The success of a landscaping company is usually linked to how reliably they meet their commitments on time and how fast they execute work. In fact, the elements of creativity and innovation in designing landscapes aside, two of the major differentiators among landscaping companies are efficiency and productivity.
A sound GPS-enabled fleet management suite networks trucks, lawn tractors, power equipment, storage containers, and other equipment into an integrated fleet tracking and management system. Adopting such an integrated system can improve fleet efficiency greatly and ensure that the company can meet its commitments in a timely manner.
Efficient and Intelligent Fleet Tracking and Scheduling
Many lawn operators, who have grown organically, deploy their fleet on an ad-hoc basis. Such practices result in inefficiencies such as trucks having to shuttle to and fro between towns multiple times to serve different customers, and some trucks and operators having to work overtime while the other resources remain idle.
A GPS based fleet management system automatically schedules fleet routes in the most optimal manner to improve process accuracy, cut costs, serve more customers in the limited time available, and ensure the company honors its commitments in a timely manner.
- A fleet management suite makes explicit the location of drivers on a single screen, allowing the dispatcher to assign the job to the driver in the vicinity of the job site.
- The system or the dispatcher may deploy purpose-built vehicles, or make sure the vehicles assigned have the right tools required to execute the job.
- A birds-eye view of the location of each fleet and workforce, at any given point in time, makes it easy to predict status and estimate ETA to the next site accurately.
- Telemetric data makes it possible to track vehicle routes, stops and starts, and other metrics, paving the way to optimize the vehicle running time and routes on a scientific basis rather than based on hunches and assumptions.
- Automated real-time intelligent scheduling software is a step ahead for efficient scheduling. Here, the system schedules intelligently, considering not just the location to be serviced, but also by keeping track of accidents, traffic congestion, road closures, and other contingencies to reroute drivers seamlessly.
Consider the case of UPS whose delivery vans follow the routes set by the fleet management system. The policy is to never turn through oncoming traffic unless absolutely necessary. This means routes sometimes were longer than the shortest point-to-point route, but the net result was the company saving a whopping 10 million gallons of fuel, and emitting 20,000 tonnes less carbon dioxide, every year, besides improving fleet efficiency to deliver 350,000 more packages every year.
The improved response time to fulfill an order directly improves customer satisfaction and helps the company serve more clients by reducing turnaround time.
Maximizing Returns on Input Costs
With an intelligent and automated fleet management software, the system creates detailed logs of how long the workers remained at job sites and other locations making it easier to identify pain points that cause delays.
The fleet management suite makes explicit bad driving behaviors, such as excessive idling, overspeeding, hard braking, hard cornering, and more, which leads to extra fuel costs, unnecessary wear and tear, and increasing environmental damage. The U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Energy estimates driver behavior is the primary cause for more than 90% of vehicle crashes, and about 33% of fuel consumption depends on the way the vehicle is driven.
The fleet management suite also makes explicit the vehicle mileage, fuel spend, and other metrics, making it easy to track and compare month to month aberrations in fuel spend, allowing the company to take remedial measures before such pain points and bad behaviors cause costly accidents and escalate into big problems.
Improved Vehicle Maintenance
Data gathered from the GPS-based fleet management system offers visibility on the mechanical condition of any vehicle, offering early warning signs of trouble such as engine overheating, low fluids, or any other condition. Such insights help the company identify the wear and tear of the vehicle and determine when the vehicle requires servicing or when replacement or refueling is due. Proactive maintenance minimizes disruptions.
Maintenance related data also makes explicit if the vehicle requires frequent maintenance, and can be used to pinpoint the underlying causes and take remedial measures.
The benefits of a fleet management system go much beyond productivity and efficiency gains.
The ability to track the vehicle electronically and verify time-sheets against actual miles improves accountability. It makes explicit if drivers stop at a place where they have no reason to stop, and if they use the truck after-hours. There is also the protection against theft as the vehicle movements can easily be tracked in real-time. The operator may create customer zones or geofences for each vehicle to keep the vehicles within the allowed limits. Setting up speeding alerts makes sure the drivers drive within permissible limits, improving overall safety.
The improved transparency resulting from such data, and fixing accountability delivers the spin-off benefit of lowering insurance costs. The diagnostics and driving data collected over time also enable Usage Based Insurance Rates (PAYD/PHYD – Pay As You Drive/Pay As You Drive).
A fleet management software also helps the fleet operator stay free of liability issues. Consider the case of Rocky Fork, who was accused of in a slip-and-fall case in a shopping mall. GPS logs helped to prove the fleet was not there at the time the incident took place, absolving them from a liability claim.
The investment in a good fleet management suite is well worth the while, considering the big savings on operational costs and the additional business operations made possible using the same resources. In today’s age of hyper-competition lawn management companies can also pass on some of such savings to their customers, enabling them to compete on price and position themselves as the best value for money provider in the market.
However, not all fleet management companies are the same. It makes sense to opt for a fleet management software from a partner who is already an established hand. Any new technology comes with a learning curve and requires co-opting new components after testing the theoretical concepts in real life situation. A partner who comes with the strength of having executed several projects not only minimizes the changes of such practical shortcomings but would also be well geared to make the required changes in double quick time, with least disruption.
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