Tuesday, 19 September 2017 22:04

Autocare streamlines automation of vehicle movement processing with Toughpad


When you need more than meets the eye, Panasonic’s Toughpad has proven tough enough to boost productivity at Australia’s largest automotive logistics company, Autocare.

When you’re a supply chain company that “handles over one million vehicle transport movements annually for major vehicle manufacturers, importers and dealers, including on-vessel scanning, on-wharf processing and direct dealer delivery”, you obviously need some pretty rugged equipment to handle the rigours of business.

You also need a system that can reliably replace paper forms and documents, while capturing and sharing "important real-time customer data and job management updates".

Well, it turns out that Victorian company Autocare is the supply chain company in question with all those vehicle transport movements, and with paper forms and documents in play, and being a “key contributor to errors that impacted on customer satisfaction”, along with the drivers of Autocare’s fleet of vehcile transporters relying on “older mobile devices operating on a slow and unreliable 2G network”. With that 2G network from any telco in Australia now no longer existing at all today, it was clearly time to change to a much better system.

So, it should come as no surprise to see Panasonic reporting that Autocare has chosen “the Panasonic FZ-B2 Toughpad to automate and streamline the processing of vehicle movements across Australia, boosting productivity for the organisation".

Panasonic’s range of Toughpads and Toughbooks is legendary in the world of business, with even some people even choosing to use Panasonic’s Toughbooks as their consumer or business devices simply because they’re just so much more robust than the traditional competition.

The details are that Autocare needed to increase productivity levels across the company’s 330-strong vehicle fleet and reduce costs related to system failures and errors at the same time.

As noted above, Autocare made the decision to invest in Panasonic’s Toughpads, which in this case were Panasonic’s rugged Android tablet devices with a “built-in scanner to replace legacy hardware".

Mark Povah, national IT and systems manager, Autocare, said: “We needed to act quickly to upgrade our technology to stay competitive and ensure we were giving the best customer service possible. The Toughpad FZ-B2 was the only solution that could deliver a truly rugged system that was also easy for our drivers to use and could withstand the different environments we operate in.

“Panasonic addressed our need to automate and streamline our processes, and enabled us to innovate our business to ensure we’re competing with the best of the best. Most importantly, our increased agility and productivity has helped us better service our customers.”

Now, we’re told that “despite the devices remaining inside the truck cabin much of the day, it was important for the Toughpads to be able to function in the harsh outdoor conditions encountered in the vehicle loading process – such as weather, condensation and dust".

“An integrated scanner was also needed for truck drivers to quickly process jobs when loading and delivering vehicles; along with the ability to capture data across vehicle movements, driver management and GPS tracking, which could automatically be sent to the Autocare TMS (transportation management system) to update customers in real-time.”

Autocare reports that Panasonic’s “fully rugged 7-inch FZ-B2 was the right tool, with its highly configurable Android operating system, backed by field reliability with a sealed dust and water-resistant design, extended 14- hour battery life and anti-reflection daylight viewable display".

Autocare didn’t just jump in blindly or on faith either – both companies report the partnership “initially commenced on a trial basis, with Autocare testing four of the FZ-B2 Toughpads".

However, after an “overwhelmingly positive response among users and tangible benefits being seen instantly, the company has invested in 330 Toughpads across the business operating on a 4G network".

As a result, Autocare reports that “device usage in the business has soared – increasing from below 45% with the previous solution to 97% with the Toughpad".

The has meant that the “total cost of ownership has also been dramatically reduced compared to the previous solution as less time and investment is spent on repairing and replacing devices".

In addition, the company says its “productivity and accuracy has increased now that drivers are not waiting for load information, and vehicle movements and TMS updates are rapidly processed automatically. Driver communication has also been streamlined, with less need for emails, phone calls and SMS".

Povah continued: “Implementing new technology has been a challenge in the past as it takes time and effort to train staff. The training and development that Panasonic’s reseller, Gamma Solutions, provided to us was exceptional and meant the whole team was confident in using the Toughpads from day one.”

Paul Pleming, national sales manager at integrator Gamma Solutions, said: “Arranging installation across a 330-strong fleet in a relatively short time period could have proved a tall order, but being meticulous with pre-testing and preliminary meetings was the key as this enabled us to avoid any teething problems for the business.

“We’ve worked with Autocare for the last 16 years so there is a trust and a great working relationship which makes everything that bit easier - it’s remarkable how much the technology has developed in this period but with Panasonic’s Toughpads, there’s no doubt we’re ahead of the game.”

Marc Amelung, general manager, Mobile Solutions, Panasonic Australia, said: “The business that is ready for the future is a mobile one. Our work with leading transport and logistics provider Autocare demonstrates how the FZ-B2 Toughpad’s durable, powerful and customisable Android capabilities are the ideal mobile solution for organisations with field-based workers, who want to upgrade from pen-and- paper to increase productivity and improve performance while reducing total cost of ownership.”

So, what next?

Well, following on from the initial rollout, Autocare says it will “now be integrating various critical driver management tools on the Toughpad tablet, including fatigue management, messaging, documents and driver score cards. In addition, one of Autocare’s other divisions is now trialling the FZ-A2 10-inch Android Toughpad, with plans to deploy an additional 30 units".

Yes, this article is derived from a case study from Panasonic reporting on Autocare’s success, but the whole idea of modern technology is to deliver exactly these kind of benefits to end-users and companies, and so it is refreshing to see companies truly benefitting from the technology at hand and dramatically increasing productivity because of it.

Naturally, it helps that Panasonic’s extensive experience in creating durable business-class ruggedised devices for decades delivers devices that can take a licking and keep on ticking, so whether it is Android or Windows that your business uses, whether in tablet, notebook, 2-in-1 or handheld devices, there’s no question that Panasonic would like the opportunity to show its products and services to you.

Whether you take them up on their offer is up to you, and there certainly are competitors out there who’d want to get your attention too, but given all technologies have a life span and need upgrading at some point, whether at home, in business, on the road, in the warehouse, boardroom or wherever you happen to be, there’s no question that the right new devices, technologies and services can definitely up your productivity and set you free from the limitations of the past!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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