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Field service engineers working for household appliance manufacturer Indesit, have been tracked in their Ford Transit TDCi 260 vans over three months.
All three supply companies believe the information gained from the trial offers valuable lessons for other firms considering telematics systems to help in their fleet operation.
Fifteen vehicles in total were fitted with tracking systems for three months: five in Peterborough used Quartix equipment five in Northampton used Road Angel systems five operating from Leicester used Tracker telematics kit.
Stephen Doran, managing director of Tracker, said: “The trial with Indesit certainly demonstrates why a company needs to be open-minded about fleet tracking and how it can be instrumental in optimising a fleet utilisation strategy.
“Companies like Indesit may have a perception of how long their engineers are on the road.
“However, it is through the use of fleet tracking systems and the information it provides which really allows fleet managers to truly understand their fleet activity.”
Initial findings from the first few weeks of data showed that engineers were spending far longer than expected on the road, because routing software the company had used to predict journey times had predicted higher average speeds than were able to be achieved realistically.
The telematics systems gave unequivocal evidence that vehicles were slower and spending up to an extra 45 minutes a day on the road than the time that had been built into the day for travel time.
This will be taken into account when a new planning system is put in place across the company in 2011.
The new system will allow a set time per job for engineers and set journey times based on the company”s own experiences.
But Indesit’s planning manager, Dave Evison said without the telematics systems the company would have been forced to use guesswork when planning the new call handling system.
Graham Mackie, managing director of Road Angel, said changes in behaviour or problems being highlighted at an early stage are unsurprising.
He said: “It’s good to see that Indesit has already started to see some benefits from the deployment of telematics within its van fleet.
“In other customers of similar size and in similar, service-based industries, we tend to see a mixture of short- term and medium-term benefits as a result of deploying the Road Angel Fleet solution.
“The short-term benefits often come as a result of immediate behavioural changes from drivers that are aware they are being monitored more closely.
This may include improved product-ivity during work hours, fuel savings through less idling time, a reduction in speeding offences and a drop off in unauthorised vehicle usage ‘out of hours’.
“Fleet tracking also tackles driver behaviour such as speeding.
“Instead of a driver feeling pressured to get to the next job, and therefore being tempted to speed, they can have peace of mind that the tracking unit is providing accurate routing information and will show when delays occur or a job has taken longer.”
He added that monitoring speed can work both ways and come to a driver”s defence when accused of infringements.
“There have been legal cases where a ticket has been issued yet telematics data has proved a vehicle has not been speeding or parked illegally,” Mackie said.
“In the case of Indesit I think this trial proves that there are real tangible benefits to using telematics.”
The three suppliers in our trial were also keen to offer support where a fleet needs to tailor the type of data provided.
Andy Walters, managing director of Quartix, said: “I had a meeting with Indesit a couple of months ago to look at how we could better integrate the information generated from its own job recording/costing system and our tracking system.
“For me this appears to be the most relevant issue for Indesit – the tracking system will only deliver value if it can help it monitor and improve upon business capacity.
“Since that meeting Indesit generated some SQL queries to provide me with service call data – based on the start of service calls, the time recorded for each one and the time and post code.
“We were able to generate similar queries on our system – matching the locations and times, and then comparing the recorded job times etc.
“The correlation between the two was quite close and I am due to have a follow-up meeting.
“For the moment we received another batch of data for analysis and we also hope to look at how this process could be automated to help reduce administration time and look at ways of improving capacity.”
In the early stages, Indesit reported that extracting and collating the data could be a lengthy process although, according to the telematics suppliers there are ways of streamlining the procedures.
Doran said: “Collating and interpreting the data can be time-consuming depending on what a company is trying to achieve.
“By being focused on fleet utilisation, Indesit can create specific reporting systems that can be run on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
“These reports are intuitive and can help create a more efficient fleet.”
It would have been likely that further information and improvements to operation would have been possible over a longer period.
Mackie said over the medium term the analysis of data coming from the suite of standard reports starts to provide longer lasting benefits to the business as a whole, as it adjusts its working practices and processes based on this new information.
“This may come in the form of improved customer service through better knowledge of driver locations,” he said.
“Improved route planning or the ability to share arrival times or proof of service statistics.
“Managing driver behaviour and journey types should lead to a reduction in fuel costs and consequently lower carbon emissions while vehicle and servicing data should help plan fleet maintenance and reduce down time for vehicles and their drivers.
Any telematics solution will also reduce the administrative burden of complying with any ‘duty-of-care’ requirements with regard to providing a safe working environment for on the road employees by supplying an analysis of time spent travelling.”
With genuine and tangible benefits already discovered by Indesit during this short trial period, other companies with similar operations would be expected to find similar gains.
Walters said: “I believe that this kind of use of location-based information – in linking tracking into the company”s other business systems – is of great importance to large companies like Indesit and should form an important next step in the useof telematics.”
Fleets take control of their vehicles
Fleet News organised a trial with a fleet of field service engineers for household appliances.
For two months, 15 of Indesit’s field service engineers at three regional depots have been using telematics systems to look at how significant a difference it can make to the way the vehicles are operated.
Quartix has supplied telematics systems to vehicles operating from Indesit’s Peterborough depot, Road Angel provided units for vehicles in Northampton, while vans based at the Leicester depot were fitted with Tracker telematics systems. The systems were fitted to short-wheelbase diesel Ford Transit 260 models.
Information gained from the trial showed that, despite using route planning software widely available on the market, it had underestimated the average speed of the vehicles, meaning the amount of time built into the engineers” days for travelling was too short.
An average speed of 32mph was predicted, but the actual average speed has been 27mph, resulting in about three-and-a-half hours spent travelling each day – more than the two-and-three-quarter hours predicted by the routing software.
This has already resulted in valuable information on which to base a review before implementing a new call handling system in 2011.