Selecting and implementing new technology and making it work can be a challenge for all of us. It’s especially daunting for fleets, which must not only control costs during the implementation process, but also put new technology to work effectively to ensure downstream return-on-investment.
Four fleet experts with recent experience in adopting new technologies and making them work gave an overview of their experiences and hard-won lessons during a panel discussion entitled “The Challenges and Pitfalls of Implementing New Technology” at the Technology & Maintenance Council Fall Meeting in Orlando, Florida, this week.
Deryk Powell, president and chief operating officer of technology company Velociti, noted in his opening remarks that in our rapidly evolving tech world, “trucking is at the epicenter of all new technology today, because we enable this new economy. And while there is a lot of new, scary stuff coming your way today, you cannot afford to get wound up about it. Because you are going to have to deal with it.”
Powell said his first advice when talking with fleet customers (Velociti specalizes in " technology deployment services") is to suggest they “synergize” their technology adoption efforts in order to make them more complete and easier to handle. For example, he said, if your fleet is looking at putting collision avoidance systems on your trucks, why not put them on your yard tractors and forklifts at the same time? Likewise, instead of dividing the tasks of putting different safety systems on vehicles such as electronic logging devices, in-cab camera systems, and lane-departure warning systems, treat all those initiatives as a single, unified action plan.
“That way,” he said, “instead of having six different teams working on six different implementation plans with often-overlapping functionality, you have one plan in place and much easier coordination and implementation of those efforts.”
Fleets don’t want to go through similar technology adoption efforts twice. “Do it once to minimize disruption and economic impact,” he said. “The faster and more efficient the adoption of new technology is, the more effective it will be.”
Powell also outlined three main points he urges fleet managers to keep in mind:
- The always-on, always-connected supply shain is coming fast. In many ways it is already here.
- Whether you intend to lead or follow, stay abreast of the latest innovations so you can be ready to to adapt when the time comes.
- Look for cross-project collaboration opportunities by including design, deployment and support as core components of your overall “technology roadmap.”
Peter Savage, director of fleet services for Clarke Power Services, said it is important that fleet managers don’t get “sucked in by sexy new gadgets that look really cool. Unless you can covert that technology into something useful, it’s a waste of time.”
Savage noted, however, that adopting new technology is not going to be optional for fleets in the very near future — and will, in fact, be crucial for a fleet to compete, thrive and survive.
“Home-delivered groceries are a $1.7 billion business today,” he told attendees. “In three years, it will be a $35 to $50 billion market segment. There’s a lot of opportunity there. But it will be hard, if not impossible, to compete in that space without new technology assisting your fleet.”
Colin Crowley, manager of equipment processes and training for YRC Freight, said it was important that fleets don’t adopt technology simply for technology’s sake. “Have clear-cut goals and results in mind,” he said. “Then seek out technology that delivers those goals.”
Crowley also stressed the need to understand that any technology adoption push will generate massive amounts of data, and it's important to have people in place to sort the data and a defined way to act on it.
An equally crucial point, Crowley said, is to get buy-in from all effected parties early on in the process. “You don't want to try and sell new technology after it's adopted,” he said. “Include people who will use the tech in the adoption process to get their buy-in and help. This will make for a more effective implementation process and more enthusiasm for the technology when it is deployed.”
Bill Brown, manager of fleet telematics for Southeastern Freight, said it is vital that technology adoption teams define the problem facing the fleet, with the expected results from the technology being considered first and foremost. And, he said, as the process moves forward, it is equally critical to define checkpoints during technology adoption process so you know where you are versus where you need to be.
“Also understand that adoption of new technology can change things dramatically,” he noted. ‘Things that have been taken for granted can suddenly become very important as new technology comes online and starts to work for your fleet.”