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Transforming trucking with digital solutions

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Digital solutions

Mr Venkatesh Natarajan, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Senior Vice President, Information Technology, Ashok Leyland

The four megatrends that are currently shaping the world of mobility are Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric, popularly known as CASE or other equivalent acronyms. IoT driven ‘connected’ technologies form the base for these trends to thrive and generate accelerated acceptance; IoT provides data and information that drive CASE strategies, their design, business models and day-to-day operations.

In this advanced world, the Internet of Things (IoT) has undoubtedly become a leading driver for growth and development of business. It is not only limited to mobile phones, laptops and intelligent devices. Today, it has reached the mobility space to include trucks, passenger cars and two-wheelers, helping these connected mobility solutions in communicating and gathering valuable data or information to deliver a host of benefits. IoT is the foundational ‘umbrella term’ that encompasses all the connectivity-driven technologies and is transforming the transportation industry by providing connectivity to vehicles. Benefits include low Total Cost of Operation (TCO) and thereby increased profits, enhanced safety and comfort. Advanced technology also helps companies explore and develop newer products that suit the ever-changing customer/ market requirements.

According to Allied Market Research, the global IoT in the transportation market was pegged at $135.35 billion in 2016 and is projected to garner $328.76 billion by 2023, registering a CAGR of 13.7% from 2017 to 2023.

So what are the different ways by which IoT is making a significant impact on the transportation and trucking industry?

IoT helps in public transportation, fleet management, and utilisation of assets and management of inventories among others. For example, public transportation systems leverage IoT to alert passengers through mobile apps on a vehicle’s real-time location and the estimated time of its arrival (ETA) at their stop.

Remote Area Monitoring helps to address a major challenge which is to track the assets, the trucks, especially in remote areas. Fleet operators often face difficulty in locating the assets and are not able to track how effectively fleets are being used. IoT systems collect the asset’s relevant information and perform an insightful analysis into that. Operators get alerts via SMS, email or other means for any issues that are noticed during the analysis in real-time.

At Ashok Leyland, India's second-largest commercial vehicle maker, using their ‘in-house developed’ end-to-end IoT solution iALERT, one can track the real-time information of any fleet like asset utilization pattern, loading weight on the trailer etc. Additionally, one can also know the latitude and longitude of an asset.

The IoT solutions also help in Smart Inventory Management by acting as a catalyst for real-time information across the distribution, production and warehouse centre which in turn reduces the cost of inventory handling. These supply chains can integrate a large amount of data and find insights to develop an optimised inventory management system.

The digital solutions at Ashok Leyland, are classic case studies for a clear view. These solutions were built in line with the brand's mission statement, ‘Aapki Jeet, Hamari Jeet' with a focus to deliver the lowest TCO and thereby the highest profit to our customers.

We have always been at the forefront of engineering innovation. By infusing Digital & Connected Technologies into our product ethos, we have established our reputation as pioneers in using innovation as a competitive differentiation and means for our customer’s success.

Ashok Leyland’s digital integration started in 2017 when the company launched the country's first Digital Marketplace – A platform of cutting-edge and user-friendly solutions that included iALERT, Service Mandi, Leykart and eDiagnostics.

Mr Venkatesh Natarajan
Mr Venkatesh Natarajan

The transformation further accelerated with the launch of ‘Digital Nxt’ platform where we launched iALERT 3.0 – an advanced connected vehicle platform, Uptime Solution Centre – a transformative uptime experience platform and AL Care – a one-stop app for customers to manage all their vehicle needs. Today all the vehicles that roll out from Ashok Leyland's factories are IoT-enabled. The value generated out of vehicle data for the customer and for Ashok Leyland far surpasses the costs involved.

iALERT Connected Vehicle Platform

iALERT started as a simple telematics product and eventually, it has become a platform for a multitude of connected vehicle solutions. It is now the ‘Data Powerhouse’ for the organisation reaping tangible and intangible benefits in proportions we could have only dreamt of when we started developing it.

Our vehicle IoT platform, iALERT, has more than 1,50,000 vehicles onboarded onto it at one point of time – a combination of BSIV and BSVI vehicles. In India, a truck runs for 400 kilometres a day on average. The frequency and volume of data for BSVI trucks are far more than BSIV trucks. To visualize the amount of data, we collect in a month about 1.2 billion kilometres of vehicle tracking data, which is the equivalent of four round-trips from the Earth to the Sun! There is no better illustration of the enormity and complexity of the IoT data that we handle.

To give an example of the efficiencies involved, using our AI based fuel fill & pilferage solution built over iALERT data, we have been able to demonstrate huge potential savings of up to Rs.25 lakh a month for customers with an average fleet size of 150 vehicles! What’s more, customers can manage/ subscribe to all these digital solutions through the convenience of a highly user-friendly Mobile App.

We are proud of the fact that iALERT today is by far the most proven, indigenously developed connected vehicle platform. It is scalable to support huge volumes of vehicle data and can process this data to offer real-time deep insights to customers.

Over 60,000-plus customers owning over 1.5 lakh vehicles are now onboarded onto the iALERT Connected Vehicles Platform. Driven by advanced analytics, dedicated driver gamification app and customized recommendations (includes Gear utilization, Green band driving and reduced Idling) iALERT can deliver up to 10% savings on Total Fuel Cost for customers. Over and above that, one can also factor in around 15% improvement in customer’s fleet utilization through data insights (includes distance covered by the vehicle, Running vs idle hours, Average speed), thereby increasing his productivity and revenue. Of course, losses too can be minimised, whereby stolen vehicles can be recovered using iALERT.

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Uptime Solutions Platform

The Uptime Solutions Platform that we launched with BSVI has revolutionized the way service is performed today by leveraging AI-driven prognostics and remote servicing capabilities.

Leveraging our ground-breaking ‘Over-The-Air’ technology, Ashok Leyland’s Uptime Solutions Platform has truly redefined the service experience for all our customers in the commercial vehicle space. More than 500 cases of remote service attention have been rendered to customer vehicles, which translates to Uptime Savings equivalent to 1,000 Vehicle running days. Numerous cases of critical vehicle breakdowns have been prevented till now, through proactive intervention. Dedicated AL Experts team monitor all vehicles pan-India 24x7 for any potential issues/ breakdowns.

Conclusion

As new technologies continue to emerge, Ashok Leyland will continue to revolutionise how we transport freight and the CV industry. These solutions have helped our customers reap rich dividends by deriving more out of our products. Ashok Leyland's connected digital platforms monitor more than 40 million kilometres of vehicle running and 1 million hours of engine running every day. All this data has driven significant cost savings of up to 15% in the customer’s TCO by leveraging AI Driven analytics & customized recommendations that enhances their overall performance & productivity.

A few decades back, not many companies would have even had Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Digital Officer (CDO) positions. But in the current digital world, the role of a CIO or CDO is a crucial one, especially in the trucking industry and he/ she is now part of senior leadership team.

The traditional role of a CIO in a firm is that of championing information technology (IT) implementation. This includes a host of technologies, including IoT. The CIO’s role can be likened to the 'dashavatar' or the ten roles played by Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology – Chief ‘Information, Digitization, Data, Technology, Transformation, Change Management, Process, Security, Integration and People’ Officer!

Commoditization of technology is occurring at a rapid pace. The Cloud plays and will continue to play a big role, with costs coming down. In the future, even if customers do not pay for IoT implementation, OEMs will pay for it to keep warranty costs under control and to get deep insights into the product and its performance.

Blurb or filler

“Today we build computers on top of vehicles. Tomorrow, vehicles will be built on top of computers.”