With rising fuel prices, field service companies are often looking to cut spending wherever they can, especially in the aftermath of a damaging recession. However, some argue that as the economy improves, this is as good a time as ever to take advantage of software solutions that can improve efficiency in terms of fuel and labor costs. Find out more in the following article, republished with permission from Field Technologies Online.

Fleet operators are under tremendous pressure right now. With the cost of fuel rising, companies have to find ways to reduce the total number of miles driven during each shift. The rebound in the logistics and shipping industry has increased demand for services, but there is currently a shortage of trained drivers, as well as a capacity crunch due to the contraction and consolidation that occurred during the recent recession.

Operators need to serve more customers with fewer resources, and do so as efficiently as possible. Many are evaluating new scheduling and routing solutions to better manage their field service or delivery fleets.

“Now is a good time to make an investment in scheduling/routing technology,” says Jeff Groenke, vice president of sales and marketing at Cheetah Software Systems. “As the economy improves, companies need to grow by improving efficiencies and productivity, not by adding more drivers and equipment — this also helps in weathering future economic storms.”

To be effective, these solutions must have a strong mobile component that allows employees to access relevant customer data in the field. Routing systems should also allow schedulers to have a higher-level view of how well the fleet is operating by providing real-time analysis and alerts. Scheduling and routing solutions are also adding new business intelligence capabilities in order to help manage more employees in a wider variety of roles, including subcontractors, delivery drivers, and even customers.

“When done right, the scheduling software automates them all in a finely choreographed dance where no minute is wasted, and each move smoothly flows to the next,” says Israel Beniaminy, senior vice president for product strategy at ClickSoftware. “This orchestration demands higher intelligence in scheduling decisions, and it also sets a very high bar for visibility: Letting colleagues, contractors and customers view the schedule, receive alerts and request changes. These visibility requirements are increasing being addressed via inspiration from social media such as Facebook and Twitter.”

Dynamic Routing is in Demand

“The availability of inexpensive GPS and tracking information has led to innovations in the industry such as real-time tracking, map displays and route analytics,” says Paresh Hirapara, president and CEO of Enaptive. “Greater availability of data and analytics has opened the doors to an unprecedented potential for business process optimization throughout the industry. The main challenge remaining in the industry is integrating GPS and tracking information into existing processes and infrastructure.”

To read the rest of this article, including how to navigate the software selection process, go to Field Technologies Online (subscription required).

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Avatar photoField Technologies Online provides is a resource for the optimization of field workers, service and assets. The publication's goal is to provide companies in the field service, transportation/distribution, government, public works and utilities industries with information on mobile technologies that can be used to improve productivity and drive efficiency.