Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The A-Z of Fleet Management System Requirements

Fleet management systems are needed by field service companies, transportation companies, transit agencies, rental companies and others with large fleets of vehicles. Are you a software company or IT department looking to create the perfect fleet management system or an end-user wanting to make sure that the systems you are considering purchasing off-the-shelf have the features you need? Here’s an A to Z review of fleet management system requirements to help you make certain you’ve got all your bases covered.

Arrival / Departure Management – Predictability of arrival and departure times is a difficult and important matter in fleet management operations. Effective systems for en-route arrival updates can be managed using GPS (global positioning systems) and concepts such as geo-fencing. Factors such as time windows, open/close time, re-loads and route restrictions must be accounted for.

Barcoding – Barcoding and scanning are common interface requirements in various aspects of fleet management systems. Barcodes can be used on packages, trucks, trailers, palletes, containers and other items. Increasingly, RFID devices are being used as a substitute or supplement to barcodes as well.

Customs Interface or Module – International shipments require customs documents and export documentation, payments, brokering and other solutions in order to facilitate timely movement of goods, re-loads, transfers and avoidance of delays.

Damage Control Systems – large ocean-going vessels require damage control systems with capabilities for sensing, locating, reporting and documenting water damage, fire, smoke, radiation, chemical and biological damage, pipe bursts, explosions and shell fractures.

Damages/Risk Management – Collision records, damage reports, insurance claims, and related data are associated to drivers, vehicles, goods, routes and other information.

Delivery Management – Requirements for delivery management include proof-of-delivery, delivery confirmations, triggers for invoicing, en-route next stop triggers for short haul drivers, en-route printing of delivery documents and more.

Device Interfaces – Fleet management systems typically involve multiple device interfaces including barcode, RFID, GPS, electronic messaging, printers and more.

Direct Store Delivery – Many fleets are involved in Direct Store Delivery (DSD) approaches. DSD requirements include on-site ordering and approvals, in-store inventory reporting and more.

Dispatch – automated routing, scheduling and dispatch modules should also match skill sets, territories, customer requirements and resource costs. Time and distance calculations for each stop are included in route manifests with turn-by-turn directions or voice and command line based driving directions.

Driver Performance Management – A good driver performance management module can help to track performance data related to individual drivers and compare them to overall driver results, route results and time window based comparisons.

EDI – Fleet management systems may include EDI handling capabilities typically for forms 204, 990, 210, and 214.

Environmental Sensors – Sensitive cargo containers may be equipped with environmental sensors that record location, light exposure, door opening, access controls, impact, shock, vibration, tilting, upending, temperature, radiation, toxic hazards, biohazards, video sensors, audio sensors, weighing/scales, C02 sensors, oxygen sensors, and other environmental controls and related data.

Freight Forwarding – Ground shipments, rail freight forwarding, air freight forwarding, ocean freight forwarding, break bulk, break bulk, consolidation, deconsolidation, waybills, etc.

Fuel Management – fuel management systems manage fuel ordering, delivery, inventory, pump usage, vehicle fuel efficiency, vehicle fuel expenses, driver fuel efficiency, fuel reimbursements and other data.

GPS – Global Positioning Systems (GPS) provide real-time location capabilities for fleet management systems including separate tracking for trucks, trailers, containers, etc.

Hauling Requirements – Heavy Haul, over-dimensional reporting, haul-away/haul-off dispatching and other requirements may need to be included in the desired software.

Inspection Records – Inspection records are tracked by date, vehicle, inspection type, inspection result, mileage, time-to-next-inspection, reporting agency, licensing authority, maintenance provider, inspector, facility, and so on.

Insurance – Insurance modules provide the ability to manage insurance providers, allocate costs, manage renewals, track coverages, and other details. See Claims.

International Requirements and Regulations – multi-currency, multi-lingual, multi-time-zone, and domestic and international regulatory requirements need to be managed by many international operators.

Licensing, Taxes and Fees – Vehicle fleets have multi-jurisdictional requirements for licensing, taxes and fees including renewal dates, operating permits, city licenses, plates, registration, etc.

Load Optimization – In addition to core requirements for routing and dispatching, load optimization uses weight and volume algorithms to determine optimal pallet and container loading.

Maintenance Systems – preventive maintenance, repair histories, tool tracking, sub assets, tire maintenance, work orders, knowledge database, vendor management, and other aspects of vehicle maintenance and material handling maintenance will be included in most systems.

Mobile/Handheld Devices – the mobile nature of fleet management makes mobile and fleet management a common requirement for fleet management systems. Magic Software Enterprises’ uniPaaS application platform has built-in support for deployment of applications on Windows Mobile devices.

Nota Fiscal Eletronica – the Brazilian government regulation for notifying tax authorities of all shipments of goods and services is an example of a specific governmental regulation to which your fleet management software may need to be adapted. The iBOLT Integration Suite is commonly used to overcome the challenges of meeting these requirements with existing systems.

Overtime Reduction – Business rules can be applied to requirements such as overtime reduction and fuel consumption reduction, shift costs, and so forth.

Purchases/Fleet Management – Naturally, purchase and ownership records and a good vehicle fleet asset tracking module will be an important component of a fleet management software solution.

Quality Assurance – A quality assurance module provides capabilities for insuring goods-in-transit, reporting and analyzing goods damaged in-transit, submitting claims, scheduling replacement shipments and identifying high-risk drivers, goods, routes, destinations and vehicles.

Regulatory Requirements – The regulatory requirements imposed by the EPA, collective bargaining agreements, OSHA, the USDOT and similar regulatory agencies in other countries may need to be tracked in special modules or within existing modules in the application.

Rental/Leasing Systems – many fleet management systems include rental modules for vehicle rental records and related requirements.

Rich Internet Applications – the outdated client server applications of the past are not ideally suited to today’s Internet and mobile connected devices. Application platforms like uniPaaS from Magic Software are ideal because they allow you to build applications that can be deployed in a variety of modes.

RFID – Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) are increasingly replacing barcodes as the preferred methods for tagging and identifying vehicles, trailers, containers and packages.

Routing – Routing software plans routes, loads, dispatches, and manages special orders, off-day deliveries, manifests, tracks delivery progress, monitors route variations and exceptions, and much more.

Scheduling – Closely related to routing, scheduling optimizes departure times, optimizes driver availabilities, and reduces delays.

Time and Attendance – workforce management requirements for fleet operators are unique in that employees and jobbers are rarely on-site and need simplified methods for reporting time on the job. Time and attendance systems correlate reported hours to known vehicle movements, delivery information and norms for specific routes.

Tolls – Toll devices and ad-hoc tolls, receipts and desired routing adjustments are managed by the toll components within a fleet management application.

Track and Trace – Shippers and receivers need accurate up-to-date status information on shipments as well as the ability to trace delivery of goods and signatures.

US DOT NTCIP – In 2009, the US Department of Transportation initiated the NTCIP as a protocol for intelligent transit systems. These systems can be triggered by on-board devices and provide traffic signal priority for selected, e.g., behind schedule, transit vehicles.

Valuation – Vehicle valuation and asset management modules are an important component of most fleet management software applications.

Work Orders – Maintenance and repair operations are typically managed through work orders that direct and track the required maintenance and repairs to specific vehicles. These orders must inter-relate to scheduling and routing to keep the other systems aware of vehicle availabilities.

X-Ray and Gamma Ray Cargo Systems – Used for security monitoring of in-bound shipments into the yard, x-ray and gamma ray scanning provide for a means of passive detection of dangerous or illicit goods.

Yard Management – Yard management allows for priority access and routing of trailers inside the yard. Various types of RLTS systems can be used to track the current location of any trailer making it easier for the yard vehicle to quickly locate it.

Z/OS, UNIX, Linux, IBM i and Windows Operating System Support – Cross-platform and cross-database support and integration may be required for some fleet management software applications where multiple subsidiaries and operating units are running IT systems on different platforms. Selecting a cross-platform, cross-database solution like uniPaaS with a strong integration suite like iBOLT can help assure the greatest portability of your application.

For more information on how-to build the ideal fleet management software application, contact Magic Software Enterprises at Magic Software Enterprises’ premier clients include UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Menzies World Cargo, and Carey International.