Looking ahead is what any good business does to develop and thrive. And this applies to fleet and transport as much as it does to any other business sector.
It would be hard to find an industry or a job that technology hasn’t changed in the last decade. Digital is rapidly changing the banking, retail and media sectors but to name a few. This has contributed to greater interconnectedness, easier communication and access to information. Fleet is no exception to that trend. Today almost everything is automated with technologies driving business processes, equipment and people.
Current state of technology
Fleet has been an early adopter of new technology, starting with card reader equipment in the 1950s, use of mainframes in the 1960s, “dumb” terminals of the 1970s, PCs in the 1980s, and now a multitude of web-enabled services.
Computerisation and technology have played an enormous role in the evolution of the fleet manger’s role today. The progression of the fleet manager’s position began to change in the 90’s where fleet management functions began to evolve from manual to automated business processes that are consolidated into a Fleet Management System (FMS) software platform. Some of these areas and processes are as follows :
- Vehicle Tracking : Tracking of vehicles has evolved from administrative manual paper based recording to remote wireless GPS positioning. Vehicles are usually fitted with a GPS tracking device that communicates with the fleet management system recording its position and status.
- Mechanical Diagnosis : Diagnosis of vehicle defects used to rely on the tricks of the trade and a manufacturer’s manual. Today mechanical diagnosis is computerised where vehicles plug into a diagnosis machine and any fault codes are stored in the vehicles engine management system for rectification.
- Improving efficiency : Many manual processes exist for fuel purchasing, monitoring of fuel consumption, tracking vehicle locations or staff performance where these are managed by in-house spreadsheets that sit in isolation from key decision makers. Consolidated fleet management systems bring all the associated manual processes and spreadsheets into a central eco-system so that analytics can easily present areas for improvement and managing the associated costs.
- Improving productivity : Manual time recording of workforce performance meant time card stamping and completing timesheets. Automatic scanning on the fleet management job cards and remote driver management has led to real-time data recording and analysis in the areas of performance improvement.
- Changing driver behaviour : Improving driver behaviour meant monitoring when a parking or speeding fine or even an accident was reported. Today drivers are monitored remotely using telematics. Speed, cornering, trip distance and fuel economy are changing the way drivers are utilising the fleet.
Furthermore, there is an increasing number of business processes performed in a digital way and this is vastly shaping how fleet management processes are performed. We have seen for example that fleet management systems now allow for the :
- Management of integrating e-invoicing from the supply chain to manage costs.
- Automatic population of vehicle specifications from the manufacturer to integrate technical data into FMS.
- Management of fines such as parking charge notices (PCN’s) and speeding fines using bespoke interfacing. More recently, some countries in Europe allow companies to receive e-fines that can be directly integrated into FMS.
- Soon it will be possible for drivers to notify a car accident to insurance companies using an app.
We have seen dramatic changes in how technology has changed the way businesses manage their fleets. However, the future has some innovative predictions on the horizon that is going to change the fleet industry like we have never before seen.
The future is digital
The fleet management sector is in a midst of a revolution. More applications are becoming available on mobile devices that are shaping the eco-system of fleet management processes. We predict the following 5 major changes in fleet management in the next years :
- 1) FMS will offer more collaboration and mobile capabilities to perform fleet management activities in a more effective way.
- 2) FMS will become more tightly integrated to other Entreprise systems (e.g. ERP, HR) exchanging near real-time data.
- 3) More business processes will become digital. Suppliers and organisations will interconnect their business processes through the cloud to provide more added-value services to fleet managers.
- 4) IoT and connectivity of devices with seamless remote vehicle diagnostics will become more affordable providing real-time vehicle and driver data to analyse but also new e-services.
- 5) Smart data and predictive analytics will be key to provide insight on fleet management performance and trends.
We believe the next generation of fleet managers will adopt and use technology in a different and forward thinking way. Looking outside of the fleet industry we begin to see that social change and the characteristics in the population are shaping the use and receptivity to technology with less resistance in the coming years. Many of the professional long standing fleet managers that are currently facing economic pressures and have initiated the technology evolution by exploring solutions to reduce costs through process automation and analytics tools, will retire and be replaced by the next generation of fleet managers who will put even more emphasis in greater mobile and collaborative tools. This is one of the biggest predictive changes the fleet management industry will see.
Whilst the widespread integration of technologies such as navigation, smart phones and connected-vehicles is seen as a competitive advantage to the fleet management industry, we will begin to see how fleet management businesses will leverage them to create and promote connectivity and connectedness in an environment where costs are increasing due to oil prices and new regulations. In summary, in order to maintain a good return on investment (ROI), the implementation of new technology is going to be the best way to mitigate some of the rising costs that are attributed to the future of fleet management.
What this means for fleet managers
The fleet manager’s role involves different type of activities, from administrative tasks to more managerial ones. Given that fleet is often in the top three expense items of corporate expenses and growth expected in the market, we believe the fleet manager role will become even more popular and sought after. However, with the raise of digital, we see the role evolving to focus more on value-added activities such as :
- Staff development and empowerment
- Benchmarking and analysis of key performance indicators to enhance performance
- Continuous improvement of customer service
- Forming and maintaining strategic partnerships
- Vendor/supplier negotiation
- Instilling a safety culture
- Furthering continuous sustainability initiatives
Overall, fleet management has become less reliant on specialist knowledge, processes and practice and is widely being accepted as a business function that adopts new technology to simplify complex tasks and achieve greater savings.