Logistics company US Xpress has revealed how it has achieved annual savings of more than $6 million (£3.8 million) after carrying out a Big Data analytics project.
Using technology from Informatica, the Tennessee-based truckload service provider was able to analyse its numerous data sources to find and mitigate inefficiencies in the operation of its 8,000 vehicles. Between one and two terabytes (TB) of data go through the Informatica platform on a daily basis.
One of the company's biggest cost centres was fuel. It identified potential cost-savings in this area during the times when its drivers were taking mandatory extended breaks, and the trucks were 'idle' in a rest area.
During these eight-hour breaks, depending on the climate, a driver would be using either the heating or the air conditioning constantly throughout their rest.
"Our idle was way out of control," said Tim Leonard, CTO and VP at US Xpress.
US Xpress started looking at its 'idle' problem three years ago, but found that despite having a lot of data, a lack of data integration made it difficult for the company to extract relevant and useful information from it.
"We had a hard time integrating data from operations and data from the truck. We could monitor the fuel, speed and the engine breaks themselves. We had a lot of data available to use but a lot of it wasn't integrated," said Leonard.
"Using Informatica allowed us to integrate the data."
The data sources included operational truck data, such as fuel and maintenance, data from US Xpress's in-house software DriverTech and geo-spacing data. In-cab system DriverTech provides a range of services, including automatic engine diagnostics and reporting, navigation, driver performance monitoring and a way for drivers to view training videos.
To solve its data integration problem, US Xpress implemented the Informatica Platform, comprising the Informatica Data Quality, the Informatica Identity Match Option and Informatica Data Explorer products.
By using these tools to manage and analyse the data, the company was able to reduce the percentage of time its trucks were standing idle by 40 percent, down from more than 80 percent.
"We built a dashboard the operations team can use [to identify] 'gas misers' and 'gas guzzlers'. We took the data, integrated it and cleansed it and we could identify which trucks were in violation [of the new idle strategy].
"[Our] operations [team] call those drivers and work out a plan to cut the costs."
He added. "The initial saving was $6 million but we are pushing [for more]."
The plan that the operations team works out with the drivers might consist of asking the driver to use heating or air conditioning unit for the first two hours of their rest, which will then turn off for four hours while they sleep and then programmed to turn back on again for the last two hours of the break.
"We can monitor in real time how much they're doing and the field manager can call them [drivers] and let them know if they're breaking the SLA (Service Level Agreement).
"If they don't [listen] we call back again very sternly," said Leonard.
Although cost and energy savings were the main drivers of the project, Leonard revealed that it also helped to influence a change in the business processes, to become more efficient and further reduce idle costs.
For example, the business has moved to a centralised operations model to a 'pods' model, with each 'pod' representing one of the six geographical regions of the US in which US Xpress operates.
In the new model, a customer service representative is assigned to each of the six pods, instead of having just one customer service representative for the whole of the US.
"[We're] now a company within a company, managing in smaller pieces," said Leonard.
Other areas in which US Xpress uses Informatica's analytics tools is to measure its 10,000 drivers' reaction to new IT software and systems deployments, by monitoring their feedback through private and independent community driver blogs.
Around six months ago, for instance, the company released a new front end screen for the drivers at 8am. By 8.35am, the IT team received feedback from drivers saying that there was a 'fat fingers' issue with the screen, and by 3pm it had a new release of the software.
Leonard said: "It is a way IT has to work with the business and the drivers."