Carriers must treat IoT as a product, not a project

Carriers must treat IoT as a product, not a project

Changes in technology are influencing and impacting our world and the supply chain and logistics industry is not immune. One of the most impactful trends embraced by our industry is the implementation of IoT. While new solutions allow us to stay ahead of competitors, best practices are needed for those implementations to be successful.

As the transportation industry progresses through rapid technological advancement and the need for real-time information, organizations can miss opportunities to gain a competitive edge by implementing technology as a project versus treating it as a “product.” The capability of an organization to adapt and scale becomes a competitive advantage, and the ability to collect, process, store, and integrate with both internal and external parties becomes critical. IoT lays an important foundation that requires both investment and evolution. At Trimac, we sought to provide better visibility of product state throughout the delivery process to our dispatch teams and customers. We identified a gap in our service offerings when data and reporting were delayed or sometimes non-existent. Applying the capabilities of IoT to our equipment helps us operate more efficiently and offer greater transparency to our customers.

IoT deployments are predominantly treated by transportation companies as projects with well-defined deliverables, such as installs on a target fleet within a specified time. Alternatively, a new technology launched from the perspective of a product allows organizations to treat the installation as the start of a continuous development process focused on delivering cost-effective solutions for existing problems and enabling the business to achieve higher levels of operational performance.

To successfully deliver IoT as a product, our teams started by crafting and understanding stakeholder personas. Once those personas were agreed upon, the next step involved identifying their needs using a “Jobs To be Done” framework. What this framework enabled us to do is to focus on what the personas need to accomplish their daily tasks, instead of what the technology can do for them. 

For Trimac, the persona was crafted around dispatchers, shop technicians, drivers, and customers. Interviewing each of the personas was an integral part of the process and shed important light and revealed relevant documentation on the “Jobs to be Done” framework.

Each of the documented “Jobs to Be Done” was then tied to specific objectives for the organization. Some of those identified were classified around improved productivity, driver experience, cost-saving opportunities, safety, and more. As the needs were identified, the product was targeted in an IoT gateway using sensors on our fleet’s trailers. It is also in this phase that the foundations of the business case and measures of success were defined and established.

Once the specific needs were identified, vendors were engaged so we could discover their specific requirements. Because of the evolutionary nature of the product, when selecting a vendor, it becomes important to identify one that is interested in evolving its offerings through a continuous feedback mechanism. We validated a “partnership” based on the vendor’s level of engagement and the skills of their technical product managers and engineers.

An example of a “job to be done” was how to manage the shipment and delivery of temperature-sensitive products that either maintain a minimum or maximum temperature during shipment or arrive above a set temperature at delivery. Currently, the process relies on driver readings. Those measurements have limited visibility by both Trimac and the customer. The opportunity IoT presented was to automate the data collection and support broader visibility of the data both internally and externally.

We learned that to maximize the return on investment, a successful IoT program should be managed as a product focusing on three key elements:

1. Have a deep understanding of the personas impacted and the jobs they need to do;

2. Select vendor(s) who will partner with you to improve the hardware and integration experience; and

3. Continually evolve capabilities and analytics to solve more complex business problems.

It is worth mentioning that not only does IoT provide direct benefits to improve current business processes, but also assists organizations in being well-positioned to tap into other technologies that start bleeding into transportation, such as cloud computing, 5G, and blockchain.

Bolstered by the learnings from this first project implementing IoT to solve challenges, we look forward to finding new and creative ways to apply the problem-solving methodology to other areas of the business.

Weekly Brief

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