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Phc News: Features - August 2011: 10 tips for selecting a GPS fleet management solution

10 tips for selecting a GPS fleet management solution

In today’s challenging business environment, your company’s competitive edge depends on its ability to maximize efficiency and reduce costs while keeping customers happy. A GPS fleet management solution can help you improve fleet performance and mobile worker productivity and increase customer satisfaction while delivering significant savings on labor, fuel and other expenses. To help your decision-making process, we offer 10 tips for selecting a GPS fleet management solution.


Tip No. 1: Demand proven ROI.


A January 2011 study by industry research firm Aberdeen Group showed an average 11 percent increase in service and an average cost savings in thousands of dollars per vehicle through the use of fleet management applications. These figures could serve as a comparison benchmark to what is promised by various providers. Ask potential fleet management solution providers about their typical customer ROI and request specific examples.


Tip No. 2: Find a modular solution for maximum flexibility.


Make sure the provider has all the components needed as your business grows, without having to pay for more than you need for your initial deployment. Ideally, you want a full-service, end-to-end fleet management provider that will offer an “a la carte” menu of options so you can start with what you need and scale up later.


Select a solution with all the hardware, software and services to


• manage the mobile worker. Track work status, time, location, speed, fuel use and driver safety.
• manage the mobile worker’s work. Automate service scheduling and dispatch.
• manage the mobile worker’s assets. Keep vehicles running in good condition and maintain inventory, equipment and other field assets.


Tip No. 3: Examine the provider’s technology infrastructure.


Is the solution provider running reliably and able to store and deliver your data whenever you need it?
• Availability: Make sure the provider’s system has a high uptime. The goal is a system that has 99.9+% availability, supported by duplicate data centers in alternate locations, power generated backup and a sophisticated emergency response system for unexpected outages.


• Security: Confirm that your data will be protected by choosing a provider with the highest level of security. The best provider will consider its system’s security as an important issue and will have various levels of security measures in place.


• Data: Make sure that your data is continually backed up, kept private and stored safely. Select a provider that keeps your data behind a firewall and takes precautions to ensure that only authorized people can access it.


Tip No. 4: Evaluate the provider’s customer service and support.


Regardless of your business size, you want to know that your fleet management provider will be there to provide quick, expert technical support when problems arise. What is the provider’s implementation plan? What type of documentation and training are available? How are service requests handled?


Tip No. 5: Look for a provider with a history of stability and growth.


Especially in today’s economy, a crucial part of a purchasing decision is to consider the stability of the solution provider. You want assurance that your solution will be supported for many years to come. Be sure the provider has a long history of service, reliability and financial stability. Look at providers that offer a strong value and not necessarily the lowest price.


Tip No. 6: Consider your capital and operating expenses.


A capital expense (CAPEX) is usually an up-front cost that you need to pay at the time of ordering or implementing a fleet management solution. These include the following:


• In-vehicle hardware captures GPS location data and sends it to the data center via high-speed wireless connection.


• Data center hardware includes servers that host and process the information coming from the in-vehicle hardware.


• Enterprise and supporting software turns data into easy-to-read reports, maps and schedules for use in managing mobile workers.


The number of capital expenses can seem overwhelming, but some fleet management services offer a monthly payment program for hardware and software.


An operational expense (OPEX) is a longer-term expense that is paid as part of the ongoing cost of running a business. These include


• Monthly service costs, subscription fees for on-demand solutions that have a pay-as-you-go model.


• Financing, if hardware and service have been broken down into a monthly expense rather than an up-front capital expense.


• Data storage for companies with large amounts of historical data that must be saved longer than a standard 90-day period.


Tip No. 7: Weigh your company's need for scheduling and dispatch.


Can the solution help you manage your work schedule and mobile workers' activities? Most companies who have mobile workers must manage driver schedules and customer commitments. These may change on a daily basis or even during the day, when emergency jobs become necessary. Some fleet management providers offer location information or scheduling but require a third party service to create schedules or track vehicles. You want to consider solutions that have integrated scheduling capabilities with optimization and in-day planner functionality.


Tip No. 8: Evaluate your company’s safety record.


Driver safety telematics solutions are capable of helping organizations identify safety risks, monitor driving behavior, coach drivers and measure the results, enabling both driver accountability and significant cost savings. Some fleet management providers allow you to track your vehicles, but getting tangible information about driving style may not be available. Does the solution allow you to identify risky driving activities, such as harsh turns or hard braking? Can you get immediate alerts to both drivers and managers when risky driving behaviors occur? Can you gather and collate reports about individual drivers and their behaviors over time?


Tip No. 9: Consider your company’s wireless coverage needs.


Every GPS tracking solution works with a wireless network for the high-speed transfer of GPS data between the in-vehicle hardware or handset to the fleet management data center and software. Choosing a solution that works with all, or most, major wireless networks will give you the most widespread coverage, both for your existing and future communication needs. As your business expands, you want to have access to a wireless network in every region where you might have drivers or field technicians (including your international business).


Tip No. 10: Determine whether you need data integration capabilities.


Does your business have ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), accounting or other back office applications that you’d like to integrate with your fleet management solution? If so, choose a provider with an experienced in-house professional services group that can evaluate your needs and develop the best course of action for integration. Through its professional services group, they should be able to offer APIs (Application Program Interfaces) and direct data feeds, as well as have the ability to create custom integrations, so that you can use your fleet data in your existing applications.


Summary


A fleet management solution can be a great asset to your business, helping you lower fuel costs, maintenance, overtime and other expenses while improving customer service and maximizing the productivity of your drivers and field technicians. The degree to which your company realizes these benefits will depend on the quality of your fleet management solution.


Once you’ve weighed these 10 tips and interviewed the solution providers you’re considering, you can choose a fleet management solution with greater confidence in its bringing about the desired cost savings and mobile workforce productivity benefits promised.

R. Wayne Johnson is the general manager, Trimble, for mobile resource management. Trimble Fleet Solutions (www.trimble.com/fleet) provide visibility into fleet operations so businesses can increase fleet productivity, improve safety, streamline scheduling and reduce fuel use and emissions. Trimble solutions are hosted on the GeoManager cloud computing platform, which integrates in-vehicle hardware, GPS, vehicle diagnostics and wireless technologies for exceptional performance.

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