In the second part of this series (November 2010), we covered the transformative effects that incab technology can have on the driver experience. From the elimination of paperwork to reduced route time, in-cab hardware can be a valuable and highly effective tool in a driver’s arsenal.
With the rich collection of data that on-board systems can send back from the field, the effects on back office workflow can be equally as transformative. This article will focus on the many ways in which modern haulers are benefitting from technology, becoming leaner, tougher competitors in the process.
Exploring the Back Office System
The heart of any on-board system is the database— the main repository for information sent to, and received from, the truck. This database is the main source from which all functions—reporting, integration and realtime dashboards—will flow. Between the database and the truck is a real-time pipeline, sending information to the vehicle (e.g, route changes, new work orders) and field data back from the truck (pickups, skips, breaks).
This symbiotic relationship is the heartbeat of the on-board system. Real-time information means the office knows what’s happening at nearly the same instant as the driver. This brings huge benefits, from more accurate customer service calls to the ability to make on-the-spot changes to a route. It also instantly informs the applications that pull from the database of the latest field conditions, providing all stakeholders with precision whenever they need information about their hauling operation.
However, one can’t simply plug into the database and start extracting information. That’s the job of the user interface surrounding the database. Wellcrafted software gives every employee in the hauling operation exactly what they need: driver, vehicle and route dashboards for the operations team, preventative maintenance alarms for the repair crew and route profitability information for the financial staff. When done correctly, the user interface can push missioncritical information directly to users as it comes in from the field, obviating the need to run a report every time data is needed.
This layer around the database is called Operational Intelligence. More than just a moniker, it can truly bring a level of knowledge to the operation and transform the way the company interacts, internally and externally. Armed with facts, not conjecture, Operational Intelligence gives insight into the micro-aspects of routes, drivers and vehicles, shining light on the hidden places where revenue is lost and expense is unnecessarily incurred. Understanding and eliminating these micro-aspects can unleash a hauler’s true productivity.
Several key software elements feed into this central Operational Intelligence core. The first is the routing/ billing software. Among other functions, this is where routes are sequenced and sent to the truck. Actual pickup data is fed back here for customer billing and route analysis purposes. This is often one of the first integration points in the back office as the system is deployed.
Also feeding the Operational Intelligence core are specialized applications, such as route optimization software, time clock/payroll programs and fleet maintenance software, to name a few. These applications benefit from a direct integration to the Operational Intelligence database, sending and receiving data so as to fulfill their individualized function: optimize routes, increase the preventative maintenance posture of the fleet or fully profile the click-in to clock-out time of the drivers.