In the vending industry, vehicles and vending machines represent an operation's two major capital costs. As such, both require the best available tools for effective management. In today's world, remote vending machine monitoring is becoming valuable, even necessary to an operation seeking to stay competitive. Remote monitoring increases productivity by making route scheduling more efficient and minimizing machine downtime. What many vending owners and managers don't realize is that they can move closer to that goal of maximizing their ROI by applying the same remote monitoring approach to their expensive vehicles.
More and more vending operators are endeavoring to optimize their return on equipment investment by using sophisticated computer sales analysis and forecasting in conjunction with remote monitoring. They aim to maximize sales while minimizing the time and cost involved in servicing their equipment. The benefits that automated data collection, vending management software and telemetry deliver are realized by enabling the most productive employment of personnel.
That's true of vehicle-monitoring systems, too. A GPS fleet tracking solution can reduce vehicle costs. Such a solution can seamlessly integrate with "consumer-facing" smartphones, increasing productivity through advanced routing capability for drivers to reduce fuel consumption.
A modern GPS fleet tracking system should provide a number of detailed reports that offer a snapshot of fleet operations and driver productivity, similar to the operational analytics provided by remote machine monitoring. Detailed reporting tools deliver actionable information regarding employees and the statuses of their job assignments.
When considering GPS, vending operators should look for a solution that offers information on vehicle idling, time spent at each location and job status. Managers are able to identify any inefficiencies, such as consistent delays at a stop, and address them swiftly. With this detailed information, businesses can increase the number of stops made in one day, increasing productivity and decreasing costs.
Vending operations may use advanced hardware and software for remote machine monitoring, but continue to rely on basic consumer-facing mobile applications like those available for smartphones to provide directions from one location to the next. Over the years, these applications have matured, offering new features such as voice-guided directions that seem similar to many in-vehicle navigation devices. However, these apps often do not take into consideration drivers' needs or the demands of multiple stops on a route. GPS fleet tracking provides more advanced routing capabilities, while also producing detailed activity reports on vehicles and assets. A comprehensive GPS package should include a mobile solution that provides the detailed route guidance offered by the fleet tracking module straight to the driver's smartphone or personal navigation device.
The routing features offered by a professional GPS fleet tracking should create an optimized route for the driver. Unlike a basic mobile app that offers directions from one location to another, comprehensive fleet tracking should incorporate an easy-to-use feature that processes all the locations and stops in a vehicle's route and orders them into a list that represents the shortest, quickest route. This saves the driver time during the day, so it allows more stops to be serviced, increasing productivity and saving on fuel costs through the optimized route. It can be especially helpful to operations that use dynamic routing.
Additionally, dispatchers should be able to send these optimized routes to the drivers' in-vehicle personal navigation devices or smartphones though mobile apps. This feature will save significant time for both the driver and the dispatcher, while eliminating the risk that route personnel will be distracted by voice or text messages while driving -- a possible danger if dispatchers share route information by phone.
The advanced routing feature provided by a professional GPS fleet tracking product saves time and money. By running the most efficient possible route, businesses reduce fuel consumption while keeping maintenance costs down by reducing wear and tear on vehicles.
The mobile components of a GPS fleet tracking solution should also offer features that allow drivers to update job status, report vehicle issues, clock in and out, update vehicle odometer readings, and more. Essentially, a solution should allow drivers and business managers to communicate easily and safely while drivers are on their routes. This allows drivers to use the smartphones they are comfortable with to increase productivity, efficiency and safety on the route.
In addition to seamless integration with smartphones, GPS fleet tracking provides business advantages that are not available from consumer-oriented smart devices. For example, they should offer tamper alerts to inform the fleet manager if a recording/reporting device is tampered with, to ensure accurate readings. If employees take vehicles home, managers may be concerned about unauthorized use. A manager can set a "geo-fenced" area around the employee's home, and receive an alert if the vehicle travels outside of this area. These geo-fences also can be set up around the driver's scheduled stops, so managers are informed when the truck arrives at each site. The GPS vehicle location feature can also be used by law enforcement to find and recover a stolen vehicle quickly, which is reassuring to drivers and operators alike.
Another important topic for both managers and employees is prevention of distracted driving to ensure the safety of drivers on the route. Many businesses have driving policies, but no way to officially implement them by determining whether employees are following the rules. A GPS fleet tracking solution should offer a number of features that enforce safe driving, allowing management to offer incentives for complying.
A feature to look for when considering one of these solutions is a driver "scorecard," a report that provides detailed analytics of the driver's behavior. This enables management to proactively address issues, or to reward an employee who is representing their companies well while on the road. Companies invest a great deal of money in branding and advertising through vehicle signage, essentially turning them into moving billboards. Driver behavior monitoring can enhance your company's reputation.
By the same token, a solution should offer a feature that prevents the driver from using a cellphone while operating the vehicle. This software prevents talking, texting, emailing or surfing on a cellphone at inappropriate times. It also can send a quick text to anyone trying to contact the driver to let the sender know the addressee is behind the wheel, and will return the call or text message shortly. This eliminates the need for a driver to attempt to respond quickly while the truck is moving.
Vending managers are always looking for windows into operations, tools to measure what's working and what's not. A GPS fleet tracking solution can provide basic remote-monitoring information, as well as additional benefits and seamless mobile integration that enable businesses to reduce overall costs.
DANIEL VALENTINE is product marketing manager of Atlanta-based NexTraq. NexTraq’s applications -- Fleet Dispatch, Fleet Metrics and NexTraq Connect -- deliver the real-time data needed to optimize fleet operations.
Why GPS Is Productivity Booster And Liability Reducer For Vending Operators