Magazine Article | February 25, 2013

Telematics Solution Transforms Logistics Operation

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Field Technologies magazine

Clover Logistics is the largest service provider in chilled and frozen food distribution. It carries a variety of foodstuffs in three different temperature bands, which include frozen food, chilled food, and food in the ambient band. Temperature specifications for the goods that Clover Logistics transports and delivers vary between 18° C and 6° C.

Maintaining the correct temperature is critical to Clover Logistics’ being able to deliver quality product to its customers. However, without monitoring drivers’ behavior once its trucks leave the depot, it was very difficult for Clover Logistics to manage cold-chain adherence. In fact, the biggest challenge for Clover Logistics was limiting the amount of time the truck doors were open.

Previously, the Clover Logistics vehicles had only telematics units that provided engine management data, but these units were replaced with MiX Telematics units which allow more information to be gathered and allow real-time information transfer. The MiX system can be programmed with alerts if, for example, the truck strays off its route or if fridge doors are open for longer that they should be. The MiX Telematics solution also communicates information in SMS-type alerts through the normal GSM networks, while positional data is gathered via satellite. Daily downloads of all the data collected can be collated into reports of any nature.

Telematics Solution Set To Expand Over Time
“Being able to monitor each truck from an office means that the company can intervene if needed, improving the level of service we’re providing to our customers. In addition to monitoring cold chain adherence, it also means being able to plan routes more strategically as well as saving time on deliveries,” says a representative from Clover Logistics. The MiX Telematics system also allows add-on functionality at a later stage, such as an onboard invoicing system, and can be linked to routing software so that planned routes can be compared to actual deliveries on the road.

Select Tablets That Address Current, Future Needs

The Fort Bend County Municipal Utility District Number 25 (FBCM25), located in Texas, serves several subdivisions, apartment complexes, schools, and a number of out-of-district locations, including a municipal airport, a golf course, and a Texas DOT facility.

Relying on a paper-based workflow, FBCM25 faced problems with communication, inaccuracies, and inefficiencies. Each morning, field technicians and operators collected the day’s service orders from the main office. All relevant data, such as customer information, services performed, meter readings, billing information, and supporting documentation were handwritten on paper forms. At the end of the day, the staff returned to the office, typed the service orders using desktops, and gave the paper copies to the billing department.

In an effort to streamline the process, FBCM25 equipped field staff with rugged laptops. The team realized early on the solution did little to improve the process. The laptops were cumbersome and not mobile enough for field environments. As a result, paper forms were still needed to collect information, and once back at the trucks, staff would reenter the information into the laptops.

FBCM25 discovered and deployed the Motion Computing J3500 tablet PC. Now, equipped with J3500 tablet PCs, the process happens in real time while the field staff is on the job site, enabling the district to eliminate unnecessary steps, enhance efficiency, and save time. Another benefit is increased accuracy and reduced errors because paper service orders were occasionally misplaced or handwriting could be misread, which led to staff repeating jobs or the billing department calling field operations to verify information.

FBCM25 sees the Motion tablet as a long-term investment. The district plans to introduce GIS software in order to map the district’s water lines and access points. Field operations will be able to pinpoint exact locations as well as access unit history and warnings in real time. FBCM25 also plans to incorporate the tablet’s camera for documentation during repairs.