Solving the truck computer mystery

June 1, 2004 By    

OK, so we aren’t the most adventurous industry when it comes to technology.

Those of us who waited when the first truck computer devices came out might
have not have been so dumb. Many marketers were heard to say, “But the
cost is too great” when the initial offerings appeared about 15 years ago.
That proved to be correct in many situations, but if a marketer paid $5,000
to $10,000 per truck to automate they might not have been so dumb.

If the savings achieved were $5,000 a year per truck and the cost was $20,000
per truck, it might still have been a good investment. The ‘too much argument’
begins to ring hollow when one sees that almost every other segment of the transportation industry has aggressively embraced on board technology.
What do they know that we don’t?

Here are some simple guidelines:

When you automate, remember: You should own the technology…it shouldn’t
own you. If the supplier of the product can’t explain the technology and the
savings in simple terms, find a supplier who can. The system will be used by
employees not ‘rocket scientists.’ Remember this when you’re looking at the
total solution.

If your current ‘back office’ supplier has an offering be sure to look at
it. Your software vendor knows your business as well as anyone. If they tell
you that they only support their own product and will not interface to a third
party product, beware!

It is not about the hardware. It is about the productivity solution. Ask about
the “value equation.” Where will the savings be? What companies will
vouch for these savings having been achieved?

What are you buying? The device cost varies from zero dollars for a cellular
phone that doubles as a truck computer (that’s right, zero dollars) to up to
$5,000 plus for a ruggedized PC or handheld computer that you can throw on the
floor and it still works. If the trend is to a low cost or a no cost device,
is $5,000 worth of rugged worth the price?

It is the application of the technology to your business that matters. The
business solution ‘trumps’ hardware and overall cost for that matter. Yes, the
solution you may buy today for $3,000 per truck may have cost $6,000 three years
ago, and it might cost $1,500 three years from now. If it saves you $6,000 a
year per truck today in hard dollar delivery costs, the cost of inaction is
much greater than the savings achieved by waiting.

Some vendors will now offer the hardware and software solution on a subscription
or pay as you go basis. This is not a fixed term lease but effectively a year
to year rental agreement. Now isn’t this an incentive for the supplier to keep
you, the customer, happy? This may be the way of the future.

“Our hand-held computer is so smart you can store the complete branch
database on it.” Some suppliers talk about this and it sounds good on the
surface; then you think about the having your whole list of customers available
to anyone on the street who can download data from a PC, a hand-held or a Palm
Pilot. Maybe having all of your customers loaded on all truck devices is a risk
that you don’t want to take. In this case, less might be better.

It really isn’t complicated and on-board technology does work for a lot of
companies. Maybe this is the time to put this on your corporate agenda.

Can you hear me now?

This article is tagged with , , , , and posted in Current Issue

Comments are currently closed.