Wireless fleet optimization technology has emerged with the promise of many benefits for managers — more efficient and cost-effective operations, enhanced user accountability, safer and more secure ramp operations — to name a few. Ground Support Worldwide takes a look at the basics of the technology and speaks to customers who have made the investment in their ramp operations.
The Technology: Key Features
The systems are generally comprised of a vehicle tracking unit installed on each vehicle and a central data server. Manufacturers claim the features of the system — which users can largely customize to fit a specific operation — can lead to overall cost-cutting and more efficient operations in some key areas:
Fleet utilization: GPS enables real-time visibility of equipment locations; two-way text messaging capabilities allow for instant communication between ramp employees and managers; additional features can allow for dispatch of work assignments; real-time vehicle reporting can communicate fluid levels, driver behavior and engine status.
Maintenance: reports on equipment usage can help schedule preventative maintenance inspections on vehicles.
Safety and security: features allow for restricted access to only authorized users through badge-screening or login technology; “geo-fencing” features allow vehicles to be used only in designated areas; safety checklists prompt users to fill out the condition of a unit before it’s used.
These key benefits are what interested Air Canada Cargo in a wireless fleet optimization system. It has decided to try the fleet optimization program iRamp, developed by Katlyn International Inc., for its operations in Toronto. It has recently installed the system on six tractors to run a trial for six months.
For Air Canada Cargo, the ability to track the location of a vehicle, according to Peter Ayearst, GSE manager, cargo, North America at Air Canada Cargo, was a major attraction. “It’s hard to know exactly where your equipment is at all times,” he says. “Not only that, but also who is driving the vehicle. Sometimes we have damage on our vehicles, and we don’t know how it happened or who had it last.”
Another major draw to the technology was the automatic data collection of vehicle usage. “Now it’s a manual task to grab those and manually input it. [iRamp] offers automatic collection that would get data at the end of the day or every time the vehicle comes through the building. So we’ll take that information and schedule our PMI inspections based on the hour meters.”
Ayearst continues, “You also have positive feedback for the driver for daily inspections. We have our daily inspections listed in the iRamp module.
“You can also look at your fleet utilization — do you have the right numbers, the right mix? Whether you have too many vehicles or not enough, it certainly would help make your case, depending which way you’re going,” he says.
With the ability to communicate work assignments instantly to employees on the ramp, Ayearst believes it will lead to more efficient operations overall. “It’s one thing having a radio in your vehicle, but to actually have this kind of information on the display screen on the vehicle, it’s almost like taking your warehouse and putting it in the vehicle with your operator. You can see real-time gate changes, which flights have cargo, you can even do work assignments on the go,” he says, adding, “There are long distances involved between the passenger terminals and the cargo facility. If an employee is over there and you want him to turn around and go back to pick up, he can access the task list.”
Ayearst says the six-month trial will determine if and to what extent the iRamp technology will be rolled out into the fleet. “Certainly if it lives up to its promise, there is an awful lot in there in savings,” he says.
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