Certain things in life are supposed to just work. You flip the switch and the lights go on. You turn the key and the car engine starts. To this list we can add: The package arrives when you expect it or need it.
Customer satisfaction – and thus repeat business – is directly related to this expectation. It is not just a consumer expectation, though most people probably associate delivery services with packages that come to the home. In a globally integrated, just-in-time economy, manufacturers and enterprises of many types have these same expectations of perfection. It takes a lot of technology to get that package to the right place at the right time.
Technology provides competitive advantage in this industry. Elaborate bar coding systems smooth operations in warehouses and processing centers. Fleet management technology completes the “last mile” solution for these operations. National or global services complete the last mile by managing trucks and people, while local services gain a customer satisfaction edge by optimizing their efficiency down to the individual vehicle.
Fleet management is a critical discipline in the transportation and logistics business and it is built on a foundation of technologies that extend from the trucks to the processing and dispatch centers. Fleet management technologies can be as simple as Global Positioning System (GPS) transponders in vehicles. More robust sensors in these trucks can also tie into the vehicles’ embedded systems to relay information on the trucks’ electro-mechanical systems and can incorporate GPS-enabled radios for when they are outside their vehicles. All of that information is relayed back to the distribution centers through wireless networks where software processes that information to maximize delivery efficiency, reduce costs for the vendor and optimize the customer
Three Keys to Success
Fleet management technologies enable vendors to address both cost and customer satisfaction. Consider three areas where technology can advance a company’s operations:
Route design: Efficient route design reduces costs by getting the most out of every cent of gasoline expense. Tracking trucks through GPS technology and plotting that information on a Geographic Information System (GIS) that layers pickup and delivery locations can optimize route design on the fly. This ability to optimize routes can also help services to manage capital costs, determining when delivery times are slowing or congestion in certain areas drives the need for additional trucks. These efficient routes are also directly related to customer satisfaction in delivery times and service fees. Arguably, the most efficient route is the one with the happiest customers. Fleet management technology enables efficient route design to lower fuel costs and deliver a package to the right place at the right time.
Real-time information: Delivery and logistics services operate within living, breathing cities where anything can happen in the span of a day. Those services organized enough to adjust to conditions have a competitive advantage and fleet management technology provides the foundation of a highly organized business. Routes might change due to traffic conditions. This ability to adjust is critical for brand promises that target certain morning delivery times for overnight packages. If it has to be there by 10 a.m. and there was a crash during the morning rush hour, fast action is required to keep that promise. Similar promises and traffic issues can affect expectations around pickup times. The dual nature of the service, pickup and delivery, adds some complexity to managing the fleet. Optimizing routes, delivery and pickup times all have to be managed to avoid empty trucks that burn precious gasoline while producing no revenue. Fleet management intersects all these factors in creating competitive advantage.
Vehicle maintenance: A disabled truck is a roadblock to efficiency. Trucks that break down during the delivery and pickup cycle create big problems that require rerouting other trucks and the need to get packages off the immobilized truck. Even a flat tire creates problems that require swift action to maintain brand promises and customer satisfaction. Fleet management technology can tie into the on-board diagnostic ports on newer vehicles and report information on vehicle performance, pressure levels, battery states and other metrics that can foretell problems and drive scheduled maintenance procedures before a breakdown occurs.
Fleet management is a versatile technology with far-ranging possibilities for propelling an economy in motion. Most of us think of delivery and logistics operations in cities since that’s where we spend most of our time. Long-haul trucking firms are also using fleet management technology creatively. Some firms are using the GPS capability to automate paying taxes as trucks cross state lines and avoid overpaying by knowing exactly how long trucks used that state’s roadways. Some firms are also experimenting with a form of load sharing that can reduce the time a single truck driver is on the road. Truckers can coordinate routes and meet at halfway junctures to trade container trailers and reverse their routes to get home much sooner than a long trip with many hours driving would allow. This keeps tired truck drivers off the road and improves retention of top contributors by speeding hard-working drivers homeward. Fleet management provides creative opportunities to drive efficiencies.
You don’t need to be a technologist to design an effective fleet management system. Trusted advisers can definitely help. You bring your knowledge of your business, your region and the nature of customer satisfaction for your customers. Perhaps you cater to manufacturers more than consumers. Or perhaps your operation has a special business involving medical providers.
The trusted adviser brings the technical knowledge and the best practices from many other technology deployments. The trusted adviser should understand the demands of your business and show an interest in your particular needs. How do you design routes? How old are your trucks? How does your business change during peak seasons? The trusted adviser should show an interest in your needs so you can make the smartest technology investments. Fleet management specialists can help you drive efficiency, customer satisfaction and competitive advantage.
Life in the 21st century is built on a foundation of many things that have to just work automatically from the consumer of customer perspective. The lights turn on. The car starts. The package arrives on time. Fleet management technology provides competitive advantage and peace of mind.