It’s not that long ago that computer software that could map routes for vehicles was seen as almost magical – but the market has moved on and it is now a function that is practically taken for granted. Customers are now demanding real-time visibility along with the flexibility to re-route vehicles on the move.
To meet this need new alliances are springing up between suppliers of routeing and scheduling software and satellite navigation providers.
Darrell Taylor, marketing manager for Scania OnBoard, says: “On the whole, track and trace is now a well established product. However, a simple map with locations displayed is no longer the ultimate solution. Automated systems, aimed at further minimising administration, are now the focus of attention. The speed of change means that it is essential to invest in flexible solutions that do not tie users into proprietary systems.”
Operators should take into account expandability and the possibility to upgrade the system simply and cheaply, he says. “Track and trace is often the attraction that sells a system but if it cannot be extended it soon loses its shine.
“Flexibility to integrate with different systems is paramount, make sure the system supports an open architecture.”
Taylor argues that track and trace needs to be supplemented with additional information, operational data (driver and vehicle performance), to get the best out of any integration. “Using an open data format, eg xml or csv files for data interchange gives the best option for flexibility.”
John Wisdom of Cybit says: “Service companies are increasingly turning to telematics as a means of streaming live data into dynamic scheduling systems. Telematics systems automatically feed live location information updates into scheduling systems. Dynamic scheduling systems can then recalculate plans as events unfold enabling staff to make informed decisions.
“This is an approach that has worked very effectively for many service companies, including Gilbarco Veeder Root, which is currently integrating Cybit’s Fleetstar-Online vehicle tracking application system with its Oracle Sidewinder enterprise resource scheduling system to optimise mobile workforce activity.”
Keith Taylor, managing director of Vigo Software, which has been developing the POD system for Palletline, points out the cost of basic vehicle tracking is now so low that it is only necessary to save a couple of litres of fuel a day – which should be easy for most operators. The system developed for Palletline has grown in sophistication and now uses digital signature capture to provide real-time PODs.
While Palletline has been a leader in this area, Taylor expects digital signature capture to grow right across the sector in much the same way as in parcels. Taylor points out that a pallet consignment can be a lot more complex than a parcel consignment as it might consist of a number of items – each of which can need a signature.
TomTom Work has just announced that it is joining forces with DPS to offer an integrated scheduling and job dispatch system.
This allows the scheduling and route planning to be optimised using the real-time information provided by TomTom. ETAs from the TomTom are fed back to the DPS LogiX scheduling system. LogiX now exists as both a desktop system, Route LogiX, and a hosted system, logixcentral. Paul Palmer, chief executive of DPS, says: “Our customers are already saving up to 25 per cent on their distribution costs by using LogiX software. Our relationship with TomTom means that routes will be more efficient and customer service levels significantly increased. If there is an unanticipated delay on a route, we will know in plenty of time to alert the customer.”
TomTom Work has also formed an alliance with Dutch group Ortec targeting companies in the middle segment of the transport and distribution market.
The system involves the use of a standard interface to connect TomTom Work’s navigation and Ortec’s routeing and scheduling systems.
One of the criticisms of satnav systems has been that they send lorries along unsuitable roads and through small villages. Now TomTom Work has released a truck navigation system which provides route information that is optimised for goods vehicles, and features relevant information such as clearance heights and weight restrictions. With new routeing algorithms, TomTom Work’s truck navigation system makes it possible for trucks to be kept away from small town roads and narrow residential areas whenever possible.
Typical or maximum truck speeds are also taken into consideration and so the expected arrival times are realistically calculated. All users have to do is enter their vehicle parameters, such as vehicle measurements or axle and total weight, into the TomTom.
DPS is following the lead set by Paragon which, earlier this year, signed a deal to distribute Navman Wireless tracking technology.
As part of the agreement, Paragon’s Fleet Controller software can now be provided complete with Navman Wireless’s vehicle tracking, messaging and navigation products, incorporating existing interfaces, to enable real-time vehicle activity to be tracked automatically against planned routes and schedules.
“By offering Navman Wireless vehicle tracking together with our Fleet Controller software, we are able to offer a complete, integrated transport management system,” says Paragon managing director Will Salter.
Paragon also works with Isotrak offering the Total Transport System (TTS) which integrates routeing and scheduling capabilities with tracking for customers operating larger fleets. Isotrak was originally set up by NFC, the forerunner to Exel, to pioneer telematics systems for logistics, and it has built up a significant client base among large fleet operators for its Active Transport Management System which offers tracking, communications and resource management.
The ATMS system has recently been chosen by both Asda and Sainsbury’s for their home delivery operations. Asda has been using Isotrak in a number of its operations and says it has achieved fuel cost savings of some 23 per cent over the past three years. It is now looking to achieve cost savings of some 40 per cent by 2012.
Asda’s head of central logistics, Simon Pearson, says: “At Asda we are passionate about sustainable transport. We are on course to deliver our five year target of reducing our carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2010 and Isotrak’s ATMS will be a key enabler in helping us hit this target by running both fewer vehicles and friendlier road miles.”
In the current economic conditions routeing and tracking could be an important way to save money. Larry Klimczyk, managing director of Blackbay, points out that: “As transport networks are currently over capacity, the need to understand where to immediately lower costs is vital to making efficiencies.”
These systems will lower costs in a number of areas, he says, highlighting the fact that navigation and telematic information reduces fuel and vehicle wear costs, and meeting SLAs with on-time delivery will enhance customer loyalty. And Terran Churcher, managing director of Codegate, says: “The only limitation should be the cost. All organisations supplying this type of system will have liaisons or partnerships with specialists providing route scheduling and planning systems.
“Scheduling is an example of a highly specialist application, with only a few companies offering systems. These companies partner with data capture system specialists to provide a complete track and trace offering,” he says.