New vehicle tracking and telematics are the latest developments for a Swindon-based international logistics and equipment installation specialist, which has seen the benefits of investing in transport management technology over the past 15 years.
Bishopsgate Specialist Logistics & Installations specialises in the transportation, storage and installation of fragile, sensitive or outsized equipment for the healthcare, IT, telecommunications, banking, safe and UPS, office machine, fitness and vending sectors as well as high end home delivery.
This includes work for blue chip companies the likes of Schneider Electric, Draeger Medical, Carl Zeiss, Getinge, Glory, Unilever and Gunnebo.
Running a fleet of 60 vehicles and employing a workforce that includes more than 100 drivers and installation specialists, Bishopsgate, which was founded in 1992 and currently has sales forecasted to exceed £11m this year, also provides UK-based warehousing and distribution services for hi-tech equipment as part of a 24/7 operation.
The company has being using Mandata transport management software since 2001 as part of a deliberate strategy, built around technology to improve its services, achieve efficiencies and drive growth across frontline operations.
This investment has been a vital cog in helping to power 25% year-on-year growth for a business that's also a shareholder and key partner in one of Europe's largest multinational high-tech transport businesses, TENESO, which has operations across 25 countries.
Specifically developed for the road haulage and logistics sector, the Mandata TMS brings together operational information into a single PC or cloud-based system that links to vehicle and driver smartphones out on the road.
The technology, which can simplify the planning of work, track operations and monitor driver behaviour and vehicle performance levels, automates critical processes, eliminating time-consuming repetitive tasks, providing fleet visibility in real-time and alerting operators and drivers to any issues.
Over the years, the Wootton Bassett company has extended the capabilities of its transport management system to meet the needs of a growing customer base. The integration of added value features have also helped the firm meet the challenges of operating in an international market place where cost pressures, distance, remote locations, JIT customer service and business development present significant challenges.
Bishopsgate's managing director Tim Bloch, said: "Staying ahead of change, running an effective business in a constantly evolving economic landscape and harnessing the benefits of technology have certainly been challenging.
"Mandata has helped us to achieve this, while the addition of bolt-on services to enable customers to book their own jobs, improve warehouse stock control and monitoring, and the introduction of DIP scanning and RF handhelds, have all played their part in meeting the challenges.
"Scanners in every vehicle enable complete visibility of each piece of equipment handled, through every stage of its journey with Bishopsgate. The introduction of a customer mobile phone app has enabled customers to use the benefits of the on-line portal and tracking tool on the move.
"This enables customers to track the impending delivery themselves without delay having already booked their exact requirements on-line, considerably reducing their administrative burden."
Costs and staffing levels have reduced over the years as greater efficiencies and savings have impacted on the business, which continues to innovate and achieve growth through Mandata and other technology providers.
In 2013, Bishopsgate acquired the specialist services division of Allports Cargo Services, a global multi-modal operator. This merger resulted in significant growth and improvement not least by streamlining IT systems and processes, providing solid foundations to build more growth.
Bishopsgate went paperless in 2015 in an initiative designed to provide total transparency at every stage of a delivery's journey, from initial booking of the job to the final acceptance and installation of the shipment.
"Customers want to know where their goods are at any one time," said Tim Bloch. "With Mandata systems, staff and customers have the visibility they need. We are completely transparent and they can see if we have or haven't delivered.
"Our systems provide instant access to real-time information and they are user-friendly. In fact recent innovations from Mandata have made our systems altogether more flexible and more manageable, enabling us to deliver extra value into the customer base.
Tim went on to explain that the ability to share pictures quickly has made communication throughout the business so much simpler, making processes such as driver training and sharing information with customers quick and easy, while 'instant photo PODs' are standard on every delivery.
Planning's also improved through the use of drag and drop capabilities – Bishopsgate can receive, plan, manage and monitor work in one single view with a smart traffic pad linked to the TMS, dynamically controlling drivers and loads.
"The traffic pad gives us the flexibility to split work into proprietary stages then our traffic people take ownership of work by area to ensure it goes to plan. It's the traceability of jobs that gives us total control of the work being done," remarked Tim.
Now, in a further move, a new vehicle tracking and fleet behaviour solution from Mandata has been integrated with the transport management system to provide even more capability.
Advanced features designed to capture vehicle and driver performance data provide analysis that can be shared to raise awareness and understanding of issues and monitor and improve driving standards. Indeed, at least 50% of all cost savings achieved as a result of the improvements the extended capability provides are channelled back to Bishopsgate driving workforce, where they are equally shared out across the team.
Tim Bloch added: "As well as providing Bishopsgate's customers with the confidence that their deliveries are in safe hands, the system gives drivers, driver trainers and operational staff visibility of both vehicle and driver performance allowing the company to promote positive driving styles, with the aim of reducing fuel costs, maintaining road safety and providing its customers with peace-of-mind that standards are being monitored.
"Since the new tracking system was installed earlier this year we are starting to feed data back to drivers via the driver behaviour app and we now hope to build on initial reductions in fuel costs, as well as reduced fault accidents and incidents of harsh driving. Ultimately these reductions will be fed back to the team at the end of year one".
Bishopsgate's on-going investment in its transport management system over the years has undoubtedly reaped dividends. The technology has played an important role delivering improved traceability, greater use of operational data, and better communications.
Looking to the future, Tim Bloch sees technology remaining vital as his business grows and expands its operations in the coming years. "We are on track with an ambitious growth strategy and have plans to open new facilities to further improve services," he said.
"Mandata, who understand the logistics industry, will be an important part of the business on the road ahead and our drive for efficiencies, better control and that all important cutting edge that separates us from our competitors."