Technological developments in vehicle telematics have opened up new opportunities for the facilities management sector to drive efficiency gains and tackle emerging business challenges. Beverley Wise, Sales Director UK & Ireland, TomTom Telematics, explains.
The rapid pace of technological change is transforming the facilities management (FM) sector – from smart building innovations to advanced energy management systems
In addition to the adoption of technology to improve the efficiency of the buildings they manage, FMs are also under pressure to improve their own operational efficiencies.
As they bid to meet a continuing demand to deliver more for less, having appropriate solutions in place to help them access the necessary data for improved standards of planning, scheduling and responsiveness has become paramount.
The management of a mobile workforce can be a particularly challenging affair unless companies gain proper insight into the activities of their employees out on the road. This is where telematics technology has a significant role to play with today’s sophisticated systems offering unprecedented insights into vehicle fleet operations.
The technology has evolved considerably over recent years, providing a wealth of information into activity and performance – from job completion to driver behaviour analytics. What’s more, the advent of connectivity and the open telematics platform has now opened the door to new applications that can further increase business flexibility and improve workflow while minimising costs.
Progressive FM firms are benefitting from an increased number of automated, paperless processes as data from a range of sources – from mobile hardware to office software – is brought together on one platform. The operational efficiency bar is being lifted as intelligence is shared across different business departments.
Connectivity for facilities management unleashed
Out of the box applications are being made available that enable FM companies to add extra functionality to their core systems, helping them become more efficient and to better overcome the physical distance between mobile workers and the back office.
A telematics fleet management platform with open APIs, for example, can be integrated with office software, such as asset management, routing and scheduling optimisation and ERP. By doing so, processes can become digitised, end-to-end, eliminating reliance on traditional paper-based methods.
The in-vehicle telematics device can be integrated with mobile hardware, such as barcode scanners and printers, via wireless technology for use in the field. All the while mobile apps for tablet-style driver terminals can be created for use by mobile workers. What’s more, such applications are being made immediately available to customers without the need for significant investment in IT consultancy and development projects.
Workflow efficiency in action
In practical terms this can mean, for example, that for maintenance teams managing multiple properties across disparate locations, telematics data can feed into routing and scheduling software to ensure job schedules change according to evolving priorities and prevailing workloads.
This eliminates the need for job schedules to be generated in advance of each day and provided to mobile workers when they commence work. With workers automatically notified of changes to schedules via their in-vehicle driver terminals and route instructions adapted accordingly, it means that it’s also no longer necessary to contact employees in the field to inform them of schedule changes.
The result is truly dynamic scheduling. Planning is informed by historical journey-time data and up-to-date traffic information provided to ensure schedules are optimised in the first instance. Accurate times of arrival can be provided to ensure expectations are managed or schedules altered when necessary.
And when new jobs come in, they can be automatically allocated to the most appropriate member of the team, with schedules adapted to account for this.
In fact, many of the tasks conducted by field workers in a typical working day can now benefit from M2M processes. Integrated mobile hardware such as barcode scanners and RFID devices, for example, can help simplify data capture for asset tracking and inventory management from items such as computers, furniture and loaned equipment.
Field service apps on telematics-integrated tablet devices can help to tighten audit trails and reduce the possibility of human error by connecting different streams of data.
Vehicle checks, for example, can be conducted using the device, with the results instantly updated in the back office to ensure Duty of Care obligations are met and that maintenance schedules are kept up-to-date. Once vehicle checks are submitted, workflow can be loaded to the device, with workers navigated to their jobs automatically. On arrival, specific instructions or manuals can be sent to the worker’s device to help them with the job at hand before proof of completion is verified.
Job status can then be updated in the back-office system, along with daily mileage records and worker hours, negating the need for separate record-keeping.
Extra protection for drivers and assets
Workflow is just one area where changes will occur but the effect on safety is equally as important.
By integrating with leasing and maintenance software platforms, telematics can help to ensure vehicles are always kept in a roadworthy condition and maintenance work is conducted pre-emptively when possible, rather than waiting for vehicle failure.
Telematics can pull engine fault codes from vehicles and communicate them to the leasing provider or vehicle manufacturer, ensuring maintenance can be carried out straight away, helping to prevent further damage to the vehicle.
Additionally, in the case of breakdowns, recovery vehicles can be automatically dispatched to the correct location, helping to reduce disruption to business and vehicle off road (VOR) time.
An exciting future
With extensive vehicle-related data from telematics technology continuing to present new opportunities for connected applications, the future of fleet, mobility and management, looks an exciting one.
At TomTom Telematics, for example, our commitment to developing innovative technology and collaborating with technology partners to create specialist industry solutions continues apace.
Smarter processes will continue to unlock efficiencies in workflow processes, transforming business and mobility to allow facilities management firms to stay ahead of the curve and find new ways to meet the challenges provided by a changing industry landscape.