IT consultant George L. Edwards, president & CEO of George L. Edwards and Associates contends that while two carriers may have the same technologies, one may gain more by how they use the tools at hand.
Edwards has identified a number of problems in technology deployment that once recognized may help fleets better utilize technology tools and wring more value from their investments:
- Insufficient initial training for users. “I have actually seen a company spend over one million dollars on technology and then refuse to spend a few thousand more on training,” Edwards said. “They are no longer in business, but that is a true story. You have to make sure that the people who are actually going to be using a technology solution understand what it can do for the company and how to utilize it to get the job done.”
- Dilution of training over time. “Sometimes companies do invest in training for the first generation of system users, but as people leave or are promoted, those that follow get only a small percentage of the instruction the first users got,” Edwards said. “The person moving on shows the new-hire how to do about 20% to 30% of the job and then says, ‘Okay, this should get you started, call me if you have any problems,’ and leaves.”
- The system is never fully used for the purposes intended. “Many systems today include functionality that some users just elect not to take advantage of,” Edwards said. “Tracking driver hours of service (HOS) automatically is a good example. Practically every fleet management solution supplier offers an automated hours-of-service capability, but some carriers prefer not to use it under the misconception that what they don't know can't hurt them. The better approach is to have a solid driver policy and then take advantage of technology to make sure you live by those good policies.”
- Lack of leadership. “Today's communication and management technologies create change throughout an organization,” Edwards said. “They alter its basic business processes, the way work gets done. To get the most out of an investment in technology, company leaders have to insist on its utilization and demand a certain level of proficiency on the part of all users. Sometimes this doesn't happen and then you find employees saying, 'I just don't have time to do all this new, extra work,' and the company never realizes most of the potential benefits from its technology tools."
- Unwillingness to staff. “If fleets don't understand exactly what savings or other benefits they could realize if they deployed a particular technology solution, then they don't see the need to pay for staff to do that job,” Edwards said. “Reducing out-of-route miles is a good example. Thanks to GPS, we can know almost instantaneously if a driver is out-of-route, but not everyone sees the need to track and manage that. With fuel as costly as it is now, however, reducing out-of-route miles is almost always well worth doing.”
- Systems that don't perform as expected. “There are so many good technology solutions available today, scaled to be affordable for smaller companies as well as the biggest fleets,” Edwards said. “Occasionally, however, a fleet ends up purchasing hardware or software that just won't do what they had hoped it would, even with modifications. This usually happens because the carrier doesn't know enough going into the deal to ask the right questions up front.”
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