IoT, AI, analytics and telematics can help small businesses improve their efficiency and bottom line

While many small companies might think they can’t afford these technologies in their logistics, that’s not the case, even for companies with only a few trucks.

Truck driving in front of a mountain

Image: haveseen, Getty Images/iStockPhoto

Richelieu Hardware operates a two-truck fleet consisting of one five-ton and one 18-wheeler. Richelieu is based in Ottawa, Ontario, but its fleet operation challenges are by no means unique to Canada. In the U.S., for example, 1.2 million companies use trucks, and 90% of them operate six or fewer trucks. If these smaller companies have to compete with larger firms that have the IT budgets to support full-scale logistics, Internet of Things and analytics, it’s easy to get discouraged.

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“The main challenge that small businesses face when it comes to implementing telematics technology is affordability and capability,” said Colin Sutherland, EVP sales and marketing for Geotab, a SaaS fleet management provider. “Small businesses might lack the resources to access a telematics platform, install the devices and/or, collect, analyze and leverage the data into actionable insights. On top of that, some small business owners might assume that only large companies can benefit from telematics and they may not be aware of the positive impact telematics can have on their bottom line.”

I’d argue that most small company owners do know that collecting IoT-generated data from their trucks, and being able to examine it with analytics systems will deliver valuable business insights—but they think that cash and internal support resource constraints preclude them from taking advantage of these technologies.

In Richelieu’s case, Sutherland said the company saw significant improvements in delivery performance, fuel consumption, maintenance costs and pleased customers. It did this by subscribing to a cloud telematics platform that enabled it to deploy IoT and analytics without having to make its own investments into hardware and software. Suddenly, Richelieu had the ability to track fuel usage and fill-ups; set rules for drivers regarding speeding and idling to help keep costs low; and monitor vehicle components such as engines and brakes for maintenance before a maintenance problem actually arose.

“They could keep their vehicles in good shape, helping to reduce the risk of costly and unexpected repairs,” Sutherland said. “It is also important to note that telematics data and solutions can be used to help improve a fleet’s safety. Integrated solutions like driver coaching for speeding, harsh braking, sharp cornering, over-acceleration, seat belt use and driving in reverse can all help reduce potential risk and insurance claims costs.”

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The lesson is that companies, even very small ones, now have options for collecting, aggregating, analyzing and actionizing unstructured data like IoT—and that it makes sense for small companies to investigate the possibilities.

“If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it is the fact that small businesses play a critical role in the success of the economy,” Sutherland said. “By utilizing telematics, small businesses can be more competitive in their respective markets.”

Most importantly, subscription-based solutions and creative financing options are democratizing IoT and analytics so that more organizations can use them. That helps all of us, because it makes for a more vibrant economy. 

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