: With an advanced field service solution, you can know right away if a technician is unable to accept a new work order, or is in danger of being late for the next call because of unexpected complications. Jobs can automatically be re-routed to other available technicians, guaranteeing you can meet all service level agreement (SLA) obligations.

Technical Support: Mobility improves field service support for your employees. If a technician needs assistance or additional information for a repair, they no longer have to make phone calls or consult bulky paper manuals; technical data and diagrams can be accessed via the mobile device. They can also consult with other technicians using their computers, and even share photos or videos of the problem with more experienced colleagues.

Inventory Management: Having the right parts on hand to complete a repair is critical for meeting your service level and first-time-fix goals. Using a mobile device to track on-truck inventory and log new inventory transfers at the depot will give you a real-time view of what parts are available. Technicians can use their mobile computers to order parts or arrange technician-to-technician parts transfers in the field.

Better Management of Third-Party Resources: If you need to outsource some portion of your field support operation based on geography or technician expertise, a mobile field service solution can help you maintain control and visibility over the customer experience. Equipping third-party providers with the same mobile functionality ensures a consistent customer service experience, and provides insight that can help you better measure the performance of technicians.

With a mobile field service management solution, your technicians will arrive on site at the right time with the right parts and knowledge to complete the job. Your customers receive accurate, timely support, which minimizes their downtime and costs. Your technicians can access the information and parts they need to do their jobs effectively. By providing enhanced field service support to your customers and employees, your company can improve customer loyalty and profitability.