Thursday, 16 February 2017

Technology isn't "Fashionable" in the Transport Industry

With technology advancing daily, it is very difficult to keep up with the ever progressing world of digital technology.

A1 Coaches are a forward thinking company and try their very hardest to keep up to date with ever changing times without becoming consumed or overwhelmed by the digital world around us.
Going back to my first months in the company, there was neither real structure nor computerized systems in place. However, the systems that were in place worked for the work load A1 Coaches had at that given time. We were working from good ole pen and paper!

As the company grew and more staff and vehicles were introduced, it was clear that we needed to pay more attention to our company structure to ensure maximum fleet utilization and the only way around that was to change from working manually to introducing computerized structured systems.
In 1997, I had a conversation with my Granddad about us buying a computer and possibly looking for some software that would help us manage the operations side of the business; he reluctantly agreed and we bought a Dell Computer system, we had the Internet installed and before long we had a reasonably well constructed computerized way of working.

I myself had no real computer skills as I always chose to skip I.T. to go to P.E. Department but I did know back then that computers were the way forward. At school I never sought I.T. as one of my learning priorities as I always wanted to become a Fitness Instructor or a PE teacher, I never saw myself working in our Family Business, however I did know computing was the correct choice and I knew that I could learn, then teach anyone else who needed to learn the system(s).

After a short period of time and a steep learning curve of trying to familiarize myself with using a computer system, e-mails and logging hires on the computer system, my Granddad saw the impact it had on the business and the reduction of man hours in operations.  He then told me to go ahead and look for all necessary software that would help manage operations even better.

In 1998, we introduced a transport operating system by Distinctive Systems called "Coach Manager PHC". This software was a turning point for A1 Coaches as this freed up time from the manual data input and allowed for a more automated operation, resulting in more time to focus on Sales and Marketing, which of course had a very positive impact on the business, letting us grow more.
You often find that businesses in the transport industry have elderly managers/owners, generally older people who are not interested in the digital world as they know the manual systems better.

Normally, the people who own transport businesses have grew up in the industry and it is not really a massively evolving industry, keeping up with technology is not really "fashionable" in the transport industry but I know the impact it has had on our own business.  Even Taxi companies were not really into using technology, up until a around 2011. I remember when we decided to add a taxi service to our existing business (not our brightest idea) we decided to incorporate hand held devices for the drivers and a digital dispatch operating system, no other taxi company in the area had this system but after a short time of us being operational other companies were deciding to go down the systematized route too.

This is what I mean by technology isn't fashionable, unless you make it fashionable.  You must be a trend setter in your industry and dominate the changes you would like to see happen. One of the changes I would like to see happen in the transport industry is for companies to become more involved with technology to help improve the transport service they offer.

I think if we were still to be operating manually we would not be in business today. I know there are many coach operators who have failed as they have not been able to move with the times and sometimes are not able to comply with legislation because most things are computerised nowadays, including tendering for work.

A1 Coaches have moved from working manually to becoming a completely computerised and system dependent company rather than being people dependent, If something isn't working it should be the system that is re-visited rather than the people.

Over the last 18 months we have been getting custom software developed for our business, times have changed drastically since 1998 and the way we were working with Coach Manager, we now have a new system in place which is called E Coach Manager. This software offers vehicle/driver allocation/tracking and a complete customer CRM system.

Today we have done some staff training with our new Driver app, our drivers were learning how to log in and accept/decline hires straight from their mobiles. The drivers have a complete record of their hires at their finger tips along with directions. All our vehicles and drivers are now tracked straight from our operations and maintenance office; we have a "one glance" system in place to find out where our whole fleet of vehicles and drivers are. Drivers can notify our maintenance team of any difficulties in real-time and be kept up to date with any road accidents or events that may cause delay to their journey.

We have also had another Driver/Vehicle Performance device fitted to most of our vehicles but I will write another blog post about this. Exciting times lie ahead for A1 Coaches.

Each system/process we implement within the company always has a clear purpose behind it. We always trial things out before we roll them out. If things don't quite go to plan then we re-visit and re-direct accordingly!

What are we trying to do? How are we going to do it, and more importantly, Why are we doing it?
The “why”, that is, the purpose of our structured systems is to improve customer experience by creating flawless operational systems.

A1 Minibus and Coach Services LTD want to make technology fashionable in the transport industry!

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