The iPad, the second generation of which is newly on the scene, was initially perceived as a device for consumers to consume media, such as books, magazines, movies and the like. But surprise! Turns out the iPad is being put to work in innovative ways by more and more businesses, including in the trucking industry.
A recent article in USA Today points out that the tablet, touch-screen computer has been tested or deployed at 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies.
One of the early adopters was medical device maker Medtronic, which has armed more than 5,000 of its sales reps with iPads.
One of the earliest business-iPad enthusiasts I talked to was self-proclaimed "data hound" J.T. Weis, who last summer was named president of the newly formed Brake & Wheel Ends Group at the Commercial Vehicle Undercarriage group of Marmon Highway Technologies. Based in Cullman, Ala., the Brake & Wheel Ends Group was created by combining MHT brands such as Webb Wheel, TSE Brakes and Leland Brakes.
I first met Weis, not long after he had been named president, at the MHT road show's stop at Fontaine Fifth Wheel headquarters last fall in Trussville, Ala. He had an iPad close at hand and told me a little bit about his plans for getting it into the hands of his salespeople to help them in their quest to give customers what they need. I got a chance to sit down with him again earlier this year.
"It's all about understanding what the customer needs, and designing products to do it," he said. "It's all about data collection and customer intimacy," and the iPad can help.
Weis looks too young to have the wealth of global commercial vehicle experience he has under his belt, with companies such as Allied Signal , Tenneco, Valeo and Clarcor. Perhaps that comes from his quiet intensity and enthusiasm. Even seated, you get the impression Weis is ready to jump up and start doing something, whether it's taking the company global - Europe, Brazil, India -- or using the latest technology.
"This industry is not exactly cutting-edge in technology," Weis admitted, with brake sales people driving around with car trunks full of heavy catalogs.
With an iPad app, he says, they will be able to enter data from the fleet to help build that intimacy with customers. "Say it's a garbage truck in Philly," Weis said, "with 800 stops a day. We can tell him the ROI of going from a competitive brake drum to ours," thanks to the information the company will be building up in its database. The app also will have a vault of short, YouTube-type testimonial videos.
Weis, of course, isn't the only who sees the potential of the iPad to revolutionize trucking business. There are other trucking apps for iPads springing up. Earlier this month, Freightliner unveiled a sales tool app for the iPad for Freightliner Trucks dealers, which hosts a catalog of product details, including truck model specs, videos, photos, and more, allowing dealers and customers to have access to detailed product information for vehicles not available in the showroom for viewing.
A number of trucking-related businesses have announced apps for the iPad and iPhone over the past year, including a CDL teaching tool, a truck scale finder, load finding and navigation - and Heavy Duty Trucking, too!
Check out this video demonstrating Volvo Trucks' magazine on the iPad...