Utility Contractor Powers Up Fleet-management Solution for Higher Performance, Savings
Maintaining an efficient and productive fleet is essential to success, which is what first motivated On Target Utility Services to purchase a fleet management solution.
Maintaining an efficient and productive fleet is essential to success, which is what first motivated On Target Utility Services to purchase a fleet management solution. After the purchase, however, the fleet management system didn't live up to expectations for this Maine-based provider of locating, metering, smart grid, telecommunications, power line and construction services to customers throughout the northeast U.S. and emergency restoration services for Canadian utilities.
Tracy Vines, On Target's fleet specialist, said: "When we first started to work with our former vendors, the solution fit our needs. But, as we expanded, we outgrew what they could deliver. We could only access data weekly and the system was unreliable. Location data on our vehicles would be missing and weeks of information lost without any way to retrieve it."
The company, therefore, made the decision to replace its existing fleet management product and Vines was charged with finding a new one that could meet three challenging criteria:
- Meet and exceed the performance and capabilities of the solution being replaced;
- Leverage an existing partnership between On Target and Enterprise Fleet Management, the supplier of its leased vehicle fleet, and wireless carrier, Sprint; and
- Save money.
According to Vines, the solution was easier to find than she expected, coming in the form of Enterprise Mobile Resource Manager (EMRM) from existing partner Enterprise Fleet Management.
The EMRM solution consists of three elements working together to deliver a complete solution: a global positioning system (GPS), hard-mounted tracking device; a Garmin Nuvi 265W portable GPS navigator; and a secure Web-based management application from Xora.
The tracking device continuously transmits the GPS locations of the company's vehicles over the Sprint wireless network. The Garmin navigator provides drivers with turn-by-turn directions and is connected to a Web-based Xora management application to serve as a communications device between dispatchers and drivers for job dispatching and status. The Xora application processes near real-time information about vehicle locations, displays it using Google Maps and sends instant alerts about vehicle conditions that require immediate attention. Xora's generated configurable historical reports provide On Target with insight to help it increase efficiency and performance.
Better Functionality and Customer Support
Vines' experience with Enterprise Fleet Management and Xora has been a welcome contrast to her work with the previous vendors. Data is now immediately updated and reports are more detailed and accurate. The solution, for example, provides latitude and longitude for each vehicle, a new capability that enables safety officers to quickly and accurately pinpoint the location of work crews.
"The options that EMRM offers are perfect for our company," Vines said. "With help from Xora, we also integrated EMRM data into our fleet database, which helps us respond to customer requests for information. When a request for additional location information comes in, we are able to take the integrated GPS detail and combine it with our vehicle detail to provide any number of reports with varying degrees of data, from complex to simple and straight forward."
Better customer service has been another positive aspect of the new solution.
"Xora makes us feel that we're their only customer, consistently giving us reliable accessibility and fast response," Vines said.
Even paying the bill is now simpler. On Target received separate invoices from the two providers of its previous solution, resulting in double work because it had to verify charges every month and apply costs to the correct business departments. The single invoice that now consolidates charges from Enterprise Fleet Management, Xora and Sprint cuts that administrative time in half.
$40,000 and Counting
The EMRM solution also has proven to be a significant money saver for On Target. When the installation is complete, the company projects a $40,000 savings in equipment costs and installation fees, or about 25 percent of what they were with the previous solution; EMRM tracking devices are $75 less and installation is included. Having completed 67 percent of its installs, which will be spread over a six-month installation schedule, the company is already saving $6,600 per month.
According to Vines, the savings won't stop with equipment purchases and installation, but will continue to grow as the company takes advantage of more capabilities that are included with the Xora management application at no additional charge. And, because Xora is cloud-based, the new features are immediately available when On Target is ready to use them.
"Every new feature our previous provider incorporated into its Web portal cost extra," Vines said. "It just didn't make sense for us to have to keep paying for our own data, and we couldn't justify adding new capabilities."
There have also been unexpected savings. After the theft of two On Target vehicles, the company was able to recover them using the GPS tracking unit in the vehicles and pinpoint their locations on a map generated by the Xora management application.
"The combined cost of the vehicles was more than $30,000-not to mention the equipment that was in the vehicles such as our underground locating equipment. That alone adds an additional $1,000 per vehicle," Vines said. "We didn't buy EMRM for security. But it's nice to have it when you need it."
Value in Productivity Gains
Once the initial deployment of EMRM is complete, the company plans to expand its use of the EMRM solution to automate job scheduling, dispatching and messaging. Today, On Target crews receive work orders from the office via email or fax, or by downloading them from a database. Automating these processes by sending work orders directly to the drivers through the Garmin navigator will save time at the office and in the field, increasing driver and dispatch manager productivity.
Vines also sees a future when the company will be able to save money in other areas, too.
"It's too early to have numbers that show our reduced fuel and maintenance costs," Vines said, " but I can see those coming."