Vice President, Product Development, ARI
Tell us about your technology lab.
ARI’s technology lab was built to provide our clients and prospects with a hands-on, holistic view of the kinds of technologies that are currently available. It represents multiple vendors and multiple technologies – everything from telematic devices to key entry systems for pool reservations, to engine diagnostic tools, to fuel saving technologies. It allows us to show our customers and prospects all of the available options and discuss what will be the best solution when it comes to managing their fleet.
What kind of technology would you say a fleet must have?
Right now, not every fleet requires technology, either in the vehicle or in the cab, and some of this technology is still very expensive. So, we usually begin the conversation around what a customer’s business drivers are, and depending on what their needs and requirements are we work to design a solution that delivers what they need. It is a matter of matching the customer to the right technology.
We also try to encourage our clients to consider the three main components of any fleet: the driver, the vehicle and the journey. Today’s technologies match up very well with all three components and can help fleet managers better understand each one so they can better understand their fleet. For example, a basic low-end GPS device can help you know where your vehicles are, but you can also choose a more complex technology that can automatically manipulate an engine’s performance to improve fuel consumption. There are also devices that can alert a fleet manager when a driver may be speeding or idling too long, and can allow that fleet manager to provide immediate feedback to that driver so that behavior can be changed on the spot.
I think that down the road it will be very difficult to manage a fleet effectively without this type technology, but right now it isn’t for everyone. At the same time, these kinds of tools are becoming more and more mainstream and over time their use will become more commonplace.
I know that driver acceptance was a common issue when these kinds of devices were first introduced. Is it becoming easier to incorporate them into a fleet and gain driver acceptance?
It is really a question of how you introduce the technology, more than anything else. Companies should emphasize to their employees that these newer technologies are designed to help better manage cost and safety, which is better for the driver as well as the company in the long run. Companies would be well advised to consider developing an entire campaign as they introduce new technologies so the drivers understand the value of using these devices, and appreciate that they help both the driver in terms of keeping them safe and the company in terms of managing the bottom line. When they understand the business value, most drivers accept it.
Tell us about clients that have embraced this technology.
We have worked with clients who have used telematics to improve logistics, so by managing the journey they increase the efficiency of their drivers, who can in turn cover more routes with fewer vehicles and fewer trips. If you can reduce miles driven you can reduce a lot of costs.
We have also worked with clients who have used telematics devices to record and monetize each component of their fleet so that they can gain a better understanding of their overall fleet spend. Take speeding as an example. When you have the right information, you can determine what each mile an hour over the prescribed speed limit means to your fuel spend. Compound that over tens of thousands of vehicles on a daily basis and that begins to add up quickly. Telematics helps determine which vehicles in your fleet may be speeding so you can be proactive about making a correction with those drivers. Over time, this can make a significant difference – and this can both help justify the cost of the technology and help fleets institute best practices when it comes to managing their vehicles and their drivers.
The technology also helps when it comes to safety as well. The newest devices can limit the use of auxiliary devices if the vehicle is in use, forcing the driver to focus on driving. There is also technology now that is so sensitive it can read a driver’s retina and if the driver’s eyes drop – either from drowsiness or because he or she may be looking at a phone or a hand held device – an alarm is triggered. The immediate effect is safer drivers – but the long term effect is that you can gather that data to better understand what may be going on with your fleet, especially with regard to drowsy or distracted driving, and you can be proactive about training other safety measures. With data you can change behavior.
Speaking of the data, how do you integrate that with your HANA technology?
Our entire technology road map is focused on data. We are turning data into a strategic asset both for ARI and for our customers. Our investment in technology has been focused on data, both in how it is collected and how to make sense of it. SAP’s HANA platform was our choice because of its in-memory capability. When you start to collect the volumes of data that we are able to collect now – thousands and thousands of data points on every transaction – that amounts to a tremendous amount of data. In order to do something with that data at the speed of business, you need a quick technology. With HANA, we are able to take the data as it comes in push it out to our customers instantaneously. HANA’s in-memory technology allows us to consume all of the data that comes in, analyze it and send it back to our users in real time.
What about ARI insights?
ARI insights is our customer portal. We also use it internally with our account managers.
It offers a comprehensive, holistic view of the three components I mentioned earlier: the driver, the vehicle and the journey and presents all of the data related to those components in a way that the user can take immediate action on it. It’s designed to be intuitive, flexible and collaborative so that a fleet manager can see what is happening in real time and take action – whether that means communicating with a driver, dealing with a critical maintenance issue or changing a route to maximize efficiency.
It is also something that has evolved over the years. As recently as a few years ago, insights was very text heavy. Today, it is much more visual and intuitive. We are looking to move in that direction, so that all of our technologies and products don’t just help our customers access their data, but also help them to visualize it, understand it, and truly see what it is trying to tell them. It is great if a client can see a key metric – but it is even better if they can also see how they got to that point. Today we’re using data not just to say “here is where you are” but also to spot patterns and understand trends so fleet managers can make better decisions. It’s really about using the data to tell a story – and then using what you learn from that story to take smart, data-based action. Our technology investments are focused on reducing or eliminating data latency and decision latency. Capturing data as close as possible to the event and analyzing that data in such a way that it can be presented quickly, thus allowing for an actionable decision made as near-time as possible – that is our goal, and our passion.
What data metrics are fleet managers asking for the most?
Fleet managers are always interested in whatever metrics may help them run their fleet more efficiently. The challenge was that traditional metrics were one dimensional – accidents per million miles, cost per month, and cost per mile. With the new technologies, however, we are looking to get more strategic and more granular. We are trying to not just collect data but to correlate it with other things. For example, we have always stressed that when an ARI Technician is on the phone authorizing a repair, that we want to make sure that it is the right repair for that vehicle, and that it is being done at the best cost. In the past, we have done that by using the data and by hiring ASE Certified technicians who can use their knowledge and experience to make an educated decision.
Fast forward to today: we are able to offer all of that and more. With the technology we have, we can crunch the numbers so quickly that during a phone call, the tech will be able to see that in the previous six months we’ve authorized several hundred similar repairs within a fifteen mile radius of a specific shop, and that on average those repairs cost a certain amount, which gives the technician the power to negotiate a better price closer to the going average on behalf of our client. Being able to negotiate pricing based upon real time data is a powerful development.
Another example might involve accidents. Traditionally, the measurement was accidents per million miles. That gave a certain level of insight into how a fleet was performing overall. The newest technology, however, allows us to plot where accidents are occurring, not just in a single fleet, but across ARI’s entire customer base. This helps us to see things we may not have been able to see before and counsel our clients based on the data we have. We can tell our clients to avoid certain routes or intersections not because we suspect it’s a good idea, but because the data tells us those routes or intersections are more risky.
And, if we combine that data with information from other sources – such as that gained from fuel transactions – there is the potential to be even more empowered when it comes to seeing correlations and offering advice based on those correlations. That is the future of metrics – seeing things in more than one dimension. Comparing seemingly disparate sets of data to make correlations, spot patterns and see trends.
Do you see more than just the fleet manager seeking to access and use a fleet’s data now and going forward?
Yes, absolutely. In the past, it was just the fleet manager that was interested in the data a fleet generated. Now, we know that it is fleet managers, but also it’s CEOs, sourcing managers and risk managers, among others, who may be looking to access and understand a fleet’s information. Consequently, we have worked to develop ARI insights so that can be a point solution for the specific role you may be playing within an organization. It can be a risk management tool for the risk manager, a financial performance tool for the financial manager and a fleet tool for the fleet manager.
How else can data empower fleets and fleet managers?
Data can empower all of the decisions you make with regard to your fleet. And, in the very near future, we are going to be able to use the data to better understand how the decisions you make today play out in twelve, or twenty four, or even thirty six months, which will lead to better benchmarking. That’s what the tools in development right now will be able to do. And, when you do that, you’ll end up making better decisions long-term. Fleet managers will have the power to store and benchmark predictions and decisions long-term, which in turn will make future predictions and decisions better, because they are based on real data, not conjecture or presumptions.
Tony Candeloro is a vice president in the information technology area for ARI and is responsible for the company’s product development and customer facing technologies. In his role, Tony oversees the continued enhancement of ARI’s existing products and services, as well as the development of new products and services for the fleet management industry. Tony joined ARI in 1990 as a programmer/analyst and grew as a valued leader and IT specialist through the positions of manager of internal systems development, manager of systems and programming, director of client information systems, and most recently as Vice President of Product Development. Tony studied Computer Science at Delaware Technical Community College and earned his bachelor’s degree from Widener University.