A simple question in 2018 changed the way TDM captured its trucking data. Marc Black asked the office to provide him with the details of a job.
“I was handed a stack of dockets,” said Marc. “This got me thinking. Why can’t we get trucking job details delivered to our phones or tablets in real time?”
TDM’s old paper-based system involved drivers filling in a docket each time they took a load on board. There might be nine different loads carried for three different clients over the course of a working day – and that’s just for one driver. At day’s end, all the dockets would be placed in a container in the truck yard for collection by office staff, and the drivers would go home.
A day or two later, all the information from the dockets would be manually entered into spreadsheets in the head office, and the process of accounting and invoicing could begin. But Marc wanted something better.
Marc started with Google, researching mobile data capture in the trucking industry. His online research turned up an AMS affiliate – HHA Associates. So Marc got in touch and found himself talking to software analyst Sarah Bennett.
“I explained what I had in mind and gave her one of our paper dockets. She agreed all the data I was looking for could be captured and made available online,” said Marc.
Sarah used the AMS platform to build a test version of the app Marc envisaged. Within a short time they had created a working version, which Marc gave to two of his drivers to trial for a fortnight. The drivers were equipped with rugged Samsung tablets and shown how to use the app in place of their old dockets.
The app design was intuitive, with simple drop down menus to select the relevant client and project name for each haulage job. Then all the driver had to do was enter the source (for example, a quarry or building site), docket number, tonnage and destination. At the end of the job the virtual docket was completed, and then automatically dispatched via the mobile phone network.
Marc then received an email on his own tablet, in close to real time. He could check on the status of jobs, whether he was in the field, back at the office or even after dinner that night. The same email would be sent to Annette so she could efficiently transfer job information into spreadsheets and enter it into the computer system.
Instead of a two to three-day delay, current information would be constantly updated.
A fortnight’s trial was enough to show that mobile data, captured by an AMS app and transmitted live to managers and back office staff, was the way to go. So all the company’s remaining drivers were equipped with tablets, shown how to use the app (which didn’t take long), and sent out on the road. Docket books were retired.
Marc Black says it’s made a big difference to efficiency. “Mum used to spend six or seven hours on data entry every week, and now she only needs an hour or so. Instead of manually entering every detail of every job, she just needs to check the information provided by the app.”
In addition to daily updates, the system generates weekly and monthly reports for Marc and his colleagues, providing them with oversight of all the trucking operations. The app also makes life easier when it’s time to bill clients
“If I’m at home and I need to invoice someone, I can do it on the spot. I don’t need to track the information down and wait until it arrives. And if Mum takes a holiday, I don’t have to take over her old data entry role. It’s not really productive for me to sit down for four hours of data entry at the end of the day.”
Having seen the potential for replacing paper forms with apps, Marc is introducing an additional AMS app to record leave applications from employees. He’s also on track to create an app and tablet-based system to replace the job sheets used by mechanics in the company’s workshop. The goal is to eventually provide TDM’s customers with real-time updates on their mechanical repair jobs, sent via email.
It’s a long way from the days of paper, pens and scribbled handwriting.
Marc found the whole experience refreshingly straightforward. Working with AMS affiliate HHA Associates was a process he enjoyed.
“Sarah is amazing,” he said. “She quickly worked out what we needed from an app and answered all my questions. She also taught me how to do things, like change templates, so now I can make changes without needing to call her.
“Nothing dragged on, and we’ve saved a lot of time. We’ll definitely be creating more apps.”
- TDM Construction is a family-owned civil construction company based in the Auckland and Waikato regions, and working closely with large organisations such as Downer and Ryman.
- Marc Black, who heads the trucking operations, wanted to replace the traditional docket system used for recording details of each load the company’s nine truck drivers handled every day.
- Working with HHA Associates, Marc developed an app on the AMS platform to capture tonnage, location and time information on every job.
- Trucking job details are automatically sent on completion to Marc and his colleagues, providing real-time information on trucking jobs for accounting and invoicing purposes.
- Weekly and monthly reports are also generated.
- Back office data entry time has been reduced from six or seven hours per week to just one hour.
- TDM is now looking to build more apps on the AMS platform, including leave forms and mechanical workshop job sheets.