Onboard computers using workflow to turn data into action
Exception reporting has become the standard for managing large volumes of data. Many fleet operations now use various exception alerts to detect probable outcomes that fall below the desired performance level.
But exception alerts can be a distraction unless they are fused into a workflow. While the definitions of workflow may vary, the ultimate goal is the same – to create a “closed loop” process where information is tied to actions and results.
TransAm Trucking is making such a transition now. Fleet managers for the Olathe, Kan.-based company currently receive detailed visual driver mpg performance reports on a weekly and monthly basis. The exception-based mpg reports come from the R:Com onboard computing and wireless fleet management system from Blue Tree Systems.
As part of TransAm’s workflow process, the company has integrated the R:Com performance reports into its dispatch and operations software. Fleet managers use the reports to converse with drivers about how to improve mpg. After the conversation, TransAm typically sees drivers improve by 72 percent.
This month, TransAm plans to close the loop further by sending the mpg reports to drivers automatically. Drivers – both company employees and independent contractors – can visualize their behaviors in a graphic format via R:Com’s in-cab display. Russ McElliot, TransAm president, says drivers should be able to understand and take corrective measures without being contacted by managers. “The reports pinpoint the issues pretty clearly,” McElliot says.
Fuel economy is just one of many examples of ways that fleets can use the latest features in onboard computing and wireless fleet management technology to create automated workflows between the cab and the office.
Over the past few years, Mesilla Valley Transport has become renowned for its fuel economy measures. Today, an MVT driver who averages 7.75 mpg is considered a bottom dweller in terms of performance. One factor in this success is a daily reporting process that helps keep drivers focused on continuous improvement.
MVT uses the PerformX feature of its PeopleNet onboard computing platform to capture driver and vehicle performance via electronic control modules. The PerformX data is fed into a business intelligence solution from Microsoft to correlate mpg with dispatch data, a necessary step since MVT drivers change trucks or “slip seat” on a regular basis. Drivers then are grouped by fleet and ranked by mpg.
The Microsoft platform formats the report into a daily message sent to drivers through the PeopleNet system. Drivers see their personal ranking and the top five and bottom five performers in the company. This daily reporting process lets drivers see the immediate effects of their behaviors as they work to win the grand prize – a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle rewarded to the top performer every quarter.
MVT also is using its Microsoft BI suite to automate the workflow surrounding engine fault codes. The PeopleNet system picks up ECM fault codes and sends the raw data to a Microsoft SharePoint Server, where each fault code is paired with a “human readable” description. This information then is sent via e-mail to the company’s on-road repair group, fleet managers and shop managers. With this structure, the company sometimes is able to contact drivers and schedule critical repairs before the “check engine” light appears, says Mike Kelley, MVT director of information technology.
Fleets can automate virtually any type of exception reporting and workflow by using the tools already included in onboard computing and wireless fleet management systems.
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