Ashley Sowerby, Managing Director of Chevin Fleet Solutions addresses questions on electronic fleet reporting tools and their benefits for fleet operators.
On popular electronic fleet reporting tools and solutions from Chevin Fleet Solutions
Ashley Sowerby says that Excel is by far the most popular reporting method, although it is far from the best tool for the job.
RoadBASE and FleetWave from Chevin Fleet Solutions monitor and report on all aspects of fleet management and cost control such as:
- Vehicle acquisition through to whole vehicle lifecycle management including maintenance, fuel consumption, accident history and disposal
- Duty of care concerning driver information such as appropriate licence data to manage compliance obligations
- Interfaces with other data providers eliminate the need for data to be entered twice
Various reporting ‘bolt on’ applications available on the market do not give a holistic centralised view of a fleet’s performance across all areas. Data often has to be extracted from a range of systems to produce a given report or result.
FleetWave on the other hand, is a web-based application that enables all fleet data to be held in one system and accessed from anywhere in the world with a web connection. Users can generate, store and produce a multitude of reports with options to export the data to MS applications such as Excel.
Data can also be uploaded directly from the source suppliers into FleetWave, minimising time and data entry mistakes.
On benefits of fleet reporting tools to fleet operators
Clients using FleetWave have benefited enormously on time and manpower savings by utilising the import and export of fleet data direct from source suppliers and then onward to payroll, HR or financial systems in addition to a ‘push and pull’ and ‘on demand’ service via a 24-hour event engine.
Ashley Sowerby provides an example of a UK client who on an average purchases £30 million worth of diesel per annum from a number of fuel providers. Previously this data was manually downloaded by the client and updated into FleetWave.
However, by working with the client and their suppliers, this data is now ‘pushed’ by the supplier to an SFTP site and FleetWave continually ‘polls and looks’ for the data before importing it automatically.
This in turn allows the client to manage any transactions by exception, saving the client time and money and putting the onus on the supplier to provide the data to the client, rather than the client having to search for the data they have already paid for.
On challenges and obstacles to effective use of electronic fleet reporting tools
Ashley Sowerby says that challenges for most reporting tools include the client’s IT policy, user acceptance, complexity of use and data protection. However, FleetWave and its continual acceptance by a wide range of customers and IT departments has proved that this need not be the case.
There are no client side tools or application loading issues as FleetWave is truly web-based, opposed to web enabled. User acceptance and confidence is very high as the front end user side is extremely simple and intuitive to use.
Interfacing to other systems ensures that users spend less time just entering data and more time managing the exceptions that are being reported.
Obstacles also include access to sensitive personal or financial data, but with FleetWave every single data field can be ‘locked down’ so only the relevant users have access to the data that they need.
Data protection is an obvious concern and Chevin Fleet Solutions has worked with many clients on security penetration tests, securing the system to adhere to the clients’ data protection rules and requirements.
On the evolution of electronic fleet reporting tools
Ashley Sowerby feels that more use of mobile devices will see information being entered by individuals to update the central databases. This will allow users to get the information they want, when they want it, and ensure that the central system is always up to date.
Technology continues to change and FleetWave will need to adapt to new ways of communicating data. The key is to leverage the power of FleetWave and automate data collection and reporting.
On factors that will drive the evolution
Ashley Sowerby says that the industry needs to embrace new technology. A combination of factors will influence the marketplace ranging from legislation changes, business policy changes and user acceptance to adaptation to change and vision.
Cost is also a factor, but hardware costs over the last few years have dropped dramatically, so the focus is more on the types of technology and data that can keep customers at the forefront of their sector.
On the next significant milestone in electronic fleet reporting
According to Ashley Sowerby, information gathered into a central web-based database, like FleetWave can be delivered to users automatically using event engines. This means that reports no longer have to be requested, collated and sent – they just arrive in the inbox at a predefined date and time.
One of the next milestones will be the extensive use of ‘black box’ data direct from an asset without the need for any manual user intervention. It’s the unknowns that will drive electronic reporting – such as where the asset is, who it is with, what it is doing, how it is performing – in order to help drive down costs and excess waste.
On electronic fleet reporting ten years from now
Ashley Sowerby believes electronic fleet reporting tools will look automated, clean and simple with capabilities to drill down through data and even direct to an asset or employee on the road. He calls it ‘two-way reporting’.
On the International Fleet Managers Institute calling for an integrated reporting system to help with international fleet performance measuring, monitoring and reporting
Ashley Sowerby says that Chevin already works with AECOM, providing fleet benchmarking systems for the DfT and TfL that monitor fleet performance via parameters such as fuel, odometer, asset comparisons and vehicle interventions to measure one’s performance against similar operators in the market.
Major benefits of the integrated reporting system
A major benefit according to Ashley Sowerby is the ability to benchmark one’s fleet operation against others to share best practice. Other advantages include gaining valuable information on the fleet operator’s performance level against similar sectors and fleet operators.
Ashley Sowerby says that obstacles include convincing the users of the benefits of what they and their business can gain and leverage from the system by comparing themselves in the marketplace.
Sometimes the results are not what they wanted to see, but there’s always room for improvement no matter how small an organisation, to save money and control costs.
On what needs to be done to overcome the obstacles
The first step, says Ashley Sowerby is to provide a simple mechanism for data entry and easy-to-use feature-rich and relevant reporting tools to all users. This would include standardised data entry templates and rapid bulk uploading of data to ensure all customers can benefit quickly as well as adapt to changes in the market and the fleet industry.