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GPS for Our Industry?

1 Apr, 2010 By: Jack Duncan imageSource

GPS for Our Industry?

With all the interest that there seems to be in GPS
technology; what is it exactly that GPS tracking can do for us and what do we
need to know to get it right?

First let’s talk about what it can do for a dealership to
make it a worthwhile investment. If we know the exact location of our service
technicians (or even salesmen) and the location of their assigned service or
sales calls, we should be able to route them to the nearest location in order to
minimize travel time and mileage. We could even go to single call dispatch for
technicians to give us the ability to assign them the nearest service call that
they are qualified to complete, thus giving us the ability to shift calls as
needed to lower travel time and mileage. If we are able to lower travel time and
increase customer time, we will actually lower our burden rate due to higher
customer hours. If we can send technicians turn by turn directions, we will also
minimize the time spent getting to locations that they may not be familiar with,
such as out of territory assignments. There may also be a change in behavior
that comes with management knowing the location of all our vehicles &
technicians. One dealer who implemented GPS reported a 30 minute earlier first
call dispatch time.

Now let’s talk about what we need to know to make an
informed decision. The major elements are the tracking devices themselves, the
software used to do the tracking, the refresh rate (the frequency at which the
device is monitored), and lastly whether or not it is interfaced with your ERP
to show the location of service calls. Another factor may also be whether or not
the software can be displayed on a large screen in your dispatch area. This can
certainly be an element of “sizzle” if you do client demos at your location.

Location tracking devices can be divided into two basic
categories – cell phone based devices, and GPS devices. At this juncture, the
industry has largely established that cell phone based devices are rarely
accurate due to triangulation issues and distances between cell phone owners..
Dedicated GPS devices, on the other hand, rely on actual GPS satellite
transmissions rather than cell towers, and are usually accurate to within 20ft.
They can be as simple as a pager-like device that can be worn on the hip, hard
wired devices for company owned vehicles that have capabilities similar to
OnStar, or even portable units that offer not only location tracking, but 2 way
messaging and turn by turn directions as well. 

The refresh rates can vary from fifteen, ten, five or even
one minute down to as little as five seconds. These refresh rates typically have
an effect on the cost of service (faster updates are typically more expensive),
but are critical to the actual usefulness of the service. The longer the
interval between two transmissions, the less likely the location provided is
reflective of the vehicle’s actual location (a vehicle can be one mile from the
location shown on the map within 60 seconds). 

Software used for tracking should also be capable of
displaying on a large screen in order for it to be most useful and not trapped
inside a small screen. It should also be capable of displaying service calls and
their locations – otherwise, you are only seeing half of the picture. It should
be capable of generating reports of miles driven (remember its accuracy depends
on refresh rates), speeding, etc. Another factor is the type of mapping used. Is
it a typical MS MapPoint map or is it satellite image based? Is it capable of

Return on Investment?

The right tracking system used properly should provide return on investment in a
minimum amount of time. Travel time and mileage expense should be dramatically
reduced – and as a direct result productivity will increase. All of these
elements combine to lower burden rates and thus reduce the cost of doing

Why consider GPS tracking? To this I might ask a few simple

  • Do your service technicians pass each other going to
    service calls?
  • It is 4:00 PM on Friday afternoon – do you know where
    your technicians are?
  • It is Friday at midnight – do you know where your
    company vehicles are?
  • If we can leverage this technology to lower our
    operating costs and increase profits can we afford not to look at it?

Jack Duncan is the Director of New Business Development at US FleetTracking. He
has over 35 years in the office machine industry in service management and
service operations. US FleetTracking is an industry leader in GPS live tracking.
Contact jack@usfleettracking.com or 469-287-2605. Visit www.usfleettracking.com

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