Machine Learning and Automation in Fleet Management

Harnessing enormous value from machine learning and artificial intelligence using Cloud-based fleet and mobility management.

November 25, 2020
Future of Fleet

We talk to guest Andrew​ Considine – Chief Revenue Officer, Innovation Group, on our latest topic of machine learning and automation in fleet management. Andrew has successfully led product and growth teams globally to deliver modern technology solutions that drive growth with a customer-first and data-driven approach. As part of our “Ask an Expert” sessions in the fleet and mobility industry, Andrew has been kind enough to share his time and expertise and speak with us on this hot topic.

Where do you see automation in fleet management tasks such as repair and claims management, adding the most value to corporate fleet teams?

There's an enormous amount of value to be gained in the entire supply chain's automation, including repairs and claims. Many fleets are still operating from legacy systems or even Microsoft Excel, which leads to a lot of manual and inefficient overhead when an accident or event occurs leading to a claim.

Fortunately, I think that we are seeing the end of the fire and forget or manual phone tag processes with claims and repair partners in the Fleet industry. Technology platforms, like OviDrive and Innovation Group's Gateway, are automating the end to end process from an accident being captured by the vehicle's telematics to guiding the driver through the journey to allocation through to the right suppliers and partners at the right time and the best cost.

There is a lot of buzz around AI and machine learning in the market. Can you share some real use cases of where you see these technologies used?

There is, and buzz is the right word for much of it! With that said, the availability of technology and the market's skillsets are effectively democratising and demystifying the entire space. The days of investing in large teams of data scientists to build expensive, exploratory models (with often not a lot of relevance or benefit to commercial realities!) are quickly disappearing. These are being replaced by platforms and techniques that can be applied relatively cost-effectively and rapidly. At the same time, I think it's essential for companies to do their due diligence and delve under the covers of AI claims made by solution providers, and make sure it's not merely a legacy BPM platform or rules engine, masqueraded as the next DeepMind!

We've seen some tremendous real-world applications of AI and machine-learning in recent times. For example, MiPu's Rebecca AI platform has been designed to enable operational and business users to simply create models and apply them in their infrastructure and businesses. The solution is being applied by some of the world's largest manufacturers in their factories and edge of the network devices like vehicle telematics.

OviDrive's Pulse solution is another fantastic example of real-world value AI where driver behaviour, financial, vehicle, and environmental data continuously feeds into the platform to identify, learn, and automatically adapt to specific scenarios. Which then automate and speed up processes. More efficient. Less cost. A better experience. This outcome is precisely what AI should be delivering.

At Innovation Group, we've designed our strategic platform Gateway to deliver the same benefit to our market area - i.e., For Insurers, OEMs, Fleets, and suppliers. Our approach has been to combine machine learning technology where massively scaled and real-time decisions need to be made (such as warranty policy quotation, liability determination, and fraud identification) and combined this with digital interfaces where human intervention and interaction are required. We see machine learning technology as the means to reach end to end automation eventually but in a phased and controlled way.

Building and launching Gateway must have challenges when moving a legacy business to the cloud. What advice do you have for enterprises taking on digital transformation in their fleet and mobility departments?

Challenges, and more challenges. None insurmountable though with the right approach, culture, and team.

I think many companies make the mistake of breaking their transformation strategy down into silos. Infrastructure, platforms, finance, and operational transformation programmes often run separately and parallel, but without adequately being linked up in terms of objectives, approach, and planning. A company's technology team may be racing ahead with migrating huge, legacy server estates into the cloud while building out a brand new, modern strategic technology platform at pace. But suppose the operational teams aren't mandated or don't have the capability to design and shift to a new operating model. In that case, you will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to retrofit that new technology platform into old non-digital processes. Questions will need to be asked about whether the company has successfully transformed or if a significant sum of money has been sunk into building a sexy new platform to simply run the same business.

It's been written about plenty of times, but transformation comes down to people and culture. The first thing the company should do is to work out where the best internal resources are, who are ready for change and can drive it. They're the keepers. If there are gaps - go out and find the right people to plug into critical roles. Despite the day to day, significant challenges with legacy technology, processes, operations - there will always be resistance to change. The senior leadership team's role is to break down the internal barriers and ensure the entire team aligns with the need to change and onboard with the programme. Too many times, I've seen the change-resistors put up imaginary hurdles without any substantial facts - i.e., "Our customers will never accept this." is a favourite of mine. The first question should always be - "who have you asked," and then "ok, I'd like to speak to them." Customers are rarely resistant to changes that make you a better supplier or partner or make their lives, operations, and business easier.

Finally, digital for digital's sake is another trap to avoid. Many companies will attempt to digitise existing processes and roll them out in a mobile responsive screen or app. This approach never works. Never. Digital requires a complete rethink of the process - outcomes, device, environment, need, experience, all need to be thought through as though the process never existed in the legacy world. FNOL in Insurance is a perfect example of this; this is where user experience and design are starting to hit its straps in the technology world. I'd argue that UI/UX has become the most crucial resource in Product teams, developing modern platforms. Look at the Fintech players that are winning the game at the moment. In Europe, the likes of Revolut and Monzo are upending the banking space with applications that are simple, beautiful, and provide a fantastic experience. There are many more, but not a single one of these has tried to replicate traditional banking processes or functionality in digital form. This shift in experience has been rapid but hugely powerful, as you can see from these disruptors' exponential growth rate.

Many fleet professionals are still using spreadsheets and off-line methods for fleet management and reporting. Can you offer advice for those that are interested in the prospect of cloud-based solutions offering machine learning but could be overwhelmed by the possibility of adopting the new technology?

Adopting new technology can be a daunting prospect. However, I've no doubt that many fleet professionals are constantly challenged with the limitations of manual processes and running a business off-line today. I'm sure that the fear often stems from nervousness around using technology and perhaps the perception that they may be shown up if they struggle to use it. This mindset was possibly understandable a few years back, with application designs usually sitting with engineers who couldn't give a hoot about the users. Times and technology have changed. Better design involves more intuitive interfaces designed with the end-user in mind. Any chosen application should also deliver better working practices. At Innovation Group, we've replaced legacy platforms that required users to fill in mandatory text fields over 15 screens. With a digital platform that automates each operation with data auto-population from multiple input sources, real-time decisions, and situational awareness and dynamic workflows. We've taken operational processes that used to take 30 minutes (or more) to one that can take less than a minute.

For those still feeling overwhelmed or sceptical about the value that good technology offers in the space today, I would recommend getting on the front foot and testing out the platforms and applications available in the market. They'll quickly experience for themselves just how easy it is to use (or not!), how fit for purpose it is, and how it's going to benefit their day.

There is a new trend of "smart & connected suppliers," such as cloud-based fleet management, automated claims management, automated maintenance control, and smart parking solutions, to name a few. They all have their benefits. Still, it means multiple vendors and platforms for fleet managers. How do you suggest that enterprises adopt and effectively manage multiple solutions across the vendor marketplace?

This is a great question. On the back of some significant technology advancements, the Fleet market does seem to be trending towards unbundling. Whether it's cost, risk, compliance, or control driven, fleet managers have the opportunity to build and effectively manage their own supply chain ecosystems. Achieving this a few years ago would have been tricky and perhaps nigh on impossible for a large, international fleet. Selecting the right technology platform is critical, one that can automatically orchestrate each event through the supply chain. Doing so with transparency from start to finish and control to ensure the optimal outcome is crucial.

At Innovation Group, we designed Gateway to deliver this automation and control to the key stakeholders in the process, and in fleet, this starts with the fleet manager. Our traditional business is accident repair management, but we also provide services in total loss, glass, service plan, and warranty products. Our partnership and integration with OviDrive link all of these together through Gateway, along with other relevant partners and networks (e.g., Roadside, replacement, and towing). Automating the orchestration of every event will, we believe, deliver huge efficiencies and benefits to fleet managers globally.

When talking about automation, many of us naturally think about efficiency, reducing FTE, and improvements in reducing error rates. How can automation and machine learning help a fleet manager directly reduce total cost of ownership?

In all of those ways - more efficiency, resource allocation, and more accuracy. Smarter technology means better data, faster decisions, and reduced (or eradication of) mistakes. My view is that this leads to better control for the fleet manager. Control of the supply chain first and foremost - ensuring that they can select which partners they work with, the terms involved, and the ability to hold multiple agreements that open up allocation to suit specific scenarios or business needs at the time. The one-size (or price) fits all approach seems to be on the way out and with it inflated pricing. Less opaqueness and more transparency is a genuinely positive outcome from this shift in the technology landscape.

OviDrive's AI 'Pulse' approach is both smart and remarkably impactful. Identifying patterns or outlier or business-as-usual scenarios that are inefficient, costly, or that raise a red flag. Automatically pushing these to the fleet manager for a decision or action and then providing the option to automate that decision for future exact or similar events is a thoughtful approach that will 100% directly reduce the total cost of ownership for that company.

These are the scenarios and outcomes that fleet managers need to assess when evaluating modern technology platforms. The excellent news for all is that technology development is moving so swiftly today, new ideas, concepts, and functionality can be delivered rapidly. With TCO reduction as one of the main drivers, this outcome can be achieved by collaborating with your technology partner and spun up quickly into environments to test, train, and adopt.

We would like to thank Andrew for the time and effort he has taken in responding to our questions, and we hope readers gain as much value as we have! You can catch up on our other 'Ask an Expert' interviews on our blog. More talks will be coming up as part of our “Ask an Expert” series, discussing the rapidly evolving fleet and mobility market.

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