Aaron Huff

Aaron Untitled 1Doing more with less

Carriers leverage mobile apps to increase productivity

Many carriers took aggressive cost-cutting measures during the past three years. As companies reduced payroll, they also found ways to increase productivity of the employees they retained.

As a cost-saving measure, Perkins Logistics had to eliminate an entire shift of dispatchers, but in doing so, it found a way to keep its 24/7 operations running smoothly with two shifts instead of three. The Noblesville, Ind.-based company gave each dispatcher a BlackBerry device to help fill a 4-hour gap between the start and end time of each 8-hour shift.

With dispatchers having BlackBerry devices, Perkins Logistics is able to improve customer service by giving customers one point of contact. Dispatchers can forward incoming calls to their mobile phones when their shift ends while they are “on call.” Being available after work hours has improved productivity while at work since dispatchers no longer are passing work over to the next shift, says Dan McKinnon, vice president of information technology.

While talking to a customer or a driver on a BlackBerry, dispatchers can connect to an internal website to find order numbers, ETAs, last-known driver locations and other commonly requested information. Customers also can obtain this and other information from the company’s website.

Using mobile phones for voice, corporate e-mail and Web browsing is nothing new, but now it seems every day someone begins using a new application that changes the way they work. Somewhere right now, an IT manager may be using RDP (remote desktop) or another application to restart a server from his iPhone, an accounts payable manager is executing a payment to a vendor, or a fleet manager is sending a payment to a repair shop after hours to keep a driver moving – all from a smartphone. The possibilities are endless.

More companies that provide dispatch, accounting and other types of management software systems to the trucking industry are embracing smartphone technology. The rollout of trucking-specific applications is increasing at a feverish pace.

Users can customize their own portable workstations.

At McLeod Software’s annual Users Conference last month, President Tom McLeod announced a new application that will allow LoadMaster and PowerBroker customers to use those systems through their iPhone and Android smartphones. McLeod Software offered the application free to conference attendees that met the operational requirements – use of Version 9.1 or later and the Internet Module.

The mobile app is one of several ways to access LoadMaster and PowerBroker, Tom McLeod says. The remote access capabilities have been part of the evolution of McLeod Software’s offerings since 2000 when the company revamped its whole approach to delivering solutions that are independent of a hardware platform or operating system. Today, customers have maximum flexibility to run LoadMaster and PowerBroker and their associated tools in the environment that makes sense for them.

At the recent TMW TransForum user conference, Keith Mader, vice president of TMWSuite development, announced new applications for smartphones and Apple’s iPad. Mader demonstrated a new application for the Android smartphone that allows drivers to review payroll information, request time off and select from available loads.

The iPad likely will play a role in the future of TMW University’s software training, says Mader, who also predicted that more fleet managers will be using the iPad for its “tap and navigate”-style reporting for TMW’s ResultsNow and Command Center business intelligence tools. More important than what is available now is what TMW users will be able to develop themselves by using the company’s extensible Web framework called TMW Your Way, Mader says.

By using smartphones and other mobile computing devices, trucking industry professionals can consume new technology faster than ever by themselves, on demand, to increase their own productivity. n

Aaron huff is Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal.

E-mail ahuff@ccjmagazine.com or call (801) 754-4296.