Mike's Mobile Windshield
Information technology manager
Mike's Mobile Windshield sends out technicians in Nevada, Arizona and northern California to replace windshields, repair window leaks and chips, and adjust off-track windows on site at customers' homes and offices. Each makes four to seven revenue-producing stops a day.
A believer in the value of advanced information technology, the company has long used computer systems in its back office operations, automating functions ranging from inventory picking for specific work orders to direct billing of insurance companies for its customers.
Once its service fleet of 77 Toyota and Chevrolet pickup trucks was on the road, however, control of routes and technicians was limited to less-than-effective voice communications over mobile phones. It needed some way to automate as much of its fleet and route management as possible as well as maintain two-way communications with field technicians.
An automated tracking system has been installed in 66 trucks, feeding data wirelessly to a new fleet management system designed to alert dispatchers if a vehicle deviates from its planned route or schedule.
Using GPS (global positioning system) to determine location and operating speed, the ISR FleetTrack Automatic Vehicle Location system operates without any input from the driver. Continuously recording vehicle operating data, it sends the data to dispatch over a dual-band modem that can access both analog cellular phone and cellular digital packet data (CDPD) wireless networks.
The system's software automatically compares each vehicle's real-time speed and location information with its pre-planned route for the day. If a truck deviates from its route, the system alerts the fleet manager. A map-based screen also allows managers to see real-time locations for a single vehicle or the entire fleet.
“With this system, we've managed to reduce side-tripping by our drivers and eliminate two-hour naps under the bridge,” says Monian. “We knew it was happening, but without a mechanism to show us, it was difficult to put a handle on the extent of the problem.”
In addition to better route compliance, the tracking system has also almost eliminated complaints about speeding drivers, he says.
Benefits of the IRS system aren't just one-sided, Monian points out. The onboard units are useful to drivers looking for directions to their next call, and they also include a remote panic button that can quickly summon help for a field tech in an emergency situation.
Next spring, the company will begin adding handheld “tablet” computers to the onboard system, Monian says. The units will include a built-in digital camera to help resolve warranty claims and a bar-code scanner for recording installed parts numbers and VINs for insurance billing. The Windows CE tablets will plug into the ISR unit's serial port for wireless communications, adding two-way messaging to the fleet's system as well.