Fleets are enjoying a profitable transformation thanks to the new telematics ecosystem.

The old business adage “if you can measure it, you can manage it,” remains true today. But there is a new truth for the mobile enterprise: if you can connect it, you can transform it.

If knowledge is power, connection is empowerment. We can now connect customers, suppliers, drivers and vehicles in ways previously impossible. At a high level, this equates to engaged drivers, informed and satisfied customers and executives with the ability to understand trends in their business. On the road, this equates to practical advances such as lower fuel costs, reduced vehicle wear and tear, and better utilization of resources and personnel.

Understanding the connections, and how to achieve them, is the charge of everyone who manages a mobile enterprise – from the fleet manager up to the CEO. Here we examine ways to get more out of the mobile enterprise while also evolving the way we interface with and serve customers.

The Connected Driver

Five or ten years ago, telematics was based on enterprise data delivered to management via the web and was less concerned with engaging the driver. Driver connectedness with the enterprise is integral to the next wave of telematics. A business is only as good as the person in the field that represents it – and connecting the driver to the mission of the company through his or her mobile device is one way to do that.

Through mobile solutions such as Telogis Coach, which presents a driver scorecard and ranks performance compared to others in the company based on specific driving behaviors and metrics, drivers are engaged in a positive way to improve performance. During downtime, drivers can review tips, driving tutorials and specialized training make them safer drivers and empowering them with skills to climb the leaderboard. It’s the difference between being commanding and controlling and being positive and rewarding – think carrot, not stick. By making driver safety a game, it fosters friendly competition and a team spirit that also has practical results in operation: improved safety and lower fuel costs.

One Telogis customer – a major utility in the northeastern United States – has reported that since implementing a driver scorecard system, drivers are “climbing over each other to get to the top”, and the company has recorded quarter-over-quarter reductions in fuel use, idle time and hard-braking events – all safety-related metrics monitored by telematics software. In addition to those immediate cost-saving measures, a scorecard customer can save significant money as it relates to safety: lower insurance rates, lower damage or replacement costs, and reduced or eliminated downtime associated with damaged vehicles and assets.

We are at a stage now where the information coming off the truck or out of the back office, transmitted directly to a worker’s mobile device, really helps drive efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Another way it does this is by helping that mobile employee make informed decisions. One of the key comments we hear in the field from top executives is “I wish my people could make better decisions.” With real-time information delivered directly to them, they can. If a driver is made aware that a dock door will not be available at the delivery they are currently heading to, they can leverage their connected route planning, work order management and truck-specific navigation technologies to determine more productive alternatives than sitting at that customer’s facility for two hours waiting.

This is ultimately the promise of the connected mobile ecosystem: empowering people throughout the organization to make better decisions using the data provided to them at the moment of need.

The Intelligent Vehicle

The work vehicle represents a nerve center that can be tapped into for a great deal of information – that’s ultimately what this entire article is about. But what can it tell a user about the vehicle itself and the people in it?

Through the combination of telematics, work order management and route optimization, vehicles can be tagged with the tools contained in each vehicle, as well as the skill set of each driver. In a work environment where the need to respond to ever-changing customer demand is critical, this ability helps significantly improve response and fleet efficiency. A contractor, for instance, may have three vehicles closer to a call for emergency service, but those trucks may not have the tools required to perform the job. By intelligently selecting and rerouting a capable vehicle and driver, it ensures customer satisfaction and the most efficient use of your resources in the field.

For large fleets that feature many and varying vehicles, telematics provides a real-time and historical snapshot of asset utilization. One division of the company may feel the need to purchase a new truck outfitted with a specific tool or function, such as a bucket truck – but a utilization report may identify an underutilized bucket truck two counties over. This intelligent and enterprise-wide view into asset utilization helps keep down owning and operating costs, and allows companies to make smarter buying and leasing decisions.

One of the simplest functions of a telematics solution is the ability to monitor – via a central program – the operating conditions and maintenance demands of a fleet of vehicles. This helps fleet managers schedule maintenance in a manner that has minimal impact on productive scheduling, and identify issues with vehicles that need attention before they develop into a maintenance event requiring downtime or repair.

And, finally, the simplest task of all: location. Communicating where a truck is, where it has been and how long it was there helps in many ways: fuel tax reporting, road and bridge compliance, theft recovery, fuel card management and identifying unauthorized use – all possible with an intelligent, connected vehicle.

The Optimized and Evolving Plan

Everyone loves it when a plan comes together. Don’t leave it up to chance. Businesses can control their own destiny through coordinated use of navigation, dispatch, work order management and route optimization programs. Put simply, these technologies take the plan or desired production for the day, compare that to the available assets in the field, and create a plan that is going to allow those goals to be achieved by driving the fewest miles. This saves fuel, reduces wear and tear on the vehicle, and puts the least amount of strain on the driver. It also gives the company a realistic assessment of how the fleet is actually performing compared to the plan. Under favorable conditions, these technologies can reduce total miles driven by 15 to 20 percent and help increase productivity.

When extrapolated out across a large enterprise, such as the fleet that serves one of the world’s largest retailers, the savings can be almost overwhelming: the company was able to deliver 361 million more cases while driving 287 fewer miles through smart routing and navigation technologies. Imagine what 287 fewer miles looks like in terms of fuel savings.

Dynamic situations, such as storm response, are also revolutionizing how fleets “plan” and carry out response actions in real time. Through visibility sharing technologies we have available on the Telogis platform, utilities and their partner contractors can share a view of all assets and resources in the field. This allows numerous, independent fleets of vehicles to all be accounted for in a single system and coordinate response together to ensure the most efficient and effective deployment of resources. This shared view across fleets is tailor-made for the utility industry, but also opens doors in other applications for business partners and customers to share fleet information for the betterment of all.

The Connected and Satisfied Customer

All businesses are based on one thing: customer demand. Without it, a business doesn’t have a purpose – therefore, there may be no more important factor than customer satisfaction. The connected mobile ecosystem, as made possible through location intelligence technologies, achieves this in a number of ways. For users in the trucking industry, it may mean granting a customer visibility into the location and estimated arrival time of a truck (using similar technology as outlined in the storm response example). The customer then may be able to more efficiently schedule dock space for that incoming truck, and help ensure that the truck driver and its load are back on the road as quickly and efficiently as possible – satisfying both parties.

In the world of field service, being connected allows for a whole new level of customer interaction. Integrated work order management, routing and scheduling problems empower the customer to schedule a service time that works best for them but also is optimized for the service provider based on current routes, resources and plans. This ensures a happy customer and a profitable service visit. Integrated systems that call a customer in advance of a vehicle’s ETA and confirms that the customer will be there help cut down on no-shows and the associated drags on efficiency (rescheduling, lost mileage, wear and tear, etc.).

The Intelligent Product

The connected mobile ecosystem is not limited to the driver, the vehicle, the plan or the customer. Through a similar device as the one outfitted on a truck, installed products can be tracked to further improve customer service and keep operational costs down, adding another dynamic component to the connected enterprise and customer service. Take, as an example, a commercial heating and air conditioning system. There are three phases of service, and each carries varied costs. Reactive maintenance (‘hey, my air conditioning is broke, come and fix it’) may cost the contractor X in operating costs. A planned maintenance program reduces maintenance costs (X-1) because it allows the contractor to be proactive and work in maintenance intelligently based on crew location and plans (optimized through work order management and route optimization).

Outfitting that installed system with a tracking device of its own and having it send the installer/maintenance contractor information on performance and capacity in real time allows that contractor to respond more intelligently. This type of proactive situation reduces cost even further (X-2) because technicians aren’t going out to perform maintenance on products that don’t need it yet, and are addressing issues before a significant failure or outage occurs. This proactive method also increases the contractor’s value proposition and allows them to differentiate their entire product based on that level of service. It’s the ultimate in being connected – providing a dual benefit to the customer and the service provider.

The Transformed Enterprise and Fleet

The examples communicated in this article represent the best of what many in the industry are doing right now – but the beauty of the connected mobile ecosystem is that it can be engineered to fit the needs of each individual business/enterprise. The results achieved for most businesses, however, will be the same: a greener, more cost-efficient fleet (fuel savings, reduced idling), a safer fleet (improved driving behavior/fewer accidents and tickets), improved customer satisfaction, less wear and tear on your vehicles (and their drivers), improved employee satisfaction and decision making, and an overall greater utilization of the assets and resources at hand.