Measuring Safety and Efficiency

–By Chuck Lane, Solution Engineer, Webtech Wireless

Chuck Lane is a solution engineer with Webtech Wireless who lives in central Florida. He contributes blog posts focusing on technical solutions in the field. Below he describes one solution we’ve developed to help Tampa Electric improve its safety and efficiency of work crews.


Co-Location Report – Where Are Our Supervisors?

When we approached Tampa Electric in 2011 about the need for a GPS fleet tracking system, we found the words “safety” and “efficiency” were of utmost importance. Tampa Electric was interested in how the system would help them to operate more safely and increase overall efficiency of their vehicle fleet relating to customer service. As the two companies sorted through the business requirements and what possible Webtech Wireless features may be of interest to Tampa Electric, the issue of the need for a Co-Location report came up.

A Co-Location report shows how much time a supervisor spends supervising a service crew. Tampa Electric was convinced that a supervisor’s time should be spent in the field supervising work crews rather than in the office. Tampa Electric maintains that this will increase the safety of the crew as well as efficiency.

How does the Co-Location report improve safety and efficiency?

Safety – Much of the work Tampa Electric crews do is dangerous work. There is the persistent risk of workers getting injured or kill through falls from hydro poles or electrocution. Having the supervisor on site reduces these risks. Tampa Electric wanted to know where its supervisors were. As with GPS-based speeding data, behavior changes if people know they’re “being watched”. Visibility increases compliance.

Efficiency – Tampa Electric uses its fleet GPS tracking in a number of ways to improve efficiency. For example, knowing when vehicles enter and exit geofence areas ensures drivers and supervisors are working together towards a common goal.

Overcoming Challenges

A number of issues needed to be overcome in order to get the report to work properly. The situation where a vehicle is parked on or near a parking lot boundary (night time off duty area) had to be compensated for due to the fact that GPS “jump” readings sometimes occur. The fact that the lead and supervisor vehicles could move at any time creating the need for the creation of new geofence boundaries and calculations was also a concern that must be accommodated.

Several design sessions were held and Tampa Electric input was captured. A rollout of GPS/AVL units to the Tampa Electric fleet was started with the expectation that the Co-Location report would be available in the near future. A report release was made available several months later. The design and functioning of the report went through several changes, particularly overcoming the challenge of parking lot boundaries mentioned above as well as remedying GPS data, which required some trial and error adjustments. When these were addressed by Webtech Wireless engineers, the new report was released.

At this point it is probably good to point out how the report works and some of the challenges that had to be overcome in order to get the report to produce good information:

How it works…

A worksite is defined by the location of a “lead vehicle”. The lead vehicle must be stopped (ignition off or idle) for more than five minutes before a worksite is created (configurable). Worksites extend a configurable radius from the lead vehicle (default: 200 feet).

Special Geofences can be created to ensure that the lead vehicles do not create worksites when parked in company depots or other common locations. The worksite is a dynamic landmark, meaning it does not appear on the map, is not visible in Landmark reports, and is deleted when the lead vehicle moves on.

Co-Location Admin

The Report…

The report is grouped by supervisor vehicle. For each supervisor, the information is grouped by lead vehicle and by day. Information includes time range, lead truck location by address, total time in range of lead vehicle, number of visits, and percentage of time in range of lead vehicle.

Co-Location Vehicle Name
Daily totals for each supervisor are easy to view!
Co-Location Daily totals

Measuring Success

Although there were challenges, Tampa Electric stood by the solution as report modifications were made to produce a report that was reliable and could be distributed to Tampa Electric supervisors with confidence of accurate results.

Currently, Tampa Electric is using this report and distributing among supervisors for review. The original goals of increased safety and efficiency have been met. The Tampa Electric supervisors are aware that their actual time in contact with their work crews is now being measured.

An Ounce of GPS Prevention

CalVans

For CalVans (California Vanpool Authority), success is not measured by how it makes the news, but from its successful avoidance. While the Media may feast on stories of accidents and negligence, CalVans relaxes in the knowledge that “No news is good news”.

Originally established in 2001 with just one van, CalVans was since grown to more than 200 vanpools designed for the unique needs of commuters, students, and farm workers. By providing a cost-effective and convenient alternative to commuter driving, while meeting the needs of the State’s environmental and transportation needs, CalVans is a vital part in a growing community transportation network.

Using Webtech Wireless’ GPS/AVL tracking is part of what makes CalVans a no-news success story, because it helps prevent accidents, theft, and other bad news from filling the papers:

  • Drivers, passengers, and all users of the road are safer because drivers are alerted in real-time when they speed, and speeding reports help CalVans monitor its drivers.
  • Through theft prevention and driver authentication, insurance premiums are kept low.
  • By providing an alternative to California’s notorious highway gridlock while helping to reduce C02 emissions, CalVans qualifies for State grants and other funding.
  • Fleet vehicles last longer because the Webtech Wireless Maintenance Portal enables CalVans to pro-actively monitor engine status and schedule van maintenance.

Navigating the Digital Oil Field

Digital-Oil-Field

With supplies of easy oil running low, oil and gas companies are increasingly turning to technology to help them get the most out of the extraction process.  Around the world, energy companies are advancing the limits of digital oil field technology, a recently coined term to describe this emerging segment of the industry.

The “digital oil field” describes computer technology deployed to automate oil and gas extraction, and it’s given a lot of attention for good reason. The digital oil field is worth a lot of money. According to Booz & Company, a leading global management consulting firm, “digital oil field technologies could increase the net present value of oil and gas assets by 25%”. The global digital oil field market is estimated to be worth $18.7 billion and is forecast to reach $33.3 billion by 2022.

Digital oil field technology aids a wide array of Oil and Gas activities from exploration, surveying, development, and well completion to data integration of seismic imaging, drilling, process completion, reservoir modeling, and production optimization. This information is then fed to data centers in real-time, allowing experts in the industry to optimize production and minimize downtime.

While not generally included within the description of digital oil field technologies, telematics operates on the same principle—making better business decisions because you have the data to show where your vehicles are and what your drivers are doing in real-time. For example, with an automated tool for tracking vehicle whereabouts, IFTA fuel-tax information is gathered automatically and therefore accurately and these accuracies save you substantial revenue from higher taxes. Also, you don’t miss out on additional savings if you operate in jurisdictions in which offer off-road usage earns fuel-tax credits.

Operationally, you can maximize your resources as we have proven by doubling efficiency at
Troyer Ventures. And as data accumulates over time, your ability to budget and forecast improves exponentially because you have accurate and historical data at your fingertips.

Finding the Right Fleet GPS for a Livable City

Port Metro Vancouver
Images courtesy of Port Metro Vancouver

Vancouver has always prided itself as a livable city. Year after year, Vancouver tops the list as “world’s most livable city”. One unintended result—stemming from its freeway wars of the 1960s and 70s that put a finish to highway construction—was that the city’s residential streets would find themselves hosting long queues of Port container and long-haul truck traffic.

While Port Metro Vancouver does not operate container trucking companies or container trucks of its own, with 149 privately-owned trucking companies sending over 2,000 trucks to the Port, it has found itself at the diplomatic center of a delicate balance between trucking and city politics.

Last year after Port Metro Vancouver closed its receiving entrance on Clark Drive (a designated truck route), residents quickly noticed a huge increase in container truck traffic on Nanaimo Street (a primarily residential street). With complaints flooding in from constituents, City Hall put pressure on Port Metro Vancouver to do something to reduce this congestion.

In a special pilot program, Port Metro Vancouver equipped 300 container trucks with GPS tracking devices to send information to Port authorities about what routes Port-bound trucks were using. In a recent interview with The Vancouver Sun, Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester described the pilot program  as having “already brought results”.

As with CP Rail (another customer of the Port), it vastly improved turnaround time at the Port. “It’s really looking at having a minimal number of trucks in the Lower Mainland,” Sylvester said, adding the Port hopes to reduce the number of trucks leaving without cargo by 30 to 40 per cent. “That would be fantastic. We’re building the tools to move toward that goal.” Based on the improvements in efficiency, the Port is looking to outfit all licensed trucks to its facilities with a GPS solution soon. The program is voluntary and free to licensed trucks serving the Port facilities.

Port Metro VancouverWhile the City of Vancouver is always keen to retain its “most livable city” designation, it also has big incentives to see trucks and commercial vehicles move efficiently.  With over $200-million worth of cargo moving through the port each day, the City must balance the needs of trucks and commercial vehicles positively with the overall health of the city.

The City enforces truck route regulations based on public complaints and safety inspections, but now Port Metro Vancouver can be pro-active. “The GPS (units) will create a system where we’re more pro-active rather than waiting until a community raises a concern”, Silvester said.

Business Intelligence from Intelligent Communities

Business Intelligence from Intelligent Communities

You need to have some forbearance for municipalities that raced to keep up with demand for web-based communication systems suitable to desktop computers only to watch their constituents abandon fixed computers in favor of mobile devices, particularly smartphones. While the trend toward increased mobile device usage by constituents is only speeding up, the core theme (beyond the flip flops in technology) continues to be toward citizen-driven real-time communications.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
—Stephen Hawking

Municipalities are now embracing new technologies (such as smartphone apps) not just to keep up with their constituents, but as a means to making their services readily available and scalable to people’s diverse needs. For example, municipalities must respond to a pro-active population that takes for granted the ability to see details about snow plow route completion, traffic congestion, parking restrictions and emergency situation alerts. Constituents want to live in intelligent communities. But what makes a community intelligent?

Citizen-Centered Services

Martin Duggan, vice president of market strategy at IBM, recently described in The Atlantic how public-sector departments must depart from the old service-delivery models and become more collaborative with their constituents. He stresses that “Today there is a shift toward citizen-centered services…” which in effect is saying communication has left push mode (government) and entered pull mode (citizen) as never before.

In Drawing Intelligence from Data, I described how business owners are becoming overwhelmed with the amount of data that’s now being collected—93% of CEOs believe they are losing opportunities from a lack of tools to handle this data. While constituents demand information at ever-increasing rates—and in real-time—organizations and businesses must make sense of it all.

One of our customers, Ville de Québec, sought to make sense of it all by tying the data it gathered from its snow plows using Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet solution to how it communicated with its constituents. It had large amounts of information it could use to inform constituents via an interactive web map and provide real-time locations of the city’s snow plows. For this, and other intelligent initiatives, Ville de Québec was nominated as an intelligent community.

What’s next for communities with data on their hands? Could past seasons of weather data be layered to forecast upcoming budgets for salt requirements on city roads? What are municipalities doing to become intelligent communities with business intelligence?

Know Where You Stand

While Webtech Wireless’ Customer Care supports two main communication tracks (email and a Customer Care website), it’s the latter track that is winning over our customers. The reason? The Customer Care website is designed expressly with the customer in mind.

“From the point of view of the Technical Support Team, it doesn’t matter if customers email or use the Customer Care website”, says Andrew Hwang, Technical Support Lead, “because we have our own internal process that ensures we track customers however they contact us. But to our customers, the Customer Care website gives them much more visibility into the status of their technical requests than sending us an email.”

And that’s the beauty of the Customer Care website. Customers have extensive visibility, or as Andrew puts it, “they know where they stand”.

Having a single place for communication is ideal for trucking fleets that may not have extensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to integrate internal and external information across their organization. In plain language, that means it is better than relying on email, and as everybody knows, email gets lost, is tied to individual users, and if not continuously culled, becomes overwhelming.

Customer Care Portal Ticket

Customers who have technical issues can log in, create a new ticket, search and view the status of tickets (even for tickets submitted by other employees at the same company), view the history of closed tickets, and even attach documents (such as PDF and Excel files) to tickets.

Just as Webtech Wireless excels at providing visibility to fleet management—from finding trucks on the road to business intelligence drawn from data gathered by GPS fleet tracking—customers can expect the same level of visibility when getting technical support.

If you’re not already signed up with the Customer Care Website, what’s stopping you? Visit http://www.webtechwireless.com/en/contact/ and sign up today!

Moving: The Cat’s Meow

When you help me downsize my house, a hungry kitten gets fed.

 

That’s right, I’m aligning with the BC SPCA (Vancouver) to ensure the contents of my house are sold and I can move to a smaller living space. In the process, I’m donating a portion of the sale proceeds to the SPCA.

 

There’s a showing at my house this Sunday afternoon (Dec. 9) from 2 to 5 pm.
See what’s for sale.

 

What’s in it for me? I get to share in the spirit of Christmas.

Moving: When a raven is like a writing desk

Moving house is always mad, mad, and more mad. And this move is the maddest of all. This is the big downsize move in which I turn a three-story house into a one-bedroom condo.

Downsizing

To that end, I have a vast number of things to divest myself of (ranging from appliances and antiques to curios and gardening tools). With Christmas just around the corner, I’d like to view this more as an opportunity to make some important changes in my life in a way that benefits others. So, instead of a personal liquidation sale, it’s my way to lighten my load—a bourgeois potlatch, so to speak. Some items I’m selling, some I’m asking you to donate to a local charity, and some I’m giving away.

 

 

C.G.Koens, Implementation Specialist & Editor, Weaving Influence

Ottawa-noel“You all are really going above and beyond on the blog posts! Jason, really enjoyed your post today about Ottawa and I LOVED the picture. In my experience, people are more apt to click through a link with a fun picture – so well done. Thanks for making my job easier (and more fun)!”
—C.G.Koens, Implementation Specialist & Editor, Weaving Influence

Winter Fleets—Let’s Celebrate!

This winter, thousands of locals and visitors alike will don their skates and glide effortlessly along the Rideau Canal Skateway, a highlight of winter in Ottawa and the world’s longest skating rink. At 7.8 kilometres long, the Rideau Canal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s best known as a winter wonderland as it wends its way from the steps of Canada’s majestic parliament buildings through the heart of downtown Ottawa and finally winds up at Dows Lake skating rink.

Unlike many cities, Ottawa comes to life in the winter when the frozen canal becomes the focus of winter festivities such as its Christmas Lights across Canada, featuring over 300,000 multi-coloured lights, and its popular Winterlude, held in February, make Ottawa a winter destination. For most city Public Works departments, winter is the time to prevent streets from becoming the world’s longest skating rink. But Ottawa’s got that handled too.

In 2009, The City of Ottawa implemented the Webtech Wireless InterFleet winter operations solution for government fleets, because it supports an extensive array of sensor integrations (road temperature sensors, spreader controllers, plow sensors) and boasts ten-second reporting and turn-by-turn navigation. With InterFleet, it gained visibility into how much salt its third-party contractors were using and with that came the ability to identify excess salt. Not surprisingly, by reducing excess salt usage, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

“Installing GPS technology in our salt spreader vehicles is a great way to help us reduce the amount of road salt we use, and reduce costs at the same time,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, “By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”

Due to its negative impact on the environment, particularly drinking water supplies, the City of Ottawa actively encourages residents and snow removal contractors to reduce the rock salt they use. Ottawa’s Public Works Department is always looking for innovative means to reduce salt usage and it found GPS technology linked to its electronic salt spreader controllers to be one of the most effective ways to track salt usage. It actively promotes the Smart About Salt Council to increase awareness about eliminating rock salt and using resources more effectively.

Ten-second real-time reporting provides supervisors with the information they need to handle winter effectively. No matter where they are—the office, home, or vehicle—supervisors can respond immediately to events as they unfold, confident that the information they are looking at in their InterFleet solution is completely accurate and up to date.

So, when the temperature drops this winter, it’s time to celebrate!

Check the skating conditions on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Find out more great ideas about things to see and do when you visit Ottawa and Gatineau this winter at Canada’s Capital Region!

Photos courtesy of National Capital Commission