3 mistakes to avoid when going wireless

Jan. 12, 2004
3 mistakes to avoid when going wireless After observing hundreds of fleet operations implementing wireless technology, it's clear where many make mistakes
3 mistakes to avoid when going wireless

“After observing hundreds of fleet operations implementing wireless technology, it's clear where many make mistakes that cause the implementation to deliver less than optimal results or fail altogether,” says Aether Transportation's Michael Brown. According to Brown, the following are the three most common mistakes companies make when implementing wireless technology, along with his suggestions for avoiding failure.

Failing to change the way things are done
Wireless technology speeds the flow of information, and this increased speed and improved timeliness will have an impact on process. Evaluate and improve those processes to take advantage of the opportunity or your implementation will fall short of the big gains you could achieve.

Simply implementing wireless technology on top of your existing processes and methods will leave you far short of your goals. With the right wireless technology, your team will have near- instant access to what's happening with your truck fleet and mobile workforce. You'll be able to get regular and frequent updates and communicate far more often and more efficiently than before. Given these improvements, the question to ask is, “Are your present processes able to take full advantage of these new capabilities in fleet operations and in other areas of your business?”

Your biggest gains will come from fully integrating the new wireless technology with your fleet management and dispatch software. Changing from a manual or voice dispatch process to a fully automated system will lower operating costs and make dispatchers and drivers far more efficient. Together, these technologies can more accurately and effectively match trucks with the right loads, reduce wait time and empty miles, and increase productivity.

In order to achieve these gains, you'll need to revamp how these decisions and matches are made today and how you get involved with and communicate with your drivers. Done correctly, your dispatch area should become a quiet, organized workplace, where your team is managing exceptions and communicating with customers as much as or more than with drivers.

Failing to partner correctly
Any technology implementation requires close partnership among users inside the organization and between users and the provider. This is a high-level, strategic choice with long-term implications and it requires ongoing support and development.

Will your technology partner be there for future expansions and implementations? Also, does the solution have a good evolution path? Does the solution provider have the organizational capabilities to support your ongoing needs?

Partnering is a two-way street. You cannot “casually” implement technology and expect it to revolutionize your business. Dedicate one of your best individuals to lead this project, and give him or her the attention and resources needed. Choose a strong manager who thinks broadly and is process-driven, not just a technologist. And don't short-change training. If you want your organization to get the most out of your new wireless system, your critical team members will need to become experts.

Failing to set the right expectations
Quantify the results you expect to achieve and define a means to measure against those anticipated results. Know when to expect a return on your investment or know why it was not achieved.

Establish metrics and mechanisms that will tell you what you're achieving, and that can help you measure your progress early and often. If you haven't built a solid model for return on investment, or you don't expect payback in 24 months or less, you're probably looking at the wrong system and working with the wrong partner.

Every system has advantages and disadvantages. Make sure you ask the right questions before you buy, and clearly understand how the wireless solution will operate within your fleet. How and where does it work? How often will you get updates? Is it real-time or store-and-forward? How will drivers interact with the system? What are the lifetime costs?

January, 2004

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