Fleet management embraces tech future

Southern Africa

A new generation of technology-enabled products and services is revolutionising tyre management—and creating more profitable, more streamlined fleets. Creating ecosystems is critical to realising the full benefits.

By Bridgestone SA

As in so many other industry verticals, fleet management is undergoing significant change as new technologies become commercially viable. These technologies are helping to streamline current operations but, more exciting, they promise to change the nature of fleet management altogether.

One of the most promising of these is tyre management which is already changing important aspects of fleet management for the better. But while individual technologies can be used effectively as standalone solutions, taking the ecosystem approach is actually the way to achieve new levels of value.

As an example, consider the growing use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips or sensors that allow the transmission of information from an object, like a truck tyre, to a central point, like the company’s data centre. When vehicles typically return to a depot at regular intervals, a gate sensor can collect data using WiFi as the vehicles pass, ensuring that maintenance teams know exactly which tyres need pressure adjustments—no need to check each tyre laboriously.

For vehicles that are away for longer periods of time moving cargoes around the country, chips with mobile connectivity can feed information back to headquarters from wherever the truck happens to be.

All very useful, one must admit, but even more so when this data can be aggregated and mined for insights. In line with this thinking, Bridgestone introduced Toolbox, a cloud-based tyre management program, in 2017, which is available both as a desktop or mobile app. It’s designed to provide meaningful and actionable insights to fleet managers, enabling them to optimise overall tyre usage, selection and maintenance.

In other words, the beginning of a more integrated, data-driven approach to tyre management. A recent development that has extended this ecosystem is the acquisition of the telematics division of TomTom. This means that the system can be used to plan drivers’ routes, plot progress and immediately see all the tyre pressures of all vehicles. Using this platform thus enables the fleet manager to obtain visibility of all his or her tyre assets across the fleet—where they are, how they are being used and what their current state is.

The TomTom platform will integrate into Toolbox, providing the foundation for exponentially more sophisticated—and useful—ways of using the data, and acquiring more data. For example, one day soon a fleet manager could monitor the full history of each tyre, including such information as how much it cost, how many times it has been retreaded, its tread depth at last reading, and begin to project when that tyre will need replacing—thanks to much improved algorithms and the use of sophisticated predictive analytics.

The final step is to integrate all of this operational information with the financial side of fleet management to obtain a truly holistic view of a whole fleet’s tyre assets.

Moving towards mobility as a service

All of this, clearly, indicates that tyre and fleet management is very much at the forefront of the emerging Internet of Things. What’s exciting is that as this builds momentum, we are approaching the ability to move from selling tyres to selling mobility solutions—the “as a service” model that is revolutionising so much of business.

Bridgestone is already offering the option of leasing tyres to a small segment of the market, but as the range of data and ways to process it expands, we will be able to roll this out to a wider market because both the risks and benefits will be more quantifiable—and transparent. A key element here will be the increasing automation of data collection, eliminating the expensive and inaccurate manual collection processes—the archetypal “man with a clipboard”—we are familiar with. Automated data collection will mean the all-important move into real time, something that’s most desirable when it comes to tyres.Operationally, tyres are one of key pain points for fleet managers—if the tyres malfunction, the whole vehicle is unusable with inevitable consequences for scheduling and overall profitability. Increasingly smart, data-driven solutions will serve to reduce downtime by pre-empting problems via preventative maintenance, and also maximise return on investment. It’s the future, and it will solve many of a fleet manager’s current challenges.

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