The coronavirus crisis threw a wrench in many supply chains all over the world, with organizations and their third-party logistics providers still reeling from the disruption.
In the U.K., for example, a perfect storm of pandemic lockdowns and Brexit has elevated both complexity and costs for freight shipping into the market, with recent Bloomberg reports noting the spot rate for last-minute shipments across the English Channel hit more than $4.56 per mile for a full truckload in the last week of 2020, nearly doubling costs. Tuckers are facing backlogs and rejected cargoes, creating the risk of further disruptions later this month, reports said.
“The need for integrated data analytics has never been more significant and impactful given our current climate,” he said.
But with fleet managers struggling to coordinate across a range of platforms and a sea of data, tightening the grip over operations can be a challenge.
Connecting The Dots
As Shaffer explained, one of the biggest ongoing challenges of enterprise fleets is being able to obtain a bird’s eye view of what is happening across drivers and vehicles. While there is plenty of sophisticated technology available for fleet managers to operate, connecting these systems (and their data) with each other is a major challenge.
Inaccurate or incomplete data flooding in from a range of sources, including telematics, fleet management systems, fuel consumption and fleet cards, is blocking managers’ view. Silos that separate these various sources of data only adds to the friction.
Shaffer noted that this pain point became explicitly clear in Utilimarc’s own efforts to aggregate, clean, analyze and summarize clients’ data.
“It was through this manual and highly technical process we discovered that the disparate data sources were holding fleet managers industry-wide back from getting a holistic view o their operational and financial performance,” he said.
Driving Financial Performance
With logistics costs soaring, financial management is even more imperative for fleet managers than before. Yet the data gaps that block a holistic view of fleet operations are also preventing managers from gaining a clear understanding of how money is being spent.
“One of the most valuable insights … is our customers’ ability to understand a true cost per usage day,” said Shaffer, “meaning: ‘How much does it cost my organization to run X vehicle or Y garage.'”
Fleet organizations must not only be able to understand this metric, but benchmark it to compare performance with their peers, and to track cost patterns over time.
The fleet card presents a critical source of spend data, but being able to marry transaction information with other data points like fuel usage is critical to gaining actionable insights, tracking budgets, forecasting spend and avoiding unnecessary expenditures.
Bridging the gaps between siloed systems is an important first step in achieving clear and accurate visibility into fleet operations, performance, spend and more. But fleet managers need business intelligence technology that can not only collect data, but analyze it in the context of all other moving parts.
Everything from developing budgets to understanding when to replace key assets has the potential to be optimized through data, said Shaffer. And when today’s logistics disruptions and rising costs create an ever-mounting threat to functional supply chains, achieving this optimization grows more important. For fleet managers, embracing technology that can fill in the data gaps and automate analytics has proven to be a valuable asset that frees up time for more pressing tasks.
“From an optimization and budgeting standpoint, the power of capex avoidance and knowing what is truly needed from a budgetary planning perspective has never been greater in our industry,” Shaffer said.