Stevedore upgrades fleet despatch system

Stevedoring giant Patrick Corporation saw through the hype surrounding short message service (SMS) and GPRS (general packet radio services) when choosing its new multimillion dollar communications infrastructure, preferring to stay with the tried and tested.

Norman Arnott, Patrick Corporation manager of corporate IT, said Telstra's Fleetcoms network was chosen for an electronic proof of delivery system (ePod) as it was the "most cost effective" at this time.

"SMS was too expensive due to the amount of traffic that is sent to the trucks, and from a Patrick perspective, GPRS is all talk.

"We haven't seen the full costing."

Fleetcoms is a public mobile radio network, which enables voice and data transmissions. The system uses the trunking principle, allowing a large number of users shared access to a common pool of resources. Users are dynamically assigned exclusive use of a channel for the duration of their call.

Patrick is rolling out the ePod system, currently in the pilot mode for the next two months, to two of, Patrick's business units, autocare and port services.

The system will link about 300 trucks in autocare and 250 in port services, enabling drivers to receive jobs electronically.

Mike Foster, Telstra chief of business sales, said a driver will be allocated a job electronically, and directed to the relevant Patrick compound.

"The driver then scans the VIN barcode on each vehicle to confirm the correct units. The system will advise if the wrong vehicle has been loaded. When the load is complete the driver acknowledges and proceeds to the delivery destination.

"Once the delivery is complete, the system will acknowledge receipt and the next job will be issued to that particular truck."

As a backup for any network problems, he said there is a SIM card in each truck's unit, which also collects data on the truck performance.

Arnott said implementation of the project should be complete by the middle of 2003.

"Dependent on the success of the project … on how much we use it …we may expand to three more business units … [and] it may become our standard."

Arnott said there is an option for the fleet link unit to be upgraded to GPRS when it is "financially viable".

Arnott was unable to put an exact figure for the three-year contract with Telstra, but said the ROI for the two projects will be "very good".

"It will mean a better use of the fleet, more jobs achieved during the year and less paper." He said the new system will also mean a reorganisation of how the company handles it fleet and the "number of people used".

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