Source: Field Technologies Online
Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions has cut travel time between calls by 10 to 15 percent, reduced its insurance bill, and improved first-time fix rates.
Vehicles are among the most expensive assets held by field service organizations. In addition to the up-front cost of the vehicles and the cost to fuel and maintain them, they typically hold thousands of dollars in valuable parts, inventory, and tools. Optimizing the use of those vehicles can have a big impact on profit margins.
Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, which supplies point of sale (POS) hardware, software, and services to retail customers, has leveraged a GPS-based fleet management solution to provide real-time visibility into its fleet operations. As a result, the company has cut travel time between calls by 10 to 15 percent, reduced its insurance bill, and improved first-time fix rates.
Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions (a new company formed from Toshiba Tec’s acquisition of the IBM Retail Store Solutions Division) and its field service operation provide repair and maintenance services for Toshiba POS products as well as other POS-related hardware commonly found in retail and grocery stores. As part of the transition to Toshiba, Joe Bognaski, executive director of global service delivery and planning, was part of a team tasked with finding ways to reduce service costs without reducing the quality of customer service.
“We looked at van utilization, and we thought we could more effectively use those vehicles,” Bognaski says. “We changed the stocking methodology in the vans so we would have a better part mix and switched to more efficient vehicles, but we also saw that, based on our dispatch system, we were traveling more than we needed to be. Then we inadvertently came across a fleet management product and decided to give it a try.”
Toshiba was in the process of issuing an RFP for an unrelated solution. One of the finalists in that process was Trimble. “We didn’t choose them for the original RFP, but the Trimble rep mentioned that they had something else that might be of use to us, and we seized on that.”
That “something else” was Trimble’s Fleet Management solution, which Bognaski and his team believed could help better optimize fleet utilization. In addition, the Trimble solution would be able to integrate with a planned upgrade to a new ERP (enterprise resource planning) and dispatch solution.
Toshiba’s technicians carry LG smartphones to manage work orders and look up parts that are both in their vans and in forward-stocking locations. “The retail service business is very response-time oriented, so the majority of our customers require us to respond and fix devices on the same day,” Bognaski says. “The vans are key to that. If you stock your commonly used parts in the vans you reduce distribution costs. Otherwise, you end up pulling parts out of forward-stocking locations at a much higher cost.”
However, fleet visibility was low and dispatching was done on a “next available technician” basis that didn’t take drive time into account. For the fleet solution, Toshiba wanted to lower the cost of operating the vans and improve the number of calls per day the technicians could complete. According to Bognaski, the Trimble solution provided a cost-effective way to track the vehicles, improve safety, and reduce costs.
Team Acceptance Of Fleet Management
Prior to deployment, the team presented the solution to field management and other service executives. “This team was already excited to be part of the process of changing our fleet from family-type vans to Ford Transits, with a strong focus on cost reduction and efficiency improvement,” Bognaski says. “From a field acceptance standpoint, they could see the benefits of this new technology right away. Our ability to dispatch a technician who was closest to the customer request with the right part really improved our dispatching capabilities and cut down our travel time.”
Toshiba piloted the fleet management system in Texas and in New Jersey with 10 devices in each region. The pilots lasted six to 10 weeks. “There was really no downside to the solution,” Bognaski says. “Trimble, and especially our rep, Deb Schum, worked with us to point out areas to achieve the most savings, and it was surprising to us that, even with our move to a more efficient van, how much vehicle idle time we saw. Just by cutting back idle time, we almost saved enough to pay for the system by itself.”
Toshiba also focused on driver safety, which meant monitoring driver behavior such as speeding. Bognaski says that the company did not want to take a punitive approach with the drivers, however. “From a safe-driving standpoint, we wanted to foster the feeling with the technicians that they treat the vehicle like it’s their own,” Bognaski says. “We also wanted the technicians to take more calls, but not to drive in an unsafe manner to do so.”
“It took a half million dollars out of our insurance costs. We were able to basically get a ten-to-one return on the safe driving module through lowered insurance costs.”
Joe Bognaski, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions
Real-Time Visibility Enables More-Efficient Dispatching
As of 2015, the company had deployed the Trimble Fleet Management solution in 300 vehicles in the U.S. and roughly 50 vehicles in Canada. Toshiba has installed Trimble TVG devices that are attached to the diagnostic port in the company’s service vans, allowing managers to track and monitor any vehicle movement. “We can see idle time, drastic driving measures, and speeding, when the vehicle starts in the morning and when it stops at night,” Bognaski says. “All of that activity is monitored and provided in real time and via customized reports.”
The entire fleet was up-and-running in six months. “There were really no technical challenges,” Bognaski says. “It was purely a communication effort from the top down. We thought this was an unobtrusive way to gain some efficiency, and we saw a future path to integrate this with other new software that we plan to deploy. We had a lot of good communication and management buy-in.”
With data from the fleet management tool, dispatchers can route calls to the closest available technician. By eliminating that wasted drive time, each technician can take more calls per day.
“If you look at a market like Atlanta, there’s always the danger of having a tech in North Atlanta take his first service call, and then because they are the next tech available, they could get the next service call in South Atlanta,” Bognaski says. “With Atlanta traffic and going through seven lanes of traffic each way, you can spend all day on the freeway.”
The technology has also helped Toshiba develop new service offerings. The company’s goal with large customers is to service all technology in the store, from the POS to the printers and the wireless access points, regardless of the manufacturer. “You get more economies of scale that way,” Bognaski says. “Now we can create an efficient circle with a certain number of stores, and we can develop a way to give those customers a dedicated technician. In that way you can specialize and provide better service to those customers.
“There are so many companies that service retailers and use an on-call workforce,” Bognaski adds. “Toshiba utilizes our own technicians to support the customers, and with this technology we can more efficiently plan that workload.”
Fleet Management Solution Delivers 15% Reduction In Travel Time
While the system was initially deployed to improve fleet efficiency, Bognaski says that it has provided a return on investment well beyond that functionality. After the fleet tracking solution was installed, Toshiba went live with another module to monitor safe driving, which immediately paid dividends. “It took a half million dollars out of our insurance costs. We were able to basically get a ten-to-one return on the safe driving module through lowered insurance costs,” Bognaski says. “It wasn’t part of our original business case, but it was priced in a manner that we ended up getting a great return on that investment.”
When the company spots a problem with the way a driver is operating the van, field managers initiate any retraining that needs to take place. “It’s up to the individual manager,” Bognaski says. “We get reports at the department, regional, and corporate level on driver safety.”
The fleet system also monitors vehicle faults and maintenance data, which has helped keep the vans on the road. “For instance, we had a particular van that was throwing regular faults in the report, but there were no warning lights on the dashboard relating to it,” Bognaski says. “The field manager recommended that the vehicle be looked at by a mechanic, and we found it was about to have a catastrophic transmission failure. We never would have caught that without the Trimble solution.”
The fleet system has also helped recover a stolen vehicle. “We very quickly were able to find out where the stolen van was driven and get it back without any damages or loss of inventory,” Bognaski says. “The police located it in minutes.”
Toshiba achieved its goal of improving fleet efficiency and optimization. The technicians are averaging another half call per day per technician, and the company has reduced travel time by 10 to 15 percent. Driver safety has improved, and a reduction in idle time has cut fuel costs. First-time fix rates are now above 90 percent, in part through better dispatching. “That gives us incremental savings across the board,” Bognaski says.
How Field Service Productivity Is Impacted By Fleet Management
The solution has also helped to uncover other productivity gains. By studying the activity detail report, the company saw that its technicians were waiting for parts deliveries nearly every morning. As a result, Toshiba simply altered the work hours for those employees so that they would arrive after the parts drop, saving 1.5 hours per day in lost productivity.
Productivity was also improved through optimizing the mix of parts on the van. “We have a better parts availability rate now,” Bognaski says. “Right now about 90 percent of our same-day calls are fixed apart from the van. At the same time, the switch to the Ford Transit improved our miles per gallon and our lease costs.”
The next step in Toshiba’s fleet transformation will be to link its technology platforms. Right now, the dispatch and fleet systems are not directly integrated. In 2016, the company plans to implement a new Oracle ERP and dispatch system that will be directly connected to Trimble.
The company also plans to pilot the system in Mexico. “Mexico City has significant traffic, and we’re just starting to pilot there,” Bognaski says. “Our Toshiba Mexico team is very excited about the possibilities for their area. We’re looking forward to a fully operational North American fleet solution once Mexico is up-and-running.”