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Digital dash: How electronic management tools are helping revolutionise the transport workplace

13 June 2024 #Features & Interviews #TNB News

Digital management systems are highly useful tools for transport operators looking to grow their businesses – freeing up valuable time and reducing operating costs.

With better visibility of day-to-day operations and reduced paperwork, systems can make tasks such as vehicle checks, proof of delivery (POD) and parts monitoring so much easier for a firm to control.

For example, Dunstable-based Falcon Freight has seen an improvement in planning times after introducing transport management system (TMS) Mandata Go last year.

The company, which specialises in the transport and logistics of tower crane components, self-erecting tower cranes, and ballast including test weights, offers nationwide coverage with a strong focus on London, the South and Midlands.

With Mandata Go, drivers at Falcon take digital signatures as proof of delivery or use the camera on their mobile phones to take photos of paperwork, which are then instantly uploaded to the TMS and matched to the job. The TMS then sends proof of delivery to the customer.

A ‘slot job planner‘ feature brings everything the transport management team needs onto one view on a page, showing outstanding work at the top, and all of the other jobs planned in, as well as gaps in the schedule.

Go – specifically designed for small and medium-sized hauliers – also gives visibility of jobs in progress, with details about the job, such as whether the driver has accepted the work and how the job is progressing.

Rachel Gale, Transport Manager, said: “One of the main benefits for me, is the electronic proof of delivery which speeds up our invoicing process.

“As invoices are created in the TMS and PODs automatically attached and emailed out to customers, invoicing is now much quicker and easier, which means less admin for our accounts team and better cash flow.

“It is definitely saving us time across the board.”

Meanwhile, Blackpool Transport has rolled out a new system from Freeway Fleet Systems which has seen a switch to paperless working.

The operator, which undertakes more than 100 first-use checks a day and books its fleet of 103 buses into the workshop for inspection every 42 days, has traditionally managed maintenance and compliance using paper records such as hand-written job cards and inspection sheets.

However, the company’s engineers now use rugged mobile devices which gives real-time visibility to shop-floor staff and managers on the status of the fleet, through any internet-connected device.

In addition, Freeway provides organisation-wide visibility with regards to stock levels, enabling auto-replenishment, purchasing management as well as tracking the performance of everything from individual parts to whole vehicles.

It means engineers can issue parts and view maintenance histories of every asset on their tablets.

James Clough, Commercial and Finance Director, Blackpool Transport, said: “We knew we needed to improve the quality of our records and with digitisation, it is estimated Freeway will eventually replace 11,000 pieces of paper and 62 hours each month of laborious data entry.

“More importantly everything will be live and visible which will allow us to manage things much better.

“Freeway will, for the first time, give Blackpool Transport real visibility into the actual costs of running the fleet.  We’ll be able to drill down to identify inefficiencies including the true operating costs of individual vehicles.”

Established in 1974, Mainline Haulage began operating a single van out of Mainline Service Station in Wolverhampton.

Now, 50 years later, the company runs about 40 HGVs out of its main Willenhall site.

From job booking and scheduling through to electronic PODs and invoicing, the haulier uses a transport management system from HaulTech, designed specifically for small to medium-sized transport operators.

The system can automatically generate and send invoices in seconds as well as ensure vehicle compliance checks are completed.

Damien Lack, Managing Director, Mainline Haulage, said: “The biggest and best change we’ve witnessed so far is with our accounts department.

“Previously the way we worked involved loads of paperwork, it took a long time and a lot of energy.

“Now, when a job is done, the driver takes a pic as proof of delivery, the POD comes into us instantly and we email the invoices straight across.

“It’s easier for our accounts team and helps us to boost our cashflow as we are no longer physically mailing invoices or waiting for PODs to come back in.”

Servicing about fifty trucks and vans on a daily basis, Intercounty’s Boston Depot has gone a step further by introducing a voice directed system for recording maintenance and inspection data.

Staff at the Mercedes-Benz franchise previously used a tablet system, but with the new Voice-Directed Maintenance & Inspection Solution from Dakota & Truckfile, operators use a compact, wearable computer with a headset to receive instructions by voice.

The computer is connected to the host system over a wireless network.

In addition to a smooth flow of data and information, the benefit of the system means staff are able to work on vehicles more safely, as both of their hands are free to use whilst conducting an inspection.

It also helps speed up the entire process, and, as a result of implementing the system, the business has recorded a forty percent increase in productivity.

Steve Sargeant, Depot Manager at Intercounty Boston said: “Vehicle inspections are now taking ninety minutes instead of two hours, so our productivity and efficiency has gone through the roof.

“We had initially hoped for a ten percent increase in productivity, but the reality of the solution has far exceeded our expectations.

“All of our inspection data is now instantly uploaded and available on our Truckfile Workshop System for our customers to see, meaning that every vehicle leaving our depot is equipped with a fully compliant inspection sheet.

“The depot is now functioning much more smoothly and efficiently than ever before.”

With the workplace rapidly being digitised, the coming years should see more transport firms adopt high-tech electronic transport management systems as they look to improve the efficiency of their businesses and reduce costs.


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