The telematics industry is going through rapid change as the technology underpinning it continues to evolve at pace. Sharon Clancy looks at the key considerations for companies to have in mind when selecting a telematics solution in 2016.....
Telematics: key features
Telematics can deliver a host of efficiencies to any service operation but historically has been neglected by field service organisations who have focused on other aspects of operations such as ensuring the technician is in the right place at the right time and has the right skill sets for the job.
The part of the day that involves travelling between jobs – the driving - has often received scant, if any, attention. After all, you are employing technicians not drivers. However, increasingly field service companies are aware that economical and safe driving is an important part of the technicians’ skillset.
A single piece of mobile data can deliver intelligence about several aspects of the operation.
[quote float="left"]The more intelligence you have about your operations, the better equipped you are to be both proactive and reactive in making any changes to the business and the happier your customers will be.Take electronic signature capture, for example: it eliminates paperwork and automates invoicing, but it is also a compliance tool, feeding data back into scheduling engines; by confirming real-time location, it enables CRM staff to be proactive in alerting customers a technician may be delayed. Today’s challenge is all about cutting-and-slicing data to improve performance. After all, the more intelligence you have about your operations, the better equipped you are to be both proactive and reactive in making any changes to the business and the happier your customers will be.
It can help you identify trends and patterns across all elements of the operation and discover where the bottlenecks and inefficiencies are, delivering insights into productivity, business process efficiencies, costs and customer service levels. Data has to be translated into actionable information to help make informed business decisions, of course.
Internet-based mobility platforms link vehicles and drivers to back-office systems and cut-and-slice all the available data.
Also newer pay-per-user software-as-a-service models make the tools available to SMEs, enhancing their competitiveness.
Distilled properly, information through GPS, telematics, fleet management and other tools provide concrete, actionable details, giving managers and dispatchers real-time visibility into operational activities.
Managers can further refine schedules with real-time traffic information.
Route analysis is one of those areas where analysis of telematics data can drive future monitoring by highlighting what actually happens against what was planned showing a planned versus actual comparison.
[quote float="right"]Integration between schedule optimisation software and real-time location is essential: it will help drill down the cause of late arrivals, route variances, jobs taking longer than planned, incomplete schedules and so on.To do this, integration between schedule optimisation software and real-time location is essential: it will help drill down the cause of late arrivals, route variances, jobs taking longer than planned, incomplete schedules and so on.
With first-time fix rates having a significant impact on operational efficiency, investigating as to why any part of the planned scheduled fail is worth it.
Telematics reports can highlight exceptions, mitigating actions, call notes or emails can be seamlessly linked back to any performance reporting.
Historical analysis of trips can identify congestion hotspots and avoidable delays at customer sites which rerouting or retiming an appointment might eliminate.
Analysis also confirms visits are being made most economically in terms of miles, fuel and timing.
It will also highlight any slack in the schedule that could be filled by slotting in a routine service visit
Driver performance monitoring is a key feature of many telematics systems, but until recently has not been a focus area for many field service companies.
However, that attitude is changing.
[quote float="left"]Field service organisations are looking to reduce their overall carbon footprint and the fuel used in company vehicles contributes a significant amount to the total.Field service organisations are looking to reduce their overall carbon footprint and the fuel used in company vehicles contributes a significant amount to the total.
Another is awareness that technicians can have driving styles which are not just uneconomic but unsafe – there is a Duty of Care to ensure employee drive safely while on company business.
Telematics reports can identify harsh braking, excessive acceleration, even harsh cornering.
If you aren’t measuring how your drivers and vehicles are doing, you don’t know if they could be doing even better.
Even a small improvement can translate into thousands saved on your annual fuel bill.
Safer driver habits can translate into saving in those minor knocks and dents service vans in urban environments are particularly prone to.
Are your fleet vehicles in a safe condition? Telematics can confirm that. Give drivers an app to do a quick safety check before they set off for the day.
Capturing data is no longer the technical challenge it once was.
A lot of telematics data relates to a specific part of the operation - on-time arrival information, signature capture, location, driving behaviour, to name but a few.
Try to do too much too soon, though, and the risk is you’ll get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information telematics can deliver about your operation. Experts advise taking small, gradual, manageable steps.
[quote float="left"]While deeper integration may be desirable to improve the business, there are two technology challenges if it is to become a reality: the legacy systems already in place and data security levels on servers.As businesses examine where further efficiencies might be gained and how they can satisfy their customers’ demand for up-to-the-minute information, it’s being recognised that greater integration between databases may be required and made available in real-time so staff have a complete overview of the operation.
While deeper integration may be desirable to improve the business, there are two technology challenges if it is to become a reality: the legacy systems already in place and data security levels on servers.
A legacy system might be an outdated programming language or application software which is not longer supported, or old processes. Problems can arise due to compatibility issues with newer applications.
Telematics for incident management
Consequential costs from accidents are rising: determining fault is time-consuming and costly, so often accidents are dealt with on a no-fault basis especially if there is lack of reliable evidence.
So forward-facing CCTV cameras have become a useful item in the telematics toolbox.
[quote float="right"]The latest development is that video footage can now be uploaded in real-time - either via a link with the existing telematics black box on the vehicle or via a dedicated SIM card in the cameraThey record video of what is happening on the road ahead in a continuous loop, saving the clip when triggered by G-force or manually.
They are proving invaluable in helping police and insurers determine fault - suppliers say cameras can reduce motor fleet claims by between 30 to 70 per cent simply by helping establish your own drivers are not at fault.
The video data captured by the cameras can be integrated into driver training programmes.
They already capture data on risky driving behaviour such as harsh braking, acceleration and there is anecdotal evidence that drivers will adopt a more gentle driving style once they know that any risky behaviour is likely to be caught one camera.
The latest development is that video footage can now be uploaded in real-time - either via a link with the existing telematics black box on the vehicle or via a dedicated SIM card in the camera.
The clip is also highly compressed to minimise the size of the data file being transferred.
Some systems send an alert that an event has been registered while others will send either still images or the video clip.
Data security is moving up the agenda for many companies, so ask about security certification.
Confirm that the server is running the latest version of Windows, encrypts data to a known standard and check what layers of encryption are used.
Telematics has a somewhat chequered history when it comes to reputable suppliers.
The supplier market is a lot more stable now but caution should still be your byword.
Check what the contract includes and that any warranty is valid for the length of the contract.
Check the creditworthiness of potential providers and be especially wary of suppliers who bundle the communications airtime package with the lease for the telematics equipment.
Consider pay-as-you-go options which don’t tie you in to a longterm commitment.
[quote float="left"]The golden rule when considering any purchase for mission critical systems, whether they be telematics, field service management or a mobility solution is to do your homework.Ask about ongoing customer service and support - some telematics providers will have designed their own telematics system, including the unit to be installed in the vehicle, and will also own the intellectual property rights; others are pure resellers of air time or of black boxes and will offer very little if any support beyond the sale which could be critical.
Some resellers, however, do understand that mission-critical operations require high levels of support services and offer those.
However the golden rule when considering any purchase for mission critical systems, whether they be telematics, field service management or a mobility solution is to do your homework.
Ask a potential supplier to demonstrate a significant and satisfied customer base, and most reputable companies will publish a list of some of their existing clients.
You’ll find that many of your peers in the companies on these lists are often more than happy to help out with a genuine request for information - so give them a call and ask them about the solution, warts and all.
When searching for a solution that can potentially deliver huge benefits, but on the flip side could potentially damage your ability to deliver high quality service if it doesn’t deliver, there can be no stone unturned.
Finally, remember this technology is going to be with you for some time, ask your provider what their roadmap is. The last thing you want is to invest in a solution only to find out it is obsolete or unsupported.