Home: Issue 6 2010 Lead Story › Buyer beware

Buyer beware

Buyer beware

02/08/2010 | Channel: Technology, Logistics / Packaging, Automotive

Tony Neill, executive vice president of Navman Wireless, outlines the business benefits of vehicle tracking but stresses the importance of doing your homework before investing

In ESCM late last year, John Redfern of Inovis EMEA addressed the temptation many companies have had to cut investment in business technologies in an attempt to weather the current economic storm. However, as cutting costs and improving efficiencies continues to dominate the corporate agenda, demand for vehicle tracking appears to be on the up – it seems the proven benefits of the technology have become too compelling to ignore.

The wealth of real-time vehicle and driver information available to users such as location, journey times, speed and fuel consumption has enabled thousands of companies to operate more productively and profitably. Through the better allocation and routing of vehicles, transport managers have been able to significantly improve supply chain management, while greater visibility has helped them eliminate unauthorised mileage. As a consequence, companies of all sizes have reduced their fuel spend considerably. In fact, recent research by the Institute of Transport Management (ITM) has shown that vehicle tracking cuts as much as 14 per cent off an average fuel bill.

These cost saving benefits of the technology are created in a number of ways. With Navman Wireless’ combined tracking, messaging and navigation technology for instance, fleet managers can instantly see the location of all their tracked vehicles at the touch of a button. They can then communicate with drivers and route them to the nearest job along with detailed instructions within seconds.

Users of this system have been able to eradicate the need to plan routes in advance, and have made the daily problems of drivers getting lost and covering unnecessary miles a thing of the past. For example, after installing Navman Wireless’ solution, Middlesbrough-based distribution firm, Pendragon was able to identify and solve instances where its vehicles weren’t operating as efficiently as possible. Productivity was immediately boosted as a result and the company markedly increased the number of jobs drivers were completing each day.

For Pendragon, one of the key benefits vehicle tracking possessed was the ability to enhance a company’s customer service. With its new system, the firm was in a position to provide clients with precise arrival times, adding real value to its existing service and making itself even more attractive to potential new customers.

Further demonstrating the diverse business benefits of the technology, courier and haulage specialist, Sprintshift dramatically reduced overtime and increased backloads after introducing vehicle tracking to its fleet. Before employing the use of the technology, Sprintshift, relied completely on a timesheet-based administration system for processing overtime and driver hours.

Since introducing tracking to its fleet of more than 25 vehicles, the company reduced timesheet errors and false entries, time wastage between routes and increased fleet optimisation. Despite the well-documented benefits of vehicle tracking however, there are certain things you should look out for before investing.

Recent years have seen great innovation in vehicle tracking technologies and with sales figures on the up, it’s clear that now more than ever, this is a technology that is now considered a ‘must have’, rather than just a ‘nice to have’, business solution.

But despite increased uptake allowing the tracking sector to flourish, a crop of unscrupulous providers has emerged who look to make quick, easy money at the expense of poorly advised customers. While the economic downturn has gone some way to weeding out many of these unwelcome suppliers, some inevitably remain.

In most cases an investment in vehicle tracking represents a commitment to a trusted service that becomes integral to a business’ operation. If a vehicle tracking company finds itself unable to provide its service however, customers are left in the lurch with their business operations considerably disrupted.

According to start-up business research by Barclays, 18 per cent of all new businesses fail within their first year, and 50 per cent fail within three years. Industry experts suggest that failure rates within the telematics sector are likely to be even higher.

With that in mind, Navman Wireless has put together a series of top tips to help those thinking about investing in vehicle tracking avoid getting stung:

1 Consider whether a provider is reputable – ensure it’s financially secure, has a healthy set of accounts, and a trading history of three years or more

2 Thoroughly research the available technologies and their possible applications. A basic tracking system may be valuable but a wealth of additional fleet management tools – from stationary vehicle alerts to idling reports – are available with the more sophisticated systems. These can have an even greater impact in slashing fuel costs and improving productivity

3 Ask to see working systems when investigating potential suppliers and test out the software. If a company has any faith in its product, it should have no objections to leaving customers with live access to its system

4 Ask for customer references – and speak to the referees. Don’t assume that just because a system worked well when demonstrated, it will always prove reliable

5 Find out if, in addition to the fixed costs, there are additional monthly charges – there shouldn’t be!

Make sure they’re not going to be left behind as vehicle tracking technology advances. Ensure any investment is future-proofed by checking the provider has a dedicated research and development resource Also find out if the system can be upgraded during the contract period

Ensure a preferred provider offers free software and mapping updates

Find out if the provider offers access to a dedicated technical support team. Don’t assume that all vehicle tracking companies offer this – many smaller providers are unable or unwilling to provide this level of support

Select the provider that takes technical responsibility for every aspect of the system’s operation. Some providers buy hardware and software from third party suppliers and liability issues can arise in the event of a technical problem

Select a provider that offers a system warranty that the length of the contract.

Tony Neill
A business studies graduate from the University of Ulster with a postgraduate diploma in business and finance, Tony Neill started his career in commercial sales with Rank Xerox and Pitney Bowes. In 1997 he joined Stafford-based CS Electronics Ltd as national sales manager with responsibility for the marketing and sales of all products, including a fleet management system, one of the earliest forerunners of today’s vehicle tracking systems.

Recognising the market growth potential, Tony set up his own tracking company, Navman Wireless UK Ltd, in 2001 in a joint venture with Navman NZ. In 2005, Tony was promoted to vice president EMEA with responsibility for expanding the company throughout Europe.

Navman Wireless
Navman Wireless UK is the country’s largest provider of vehicle tracking supplying more than 8500 businesses across 13 countries. Its system allows users to track, message and monitor their fleet to maximise efficiency, profitability and customer service. The UK’s largest manufacturer of tracking, messaging and navigation equipment has established an enviable reputation for reliability and technological innovation.

Investing heavily in R&D, Navman Wireless was the first to use the internet to offer fixed price GPRS tracking, launched the first integrated tracking, messaging and navigation system. OnlineAVL2, the software at the heart of the system is regarded as the industry’s leading application.