Mobiles make an impact; mobile phones that is …
On the truck side, and doubtless on the fleet car side in future, tyre management has become king in controlling ppk and fixed price tyre contracts. The computerised analysis of data is not an uncommon concept and many firms have been utilising computer data management for their tyre contracts for some time. The weak link in the chain has always been at the data collection end of the chain. Fitters or inspectors checking and recording tyre data with clipboards is a slow process, subject to much error and the vagaries of the weather. Once the data is collected it then needs to be keyed into the database, a laborious and tedious process subject to much potential for error. There are systems available where electronic data gathering is made possible with wireless connections from tyre depth gauges to PDAs thence to the computers back at base. However, there is a reluctance to buy into, or use, electronic data gathering equipment. Conventional tyre depth gauges and pressure gauges are still the tool of choice. This leaves the main element (manpower excluded) in data collection the point at which the data is actually collected. InfoRoute had what it believed to be the answer to tyre management software, but time and time again fleet tyre management people would listen keenly and respond to any presentation with the statement that “it is the data collection that is the weak point.”
InfoRoute realised that the challenge to be faced was not so much one of selling the software but creating and perfecting the data collection link to improve the collection and flow of tyre inspection data. This was the challenge InfoRoute faced. Truck Tyre Manager, a powerful tyre management PC program had already been developed but data input had to be automatic with no delays. The traditional data collection route could give information as much as six working days out of date. What was needed was a simple to use, readily accessed, cheap, weatherproof system.
InfoRoute found the ideal solution was already in use by every tyre fitter in the country: a mobile phone. Everyone already knows how to use a mobile phone, so that immediately removes acceptance, training, support and cost issues. One hand operation lets you check tyres and enter details at the same time. InfoRoute calls the system Inspector Link.
InfoRoute developed special programs to receive and send vehicle and inspection details between Truck Tyre Manager on the PC and the phone. Working closely with tyre fitters and managers InfoRoute designed single key input routines to guide the tyre inspector. First of all a vehicle is selected by entering the start of the registration or fleet number. The wheel configuration displays and the speedometer reading is entered. Then the front off side tyre is highlighted. Select the make, enter the depth and if there are no faults move on to the next tyre. If the tyre has a problem simple menus allow the inspector to pick a fault and select the action needed. At any time the inspection can be reviewed and altered. A “view actions” menu highlights vehicles needing attention. At any point the inspection can be completed and details transmitted back to the office. Vehicles not yet checked remain on the phone to be checked later.
The phone operates off line, so there is no connection charge while you are inspecting vehicles and it does not depend on having a signal. Inspector Link can be used anywhere. Protected by a weather proof case, fastened to the inspector wrist by a cord the unit can’t fall to the ground. So far InfoRoute has not had any equipment failures or breakages. It doesn’t need any special computer equipment to transmit data, it is just like sending a text. In about a minute you can send and receive details of hundreds of vehicles.