Tuning tech for your needs
Transport operators too often get suboptimal outcomes from their technology investments because they underestimate or completely ignore the commissioning and change processes.
If you’re an operations manager about to roll out some new technology, or if you’re already in the process of rolling out some new technology, there are some things to keep in mind.
Before you sign on the dotted line
If your rollout isn’t already underway, it’s worth taking a step back to consider what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you’re planning to make it happen.
Before making any technology decisions, it’s essential to be clear on what problem you’re trying to solve – and whether a new technology is the right solution.
For example, perhaps your drivers have too many fatigue incidents. In that case, it makes sense to check your routes and schedules before committing to a technology solution.
If your maintenance costs are too high, then you might check with your equipment and maintenance providers to ensure you’re not under- or over-servicing your vehicles.
Or maybe your operational records are a mess. In that case, you could look at your business rules and processes to see if there are any obvious deficiencies or bottlenecks.
Choose your technology – and the provider – carefully
If you’ve determined that a technology solution is appropriate for the operational problem you’re trying to solve, then it’s time to do your homework.
As well as looking at costs and capabilities, you might also want to consider the third ‘C’: customisation.
Every business is different, and even systems developed specifically for the transport industry will take some bedding in. You want to be confident that your solution vendor offers training, support and the ability to customise their offering to meet your specific needs over time.
Most providers understand the transport industry and will be happy to help tailor their solutions to your needs.
Trying to adjust a system after being installed can be time-consuming, expensive and disruptive, so spend some time up-front optimising what you can with the provider.
Find out if your new system can be adapted and upgraded over time. Your business will change as it takes on new clients and new jobs with different geographies. It will adjust to new regulations and market conditions. Make sure your technology can keep pace. Look for a provider that will make adjustments, add new capabilities and offer ongoing support.
Poor deployment causes many technology failures. Nobody likes being blindsided, and nobody wants to have a piece of technology imposed on them without introduction or explanation.
Whether you’re deploying a back-end software system or an in-cabin driver monitoring system, the key to a successful rollout is to communicate early – and not to stop.
Explain what you’re deploying and why. Explain the technology’s benefits and how you’ll introduce it. If it’s not practical to train everyone, train some ‘leads’ to help others.
Your provider might be able to play a role here, running familiarisation or training sessions. These can be an excellent way for team members to ask questions about the technology and get answers from the ‘horse’s mouth’.
Consider trialling with a couple of trucks first before you do a full-fleet rollout. Doing this will allow you to iron out any bugs and gain some operational experience on a smaller scale to help make the change more manageable for your business.
Use team meetings or toolboxes to keep everyone up to date on the rollout’s progress. Your lead drivers can talk about how they’ve found the system and answer any questions from the other drivers.
If you have any preliminary data, share it with your team to show how the new technology can improve the business. If possible, focus initially on user benefits such as improved safety, reduced manual work and streamlined systems to sell the benefits.
Critically, this is the time to decide whether the technology’s default settings are right for your business. For example, if some of your routes have a high roll-over risk, you might want to work with your vendor’s technicians to fine-tune your new stability control systems.
Don’t rush to evaluate
Especially with driver-assisting technologies, you may find the amount of data coming in overwhelming at first. But it’s worth taking your time to assess the data before you make any decisions or operational changes. Work with your provider to fine-tune the alerts and information their system generates. That’ll help ensure you’re getting data relevant to your business and its unique requirements.
With that said, if a new system reveals a glaring fault or potentially disastrous safety problem, then, of course, you should act. But otherwise, it’s advisable to accumulate data for the first few weeks.
Then, when you have a reasonable sample, take some time to analyse what’s happening. If there are clear patterns in the data, then you should learn what’s causing them. Talk with your drivers to understand why you see alerts and then work with them to find a solution.
Few things are more annoying to workers – or more likely to cause them to look for a job elsewhere – than being tripped up by a new system that doesn’t put their actions in context.
Taking time to analyse and understand the data will also help you get the best value from your investment. The information and alerts it generates will be relevant, actionable and unambiguous.
Don’t ‘set and forget’
Your business will evolve, and so too will its technology needs. Make sure your systems are keeping pace and be ready to adapt and upgrade them as required. If you see sudden spikes in certain types of alerts, check-in with your drivers.
It’s also worth taking the time to assess and optimise the technology’s performance periodically. Your technology vendors are critical business partners and can help with service and upgrades.
Finally, every technology requires maintenance and upkeep. Keep your skills (and your team’s) up to date with refresher courses, and commit to regular reviews and communications about the data. Keep in mind that if you adjust your technology, you might get different data – and you might need to train your staff on those changes.
That’ll help you spot emerging problems before they become full-blown, recognise opportunities for safety and business improvements, and keep your team members on-side.
If that’s not worth a little bit of elbow grease, then what is?
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- This article has been developed as part of NTI’s The Business of Safety series with the aim of helping transport and logistics businesses become safer and more sustainable. The Business of Safety is funded by the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, supported by the Australian Government.
- Information in this document is a guide only. It does not take into account your personal or business circumstances. Whilst all due care has been taken, you must not rely on the information as an alternative to legal, legislated regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your business activities. NTI.M002.11.01082021