Time to integrate the fleet

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To enable just-in-time schedules to be met, companies need not only a robust vehicle fleet but they need a robust fleet management system. This ensures minimum vehicle downtime and that commercial vehicles are legally compliant and correctly maintained so customer expectations can be met.

Jason Francis, managing director of fleet software and risk management company Jaama, says: “For logistics companies just-in-time deliveries are a crucial aspect of business operations. A failure to meet delivery schedules imposed by customers can result in financial penalties and ultimately lost contracts.”

He points out that many companies continue to use files and spreadsheets to manage both vehicles and drivers. But, the trend is moving ever-more rapidly for organisations to do more with less resource and in less time, which will drive the need for greater integration from their IT systems.

“A new breed of technology company has emerged that is revolutionising the fleet management industry; developing the necessary tools to bring together and electronically link the disparate areas of the vehicle, suppliers, customers, drivers and other company departments.

“Only a few years ago transport managers bought their own fleet management system and operated in isolation from other departments and external agencies. That is no longer the case and, as a result, integration is driving huge efficiencies. However, while the quest for integration with other systems is crucial it does not have to be at the expense of compromising with the functionality of the fleet management software.”

Jaama’s Key2 Vehicle Management software incorporates functionality to manage acquiring, operating, maintaining and disposing of vehicles.

“Only five years ago fleet managers still had to manually enter virtually every single piece of fleet relevant information. This was not only time consuming and administratively cumbersome, but could be prone to mistakes. Additionally, the way data was stored meant it was difficult to monitor, measure and compare and contrast the performance of individual drivers and vehicles effectively,” says Francis.

“Today, data and information feeds from suppliers can update fleet management systems along with information supplied by drivers – such as digital tachograph downloads – and information from other departments on, for example, new starters and changes in driver circumstances.”

Meanwhile, improved monitoring of vehicle operations and driver performance will highlight any anomalies in transport policies that could be a financial drain on businesses, such as fuel errors, a failure to meet maintenance schedules and increasing parts replacement that could indicate vehicle replacement cycles should be changed.

With the London Low Emission Zone due to come into operation next year Jaama has updated its online Key2 Vehicle Management software to enable operators to track HGV testing applications and eventual certification by VOSA. The phased introduction through to January 2012 means that different vehicles will be affected over time and increasingly tougher emissions standards will apply.

The suppliers of supply chain execution systems have been expanding their product portfolios with transport management and fleet management systems to provide end to end solutions.

Earlier this year RedPrairie took over GEOCOMtms integrating it into its end-to-end suite. It said the acquisition would meet the fleet requirements of many industries, including: food and grocery, petroleum, retail, courier, and healthcare delivery.

GEOCOMtms specialises in providing optimisation to manage multiple-stop daily delivery fleet scheduling. The solution creates a dynamic link between transport planners and drivers, combining location based services and in-transit rerouteing to better manage fleets in a real time transport environment.

RedPrairie chief executive John Jazwiec said at the time: “We have enjoyed a long-term, successful partnership with GEOCOMtms having offered their advanced solutions to our customer base. We now look forward to bringing these capabilities in-house and welcoming GEOCOMtms customers and employees into the RedPrairie family.”

Manhattan Associates also offers an integrated logistics system. Its Transport management solutions provide everything needed to automate the transport network – whether inbound or outbound, private fleet or common carrier. Transport management solutions integrate transport procurement, planning and execution so you can run a more efficient transport network, and increase overall profitability. Transport management solutions include:. transport procurement;. transport planning and execution; fleet management; carrier management; and Audit, payment and claims.

Fleet management combines detailed fleet management functionality with commercial carrier management capabilities enabling operators to optimise the fleet network and drive profits without compromising efficiency and quality. Fleet management solves the complex problem of enterprise-wide transport optimisation by splitting the issue into two parts: shipment Planning and dispatch optimisation. shipment planning enables creation of efficient loads within the scheduling process and recommends resources to minimise transport costs and maximise utilisation. Dispatch optimisation is a continuous process to evaluate previously recommended resource assignments for loads based on up-to-date resource and load information.

At the same time, Roadtech has been developing its well known Roadrunner system. At its core is the traffic management suite which provides tools for running road transport business in real time.

But there is now also the Roadrunner Warehouse system providing a solution for warehouse management along with Roadrunner Garage, and Roadrunner Accounts.

The most recent development is Roadrunner SDI (Smart Driver Interface), which uses GPRS technology and the internet to communicate securely with drivers at low cost; scheduling collections, deliveries complete with signatures – with a full audit trail of dates / times – and much more. It enables complete jobs to be sent drivers immediately, including collection and delivery details, consignment references and load information. And it offers real-time status updates with time stamped data.

HaulTech has developed an integrated traffic management solution targeted at the SME road haulage market and offering a job, fleet & financial management solution. The traffic management system can be integrated with a variety of other third party software systems or online resources including: Navman Wireless GPS tracking systems, Mappoint software, Windows based hand held mobile terminals third party network systems (Palletline, Pall-Ex and so on), along with back office accounts systems.

It has a number of web-based interactive resources which allow a company’s customers to input, access and interrogate information related to them including: job booking, quotations, consignment tracking and POD retrieval online. The system harnesses all the data generated during the job progression process and offers users a single point of reference that streamlines the way jobs are handled while offering users and their customers complete visibility.

Software as a service (SaaS) is becoming an increasingly popular as an alternative to the traditional software purchase. Chevin Fleet Solutions’ fleet management software produced FleetWave, a web-based fleet management system, in 2001 and released a Pay As You Go version in July 2003. Chevin also continues to market its the desk-top packages – RoadBASE and RoadBASE Xpress.

A recent user conference highlighted a number of issues as key concerns for operators including: risk management, environmental issues, the reduction of administrative burden and controlling costs. Ashley Sowerby, managing director of Chevin, says: “A key area of concern for fleet operators remains Duty of Care, and with the recent developments to our solutions, delegates were able to see how they can further reduce risk, without increasing their workload.”

Descartes Systems Group has won a number of major customers, including Kuehne + Nagel and Polar Air Cargo, for its on-demand software-as-a-service Global Logistics Network.

Arthur Mesher, chief executive at Descartes says: “Using the Global Logistics Network our community of customers can easily interact with their trading partners and suppliers to reduce transport, compliance and inventory costs, while simultaneously improving service across their supply chains.”

The Descartes GLN automates, manages and streamlines the end-to-end shipment process from source to consumer with ongoing real-time visibility. With more than 4,500 vehicles managed over the network, Descartes’ Intelligent AVL service offers on-demand transport management services for private and dedicated fleets.

Descartes also offers a centralised booking portal providing visibility into rates, contracts, and shipment details from global locations to enable more informed decision-making and contract development. Descartes Local Haulage solution helps third-party logistics providers (3PLs), freight forwarders, ocean carriers and intermodal marketing corporations manage their hauliers more efficiently. Shipment Management/Transport Management allows transport and logistics services providers to offer house-branded, value-added supply chain event management services.

Deltion’s CarrierNetOnline offers a comprehensive system, managing resource use across depots, sub-contractors, and contracts. Consignments are tracked through all stages from collection to consignee, including scanning by depot staff and drivers. Planners can benefit from routing and scheduling, drivers are able to PoD online using a mobile phone or PDA, and users are alerted about exceptions or service issues along the way.

This is available as a web-based On Demand service.

Earlier this year, the Chemicals Division of TDG selected CarrierNetOnline for tracking pallets throughout its network. TDG chose CarrierNetOnline for its capability to manage orders, scan at every point along the supply chain, and track consignments and resources across depots. Another important factor is that CarrierNetOnline has been specially adapted for operations involving the movement and storage of hazardous goods.

TDG’s Chemical Division, which operates a dedicated packed chemicals network offering multi-user capability across the UK and Ireland, specialises in the storage, handling, and distribution of packed and bulk chemicals.

Deltion chief executive Piyush Shah says: “Logistics companies are now realising that the way forward for their operations and customer service management is by using web-based Software as a Service solutions.”

The logistics and transport industry is going through a period of major change as customers demand better service and access to information related to their orders on a 24-7 basis. “The only way to achieve this is by the use of internet technology,” says Shah.

Shah believes that many logistics service providers and other fleet operators are quite rightly afraid of hidden cost and complexity of acquiring logistics management software. “These fears are in fact unfounded because the latest developments in Software as a Service on the web are designed to avoid exactly these problems.”

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