Using GIS helps Save Time and Money and Improve Driver Safety

Mike Ball, VP IT & CIO, Werner Enterprises
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Mike Ball, VP IT & CIO, Werner Enterprises

Leveraging GIS for Logistics

Maintaining optimal visibility is key to ensuring timely deliveries and providing superior customer service, and Esri’s GIS  mapping software technology plays a critical role in helping Werner Enterprises track and optimize our fleet of approximately 7,300 trucks. Using ArcGIS and a satellite tractor tracking network allows us to accurately optimize, plan, direct and  analyze our fleet to save money and fuel while providing the safest, most effective routes for our customers.

"GIS technology enabled us to take appropriate action within an hour of a rockslide and we were able to make timely billing adjustments for the new out-of-route miles as needed"

GIS in Everyday Operations

Consolidating key on-road operations into a single visual and intuitive view has significantly streamlined Werner's workflows. Every day, thousands of our 18-wheel trucks and professional drivers are on the move, delivering food, beverages,  manufactured goods and other freight across  the United States. Werner is able to display truck specific locations, preferred fuel and maintenance stops and  Werner facility locations on a map with up-to-the-minute information to manage our large  inventory of trucks. Knowing the location of trucks allows companies to be prepared for anything: inclement weather, load  changes, maintenance issues, optimal fuel stops, rest or emergency services.

Logistical details are quickly available and  displayed by clicking any truck icon on the map.The user interface provides 

the most frequently used query combinations for each user type and their role in the company. Users can then apply added  filters to help limit or sort the resulting data. Details such as shipment destination points, next stops, driver names,  driving hours available, types of freight being transported and appointment times are available to the user. These details  help ensure driver needs are better managed, trucks are on time for scheduled maintenance and routes are optimized. When a  rockslide occurred in North Carolina and closed a portion of Interstate 40, Werner staff was able to see the routes feeding  into that section of freeway and locate all trucks affected by the closure.

Expecting the Unexpected

When a rockslide occurred on North  Carolina's Interstate 40, Werner used GIS mapping tools and analytics to quickly react.  Instead of looking through reams of data records by hand, our staff utilized  mapping tools to identify specific trucks set  to pass through the affected area. Shipment schedules were coordinated with customers in a matter of hours while driving  routes were optimized and communicated. We were able to make timely billing adjustments for the new out-of-route miles as needed, and GIS technology enabled us to take appropriate action within an hour of the rockslide.

Corporate Analytics at Work

While Werner initially used GIS to gain  better insight into fleet operations, today the company uses ArcGIS for business analytics. Spatially enabling our fleet, shipment locations, optimal routes and driver home locations has allowed us to extend the analytic power of GIS to improve  customer service, identify backhaul opportunities, recommend locations for customer distribution centers and target optimal driver hiring areas.

Core Technology

Currently, Werner is running ArcGIS Server 10, integrating GIS data and maps more completely into our enterprise workflow.  Werner chose to implement GIS over the Internet so data could be easily shared throughout the organization using standard Web browsers to access maps and data. We have developers in both Omaha, Nebraska, and Shanghai, China, that work together to  continuously improve the features and usability of these GIS applications. With .NET framework, HTML 5 and CSS 3, the  web-based mapping programs and services are used primarily by dispatchers, driver managers and road breakdown agents.

Spatial Clustering for Usability

Sometimes when viewing a map that reflects several trucks located in the same general area, the icons appear close together  and can be difficult to quantify. As users  navigate the map to a lower elevation, these icons eventually separate and have  more meaning through the use of spatial clustering.  Rather than having overlapping duplicated icons that clutter a map,  multiple points are rolled up into a single icon and summary number. This sounds simple but is actually quite intricate.  Factors such as visual scope of field, zoom elevation, query result data points and point proximity in relation to surrounding results all contribute to the complexity. Spatial clustering is an advanced concept that requires mathematical,  analytical, programming  and artistic skills. When implemented correctly, the results are visually appealing and offer faster performance for end users.

The Future: Geo-Fencing and Proactive Alerts

The future stages of GIS technology deployment at Werner will allow monitoring for out-of-route conditions as they occur.  Instead of waiting until after a delivery to identify the out-of-route condition and cost,geo-fencing will alert operations staff to any truck headed off course. This is not new technology, but using it effectively does require incorporating  advanced concepts. Knowing a tractor is not following a planned route is the simple part. The complexities include built-in  tolerances for traffic congestion, road conditions, elevation, cargo type, fuel, toll avoidance, planned or unplanned  maintenance and approved out-of-route situations. Geo-fencing also can be used for off-schedule conditions. In the world of  transportation and logistics, it is critical to know where a shipment is located at any given time. Using GIS services at the heartof a proactive alerting and notification system, Werner Enterprises is well positioned to benefit its customers, drivers and partners.

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