8 ways the IoT can modernize your field service and fleet management team

Oct. 20, 2020
From a fleet management and field services perspective, IoT just might be the key to modernizing your businesses, optimizing operations, and pulling ahead of the competition.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized how businesses collect and manage data. According to the University of San Diego, the IoT consists of devices such as “laptops and tablets…but also routers, webcams, household appliances, smart watches, medical devices, manufacturing equipment, automobiles, and even home security systems.”

There’s no escaping the IoT, since we’re all surrounded by these smart objects on a daily basis, both at home and work. From a fleet management and field services perspective, IoT just might be the key to modernizing your businesses, optimizing operations, and pulling ahead of the competition.

Here are eight ways IoT can modernize your business’s field service and fleet management team:

1.  Instant route updates

One of the biggest issues that is out of a fleet manager’s control is drivers running into traffic jams or unexpected road work that can cause delays. With IoT, managers in the office can give their drivers real-time updates on traffic patterns and provide rerouting options that help avoid delays, save on fuel costs, and lower vehicle emissions.

2.  Risk avoidance

Another problem that is present in the field service and fleet management industries is vehicle issues. If your vehicle isn’t equipped with IoT and telematics, there is no way to automatically take care of small issues.

For example, if a driver returns to his truck after refueling on the way to a job site and the battery doesn’t start, that driver will have to call for help. This can significantly delay the project and will ultimately create a negative customer experience.

With telematics, a sensor on the battery would have communicated its status to the fleet manager, who could then intervene and prevent any disruptions — the battery would have been recharged or the driver could have been told to take another vehicle. Real-time equipment monitoring also sends alerts when a vehicle has low tire pressure or faulty parts, and sends reminders for tune-ups and routine maintenance.

3.  Predictive maintenance

Along with having to deal with last-minute issues, fleet managers have to keep track of the routine servicing that needs to happen to their vehicles. This task can be automated with the help of IoT, which saves time and helps you avoid maintenance lags to keep your vehicles tuned up.

IoT devices also take this task a step further using diagnostic trouble codes. If a vehicle has unidentified mechanical issues, a telematics system can send alerts to have the problem taken care of quickly. Compared to as-needed emergency repair practices, this can greatly reduce maintenance expenses.

4.  Automation

Think of how much time your business could save if your team wasn’t exclusively focused on dispatching technicians, scheduling services, managing inventory, and creating contracts.

In field service and fleet management, time is money and automation is power. However, 52% of field service companies are still using manual processes. The responsibilities above can easily be automated to give your team time to focus on more involved tasks and revenue-generating activities.

However, automating tedious processes does not take care of time sensitive updates that need to be made in the middle of projects. Luckily, IoT has that covered too. With the use of mobile apps, technicians and drivers can receive real-time notifications on updates to instructions, schedules, or routes.

5.  Improving data-driven decision making

The Internet of Things isn’t just about devices. “At its core, optimized IoT is about receiving real-time data and insight to make proactive and predictive business decisions,” according to Dave Hewlett, vice president of technology for Hitachi Solutions.

McKinsey Global Institute found that data-driven businesses are actually:

  • 23x more likely to acquire new customers
  • 19x more likely to be profitable
  • 6x more likely to retain their customers

The ability to collect, manage, and monitor everything from customer experiences and ROI to employee performance and productivity gives businesses the opportunity to make significant improvements based on concrete facts. Instead of guesswork, speculation, and estimates, you’ll have factual statistics and data-backed predictions to inform your decision making. 

6.  Accurate forecasting

IoT devices don’t just sit there collecting data and recording trends. They enable you to create predictive models based on historical data from your connected devices. For both field service and fleet management companies, this can include automatically identifying service trends to more accurately plan for future project demands.

Forecasting with IoT devices eliminates guesswork and helps reduce costs related to surplus or a lack of resources. This means no more overestimating how many technicians a project requires or underestimating the necessary inventory.

With the data your IoT devices are able to collect, you gain the ability to plan ahead — which is one of the most valuable business tools there is.

7.  Compliance

With telematics, fleets can stay compliant with Electronic Logging Device (ELD) hours-of-service requirements. Until recently, tracking driving time has mostly been done manually or with on-board recorders. But telematics can automate this process, allowing you to focus on other issues. Drivers don’t have to spend time logging and submitting their hours, and managers don’t need to file through and analyze submissions.

Telematics automatically monitors idle time, hours in use, speeding, and other driver behaviors, which helps fleet managers reduce downtime, fuel spend, and accident rates. In one instance, Legacy Supply Chain Services helped a home appliance manufacturer implement telematics and ELDs into their fleet, which resulted in a 30% reduction in accidents and safety violations.

8.  Safety benefits

IoT devices can alert you when drivers exhibit unsafe behavior on the road — like aggressive accelerating or harsh braking — and you can intervene as necessary. Merchants Fleet notes that “it is not unusual to find that a small number of drivers account for a large percentage of a fleet’s speeding instances.” They advise “sitting down with those drivers, showing them the actual data, and setting expectations around safe driving practices.” In its experience, Merchants Fleet has also found that “simply knowing that their vehicles have telematics in place to capture data such as speed, harsh cornering, and hard braking is often enough to get drivers to pay more attention to how they operate their vehicles.”

Vehicle telematics play a huge role in the safety of your drivers, which in turn benefits your company’s reputation. However, since these benefits are mostly due to preventative measures, the ROI can be difficult to prove. But ultimately, improvements to safety can lead to better experiences for your drivers and cost benefits from a reduction in fuel spend, accidents, and speeding tickets.

About the Author: Michael Mendoza

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