Software

Fleet Management Software Increases Customization

March 2016, Government Fleet - Feature

by Daryl Lubinsky

Chevin provides a platform that allows fleets to pull together data in a way so they can attack the low hanging fruit to improve efficiency. Image courtesy of Chevin
Chevin provides a platform that allows fleets to pull together data in a way so they can attack the low hanging fruit to improve efficiency. Image courtesy of Chevin

Fleet management information systems (FMIS) companies continue to customize their products based on the individual needs of their government fleet customers. One fleet manager might want the system to focus more on operating costs, while another might look for the system to improve operational efficiencies, and FMIS products can serve both. FMIS companies determine what data is most important by looking at what is most important to each individual fleet.

At a Glance

Some trends in fleet management systems include:

  • Features to drill into the real-time data shown in the dashboard
  • Products to better manage data from multiple systems
  • Products featuring “predictive analytics” that predict when vehicles or components will fail.

“At the end of the day, what matters is what the fleet manager thinks, not what we think,” said Ron Katz, senior vice president for Chevin Fleet Solutions, which produces products such as the FleetWave Web-based Fleet Management Solution.

“It might be about opportunity costs or savings, or eliminating unnecessary spending,” Katz said. “We provide a platform to allow fleets to pull together comprehensive data in a way so they can attack the low hanging fruit, the opportunities that are most important to them.”

Representatives of other fleet software companies agree that customizing the software to a fleet’s specific needs is an important FMIS trend.

Jason Wonase is president and CEO of Collective Data, a provider of fleet and related asset management software. Wonase provided an example of a government entity that used an Excel spreadsheet with extensive fleet data. Collective Data configured its system so the government fleet could implement its Excel data into the Collective Data system.

“We will create new portions of our software that will bring in that Excel document,” Wonase said. “We work hard to configure our application to whatever challenge they’re trying to solve. We’ll be at the table helping them solve those challenges.”

Jeff Steinmetz, marketing and sales director for fleet management and analysis company Flagship Fleet Management, also agreed on the customization trend, stating, “The most important data will be the data the fleet manager is held accountable for.” That is often the billing data that their fleet department customers pay for, he noted, such as fuel charges, preventive maintenance, repairs, labor, parts, use fee, and replacement charges.

The customization trend has led to various additional trends as government fleets continue to look to their FMIS to perform tasks geared toward the fleet’s specific needs.

Improved Drill-Down Capabilities

Fleet management software company FASTER Asset Solutions is finding that customers want the ability to quickly drill into the real-­time data shown in the dashboard to get to the data underneath, said FASTER CEO Joe Healey. He provided an example of a drill-down for the Open Work Order by Status dashboard key performance indicator (KPI). With a click, the customer can drill into a list of each work order in a given status to view its specific data.

Steinmetz said customers continue to seek telemetrics data and dashboards with drill down to the work order, fuel transaction, and telemetric data alert. He described telemetrics data as oil light data, idling data, and understanding what’s going on with the vehicle and its use, remotely. Fleet managers and their staff receive e-mails every time an oil light, brake light, or low tire pressure indicator turns on, for example. Some of the information is useful, but some of it is overwhelming, he said. Fleet managers want to capture the information and look at it in the future for trend analysis. Examples would include how many bad alerts occur with one original equipment manufacturer versus another, or how often a specific vehicle went to the shop for faulty codes.

That trend analysis provides the fleet with an idea as to how its equipment is running and how good the alert system is for each vehicle, and fleets can get an idea of what will happen the next time it buys the same vehicle in the future.

Integration & Better Understanding of Data

“People understand that technology can help them,” said Carey Picklesimer, director of marketing for Asset­Works, a provider of fleet management software, automated fuel management systems, motor pool systems, and operational asset management systems. They understand that they can get value out of those systems, she added. But now that so much data is available to fleets, what do they do with it? Picklesimer believes the move to better understand the data collected is a major trend.

With fleets using multiple systems that collect data, they are looking for one source of data to trigger updates in related data. Fuel management system data might trigger billing data in a different department.

“You want the data to kind of be doing stuff on its own, so you’re not constantly having to manage it,” Picklesimer said. “Integrated systems are a big part of what’s going to be the next step.” She added that her company’s fleet management system integrates with its fueling and GPS systems.

Ed Smith, president and CEO of Agile Access Control, creator of FleetCommander fleet management solutions, agrees that integrating technologies such as GPS — along with vehicle sharing — is a huge trend and a significant priority for today’s government fleets.

GPS helps fleets track key metrics, including the location of vehicles and how often they are used. In a fleet with 1,000 vehicles, technology can allow a fleet manager to see if there are, for example, 250 vehicles located geographically near each other that are underutilized. Fleet managers can’t just take an assigned vehicle away from a driver because it’s underutilized without providing the driver with easy access to an alternative vehicle, Smith said.

“GPS identifies the problem, and vehicle sharing solves the challenge of getting easy access to vehicles when and where they are needed,” Smith said. “If they are able to ­right-size their fleets and efficiently share vehicles, taxpayers can easily save tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Along with improved integration, the introduction of tools for better analysis is another trend. Picklesimer mentioned her company’s Capital Asset Management product, or CAM, which addresses a need in many fleets that have good historical data, but lack tools to analyze the data. CAM uses history collected from any fleet management system to help engineers and planners determine what the correct lifecycle should be for assets; forecast and plan the replacement of assets; and help them manage asset procurement and disposal. 

“Those are complicated processes to keep track of what for most fleets are done outside their fleet management system,” she said “CAM replaces the many spreadsheets and separate databases that fleets rely upon to do these critical fleet functions.”

Predictive Analytics, Customized

Chevin Fleet Solutions supports predictive analytics, which Katz described as “predicting when a piece of equipment needs to be replaced.” But he said his company recommends predictive analysis configured to the fleet’s specific needs. That could include equipment replacement modeling, staff productivity, or analyzing the productivity of the existing fleet and modifying replacement plans to reduce costs. It might include modifying the internal service rates to account for increased costs, extending replacement cycles on equipment, or monitoring the productivity of mechanics. 

“So it’s predictive analysis about their individual operation,” Katz said. “It’s looking at the trends of their own business.”

FMIS: What’s Coming Up

Chevin Fleet Solutions is working on improved mobility, and its FleetWave Mobile product allows fleets to collect data remotely without access to the Internet. Asset­Works has released several mobile apps in the past year.

All of these trends and future developments are good for the industry, said Wonase of Collective Data. Having systems that adapt to the increased amount of data for fleets is important. “The amount of frustration that you’re going to remove is huge,” he said.

Other Fleet Software Trends

Fleets are reliant on their fleet management information systems (FMIS), and as their operations evolve, they’re requesting additional changes or features to fleet software. In many cases, software providers are making sure their products meet these customer demands.

Jeff Steinmetz of Flagship Fleet Management, noted, “We are seeing some demand for distributing, capturing, storing, and reporting customer survey/satisfaction data.”

Jason Wonase of Collective Data said government fleets want more help from their FMIS to make sure every dollar is accounted for in their budgets, such as making sure the fleet does not overspend on parts inventory and does not stock unneeded parts.

Carey Picklesimer of AssetWorks said fleets are looking for better analysis of fleet trends and noted her company’s Capital Asset Management (CAM) product integrates with any fleet management system. If a fleet wants a tool to help with decisions on repairing versus replacing vehicles, for example, the system will help a fleet make the right decisions supported by maintenance and other data.

Joe Healey of FASTER Asset Solutions said fleets sometimes get too many diagnostic trouble codes that should not trigger maintenance on an asset. Although he said the data can be helpful for historical purposes, fleets do not want to inconvenience drivers and overburden their shops by bringing in an asset for maintenance because of false positives. FASTER will soon release an enhancement permitting fleets to screen trouble codes so they take action only on codes that are meaningful. FASTER will store the rest of the codes for historical reference on the asset record.

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