According to Ashley Sowerby, Managing Director of Chevin Fleet Solutions , a new range of portable devices called tough books add value to fleet operations, especially in remote vehicle servicing processes.
Fleet management comprises of several processes that can be streamlined using the right technology to provide fleet managers with a holistic view of the business.
Processes for mobile vehicle servicing can become complicated due to the need to be physically away from the central hub of information: the workshop’s desktop.
Efficient mobile technology can add genuine value to such fleet business processes. PDAs may not be very effective in mobile vehicle servicing processes as the portable devices are generally not as robust and durable as laptops or ‘tough books’.
Additionally, PDAs can also be cumbersome in mobile vehicle servicing applications as they are small and therefore difficult to input or display data.
Many businesses are moving away from PDAs and implementing reinforced tough books that come with benefits such as large display and user-friendly operation while providing access to central web-based fleet management systems through a secure internet connection.
Tough books are also more durable and designed to withstand drops and other mishaps in a typical vehicle service environment, making them practical for mobile servicing engineers.
Severn Trent Water for instance, uses tough books to support offsite plant vehicle servicing. The utility relies on tough books accompanied by a 3G card or similar for internet connectivity to pick up jobs.
The tough books allow data entry directly into the system and also allow the technician to access a wide range of fleet data on-site.
Removing paper-based processes
Most workshops have at least one mobile engineer to carry out roadside jobs. It therefore seems logical that mobile engineers enter data in the same way the workshop based engineers do.
In the absence of a system that allows them access to the organisation’s central fleet management software, a paper-based method is the usual alternative to collate important data.
This presents problems not only relating to the consistency of the information collated but also the time taken to input the data collected from the remote job.
Access to live data is the key to success for fleet businesses of any size. Relying on a mobile engineer with a pen and paper to serve the dual purpose of collecting information to analyse against key performance indicators and contribute to the holistic view needed for an overall efficient fleet, leaves the door wide open for important data to fall through the gaps in the net.
Keeping track of resource allocation
Better resource allocation and time management are benefits derived from the implementation of a capable fleet management system. Remote working however can throw a spanner in the works if not approached strategically or with appropriate support from technology.
Utilising a portable device to its full potential, instead of seeing it merely as a pen and paper replacement is key to success. Fitting GPS tracking equipment to portable devices will further aid better job allocation by identifying the geographically nearest (or most qualified) mechanic for breakdowns and ad hoc bookings.
Until this becomes an accepted industry norm, portable devices can still enable workshop or fleet managers to regain control over and keep track of field engineer activity.
Portable devices help fleet managers put in place better analysis and monitoring processes to measure outputs against set KPIs.
Portable devices have the potential to bridge the gap between the workshop and the field. By providing fleet or workshop managers with live job data, which can contribute to better time and resource allocation, the overall fleet management structure can be optimised, creating more efficient and cost-effective processes.