Smart monitoring and analysis of truck fleets with Op Tracker for Transport
Lim Geomatics is a Canadian technology and consulting firm with an international portfolio of innovative GIS projects. The firm specializes in building web and mobile applications powered by the ArcGIS mapping platform.
AV Group NB is part of the Aditya Birla Group, which is a global corporation based out of India and with operations in 36 countries. The New Brunswick branch of the company produces dissolving grade pulp that is shipped to manufacturing facilities in Southeast Asia for the production of viscose fibre. AV Group NB manages over 1.6 million acres of private and crown forested lands and relies on roughly 50 different trucking contractors to supply 36 mills, including two of their own sites at Nackawic and Atholville. AV Group NB oversees the transport of 1.4 million cubic meters of logs on average every year.
Op Tracker for Transport (OTT) was developed in early 2016 by Lim Geomatics and in partnership with AV Group NB. The application, which includes a mobile and a web component, was designed to provide up-to-date information and analysis on vehicle location, performance, and diagnostics to optimize the efficiency of the company’s complex trucking network.
“It’s about what gets measured gets managed,” says Brent Lamb, a Business Excellence Lead for AV Group NB. “We sought out Op Tracker for Transport because we didn’t have any way of measuring what was going on with our trucking. We just had an old system for paying for trucking that was based on a whole bunch of averages.”
Trucking accounts for a large component of AV Group NB’s wood costs and before OTT there was no way to get an accurate picture of what was happening on the ground throughout the expansive network of trucking routes that span New Brunswick. AV Group NB’s prior system for calculating trucking parameters was based on a series of averages that treated all origins, destinations, and trucking configurations the same way. The rate for a route was based on distance regardless of the type of truck or condition of the road. Paved highways were treated the same as gravel roads that took winding paths through the forest.
The old system did not provide a clear picture of what was happening in the field. It was difficult to calculate such critical operational variables as:
– Duration to load trucks at the block
– Duration of trip from the block to mill
– Duration to unload trucks at the mill
– Seasonal differences in fuel consumption
– Effect of truck configuration on fuel consumption
– Effect of road conditions on travel time
ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
Lim Geomatics and AV Group NB began a conversation in late 2015 after connecting at the Canadian Woodlands Forum. The company expressed interest in a digital, smart-tracking tool that would be both easy to use and simple to install. The OTT mobile app was installed in 50 logging trucks in May of 2016 and by June AV Group NB had enough data to start analyzing the performance of the fleet through OTT’s web application. The mobile app, which runs on a smart phone mounted to the truck’s dashboard, pulls data from the engine every few seconds. The data is transmitted to the cloud when the device is within cell or internet service and translated by the web application into a variety of detailed analytics about the fleet.
As of November 2019, Lamb estimates that 45 of the fleet’s 100 trucks are outfitted with units of OTT. Two thirds of those trucks transport round wood from the harvest blocks to the mill and the other third transport finished-product pulp from the mills to the port at Saint John. Only half the fleet require OTT in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the overall route network.
Contracts based on real-world data
One of the key benefits of OTT has been how it helped take the emotion and guesswork out of conversations with trucking contractors because everyone at the table has access to the same reliable data. “You’re paying based on how much time a trip actually takes for a load of wood and not based on an average,” says Lamb. “We were able to move past that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose idea. You’re paying based on the real numbers.”
AV Group NB also provides contractors with access to the web component of OTT so they can improve the day-to-day performance of their operations. Lamb describes how it’s essential for the success of AV Group NB to be able to draw on stable roster of healthy trucking contractors.
Patrick Filyer, a GIS Analyst with AV Group NB, regularly mines the data collected with OTT to implement operational improvements. “We are looking for real-world data to help us both monitor and manage our trucking logistics,” he says. “We’re able to use the data and the information from OTT to assist with strategic road maintenance, identify seasonal variations in trucking patterns, and even address public concerns about our trucking.”
The previous system for road maintenance was complaint driven or based on the old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease: a contractor called in and the grader was dispatched. Now that maintenance can happen much sooner because the data provides a timely visual of where trucks are forced to slow down. “We are able to identify slowdowns on certain sections of roads that we’ve graded before so they should be travelling faster down that certain area. We can see that without a visual inspection, which allows us to identify the need for maintenance on certain road corridors to increase our trucking speeds, which lowers delivery time and decreases cost,” says Filyer.
OTT also provides insight into other issues that can decrease truck speeds, such as if a brush cutter needs to be dispatched to improve the line of sight on the road. AV Group NB can also run a cost-benefit analysis on the value of straightening sections of roads that are particularly windy and slowing the fleet down. At the end of the day, OTT provides the on-the-ground data and analytical tools to get at the root causes of issues, often before they get to the point where they’re impacting the performance of the fleet. Filyer describes how OTT also empowers AV Group NB to better pinpoint best practices and then roll those improvements out across the entire operation.
As with all digital tools from Lim Geomatics, OTT is a living solution. The firm’s developers are constantly incorporating new capabilities based on feedback from clients. Lamb describes how several new features have been added to the web application over the years. His team can ask the system a variety of questions about fleet productivity and performance and get meaningful answers that then translate into business improvements. “The OTT app and the data we get from the units are both inextricably part of our lives now—we can’t do without them,” says Lamb.
SUMMARY OF BUSINESS BENEFITS REALIZED WITH OTT:
– Rapid improvement of trucking business
– Rapid improvement of trucking contractor business
– Enterprise architecture of OTT means the data that’s collected and stored in the cloud is compatible for a variety of use-cases and departments across the company
– Strategic road maintenance based on real-time data from OTT increases trucking speeds, which lowers deliver time, and decreases cost
– Smartphone device for mobile app is simple to install and easy to use
– Analysis of fuel usage by trip, road type, truck configuration, and seasonality
– Rates for trucking based on objective data and not past averages for route times.