During IntelliShift’s ConnectedOps Virtual Event, Jake Rubin, VP of Operational Excellence at Sweeping Corp of America (SCA), explains how he is lowering fuel costs, increasing workforce productivity, optimize route planning and more using a forward-thinking connected vehicle and asset operations strategy. Jake outlines real-life cost savings that have resulted from a preventative maintenance strategy that leverages integration of SCA’s telematics, engine diagnostics and inspections data within one platform configured to SCA’s business goals.
Below is the transcript of this session, “Sweeping the Nation with Jake Rubin of SCA.” You can also watch the session and view all sessions from ConnectedOps 2020.
Full Transcript: Sweeping the Nation with Jake Rubin of SCA
Jake Rubin: Hi, I’m Jake Rubin, Vice President of Operational Excellence with Sweeping Corporation of America. I’m excited to be here at ConnectedOps today to talk to you guys. Connected Operations is a subject that I’m passionate about, and I think that everyone serves to gain from, so I’m excited to be here.
The first thing I want to talk about a little bit is who we are as a company. We are the largest contract power sweeper in North America. We serve over 400 municipalities, we operate a fleet of over 800 vehicles across 16 states, 35 operating locations. We serve over 4,500 commercial property owners, and we employ over 900 people. As you can see, it’s a complex operation with a lot of moving parts, and the tools that IntelliShift provides to us are key to making that work for us.
So, what does ConnectedOps look like, what does it mean? Well, the perfect case study is Amazon. I can go on their website, I can order a $7 box of pistachios at eight o’clock in the morning, five minutes later, it’s picked off a shelf, it’s loaded onto a truck later that day, and it’s delivered to me sometime that afternoon or the next morning, and through that entire process, Amazon knew exactly how much time it took to pick it, how many miles they drove to deliver it, and what their total delivered cost was.
What are the benefits of connected operations? First and foremost, understanding our costs. Once we understand our costs, we can reduce our costs. The biggest thing we can drive is customer satisfaction. When we do those three things, we drive astronomical growth.
So, let’s look at the results of running a connected operation in Amazon: annual revenue, exponential growth, annual EBITDA, exponential growth. They’ve experienced explosive top line growth and margin expansion fueled by a data-driven operation and a relentless drive to satisfy customers. None of that would be possible without a connected operation. So, what is the risk of remaining disconnected? We’ve all lived in paper environments for a long time, what’s wrong with that? Well, disconnected IT systems; our fleet doesn’t talk to our customers, our employees can’t talk to our customers, our back office doesn’t talk to our fleet. We have no visibility to our inventory or to our product out in the field. We can’t track delivery, whether it be a service or a product, we don’t know what we’ve done for a customer unless an employee turns into a piece of paper to us and says that they’ve done it. We have frustrated employees and customers. Prime case point here, Toys ‘R Us: the last five years of their operation, falling revenues, failed to turn a profit in all but one of those years, and ultimately ended in bankruptcy. Obviously, there were other contributing factors here, but their lack of modernizing their operation was a key problem.
So, let’s look at Sweeping Corporation of America before IntelliShift. We had employees that communicated with our back office via paper route sheets and shift reports. Our back office generated invoices based on those paper forms, and sent them to our customers. Our equipment was not part of this conversation at all; there was no connection between our equipment and our back office or our employees and our customers. Our customers had no idea what we had done for them until they got an invoice from us. This often led to frustration, led to a customer who disputed something, and at that point, the entire invoice is held up while we resolve it.
So, what does the new model look like? Well, most importantly, our equipment is no longer ring-fenced. Our equipment now has a direct connection to our back office and to our customers. Customers know what we did for them before an invoice arrives, employees are connected directly to the customers they serve; this is critical. We serve no value being in the middle of that conversation, and the tools from IntelliShift have allowed us to connect our employees directly to our customers. Our equipment and employee data is delivered directly to our back office in a clean and usable format; no more paper, no more mistakes, no more data entry errors – clean, usable data, and SCA is now empowered to make data-driven decisions using insight never previously available to us. We have a rich set of data that was never available via those paper route sheets.
A couple of projects that we’ve driven with these tools specific to IntelliShift, PM compliance, one that’s near and dear to my heart, being a fleet guy. We utilize the vehicle service module within IntelliShift extensively, and we use that to manage the complex preventative maintenance schedules for all 800 of our vehicles. Using this tool, our local shop managers, our local field leaders, our district managers, our regional fleet managers and our national fleet management team have complete transparency and visibility into the status of the PM program at any individual site, in every district, in every region, and in the company as a whole. We’ve initiated a “Drive to Zero” PM compliance initiative over the last year, and through that, and the tools available at IntelliShift, we’ve driven overdue preventative maintenance from 40% to 50% of the time to less than 3%; that’s an astonishing result.
Better yet, we’ve seen that result follow the bottom line. Through PM compliance, live diagnostic code alerts and faster resolution to those faults, failure trend analysis available through work orders within IntelliShift that allow us to then modify our PM program and the use of electronic DVIRs, we’ve realized $475,000 a year in annualized fleet savings; that’s an astonishing result for us.
Another huge initiative for us with IntelliShift was routing. We serve over 20,000 customer sites per month on a recurring, fixed-schedule basis. Prior to IntelliShift, all of those stops were manually routed by local managers. They were completely reliant on route sheets returned by drivers every morning to know what had happened the night before, and as with any paper product, those route sheets were inherently inaccurate and full of mistakes. We simply had no accurate source of service time or drive time for our routes. When we added a new stop, we were estimating, at best, how much it would cost us to service it.
Through a partnership with IntelliShift and Route4Me, we have been able to move our routing product into the 21st century. We were able to reduce our average stop time by eight minutes; that equates to $800,000 in annual labor cost savings. We drive 350,000 fewer miles on an annual basis to service the same customers; that saves us $150,000 in fuel alone, another $120,000 in reduced cap-ex because our trucks last longer. This is an amazing outcome for us; it allows us to deliver a lower cost to our customers, give more of their time on their property rather than driving to their properties, and truly manage our routes.
One of the most exciting things we’ve done with connected operations in partnership with IntelliShift is our verified sweeping service product. This falls under the customer satisfaction/customer communication category. So, previous to VSS, we provided basic GPS tracking to our customers. Many of our customers’ properties, particularly in the municipal and DOT segment consist of thousands of miles of roadway that have to be swept several times a year. Obviously, it’s very complex to schedule that, and it’s very complex to provide visibility to the customer into what’s happened. Prior to VSS, we could show them sweeper movement history, we had a one-way communication; they could see what happened, but in order to tell us there was a problem, they had to pick up the phone and call us. This was a vehicle-based platform that had shown them what a vehicle had done. There was no dedicated customer portal, we had to provide them log-in credentials to our IntelliShift account, which often allowed them to see things we maybe didn’t want them to, other customers’ histories, information that was irrelevant to their contract. The mapping accuracy in a based-GPS product is limited to 15 feet; it’s simply not accurate enough to prove to them that we swept both sides of a small residential road.
Some of these other systems, some of IntelliShift’s competitors, are mobile-technology based, they don’t have a hard-wired unit in the vehicle. From the customer perspective, that doesn’t satisfy their need. That doesn’t prove to them that we were there, in a sweeper, doing the work; it proves to them that we drove through the property with a cell phone. The reporting through typical GPS products, it’s just a breadcrumb trail, which might be useful for a small fleet operator, but for a large fleet operator like SCA and particularly for our customers, watching the trail of what a vehicle did last night, while novel at first, doesn’t prove to be very valuable in the long run. Typical GPS systems need a refresh rate of one minute; due to the slow speed operation of our fleet, this simply didn’t work. So, what does VSS do better? It verifies that the vehicle was in the contracted area and that the brooms were engaged; provides two-way communication to our customers – if they find a deficiency, they can load the platform out on their tablet in the field while they’re inspecting our work, and create a work order specific to the area where they found the deficiency. We can then resolve that deficiency, and our drive can communicate back to them that it’s been resolved. It’s a geofence-based platform. This is the big key here: we’re showing that what we did in their contract every day, rather than with the sweeper every day. We could use nine sweepers on the same contract, we could use two different sweepers on two different nights, and it doesn’t impact the visibility to the customer now, they simply see what we did on their contract. It has a dedicated customer portal for each customer. When they log in, they only see the contracts that they’re authorized to view, and they have quick access to an uncluttered data source that provides them what they want. We utilize ESRI map layers that provide three feet of accuracy, and we’ll talk later about the tool that IntelliShift built for us to import those. We have hard-wired tracking units in all SCA sweepers; of course, this is a standard part of the IntelliShift package. The tool provides access to both visual and spreadsheet reporting for our customers. Some of them want to see a visual map, some of them want a spreadsheet to align with billing – we’ve solved both of those problems. And, we’ve worked with IntelliShift to provide a 15-second data refresh rate that provides the accuracy we need for our operations. None of this would have been possible without the partnership from IntelliShift and willingness to customize products for our needs.
So, what does VSS do in the end? It creates a new standard for sweeping service providers. Our VSS technology allows customers to log into a custom, cloud-based portal to visually see, in real-time, and historic sweeping cycle data. Information from the portal can be easily exported for billing; we’ve talked about that, it’s so critical to our customers. In the end, it serves four key purposes. It provides a higher quality service at a lower cost, which allows us to grow our business the honest way; we deliver a better product to our customers at a lower cost. Growth is inevitable under those circumstances. VSS provides reporting, showing streets and highways are being swept according to contractual terms. Prior to VSS, our customer struggled to know, was their road swept 12 times last year, or did we skip a cycle? Because all of the work happens at night, no one is there to witness it. They now know that we are performing the work to the scope of the contract. VSS reduces the time required for inspectors to locate what we did. Many municipalities and state governments require their state inspectors to follow us the following day and ensure we did what we were billed for. Through VSS, they can pull live-time reports, see where we were, and inspect it in a shorter period of time. And, most importantly, it allows us inspectors to produce work orders to resolve any issues found during inspections. Previous to VSS, if a customer had a problem, it could hold up a million-dollar billing cycle for us. Now, it simply holds up a couple of hundred dollars associated to that individual work order. That’s a huge improvement in cash flow for SCA.
So, we talked about earlier, the integration between ESRI and IntelliShift, and this is one of the great areas where IntelliShift has truly partnered with SCA. We recognized early on that no GPS-based maps available from any commercial GPS service provider were going to be suitable for what we needed to do. So, we utilize a product called ArcGIS Pro to create complex base maps. Some of these maps for these DoT contracts contain tens of thousands of geofences. They contain geofences for both shoulder areas of the road; if it’s a divided road, there could be four shoulder areas for every mile of road. We utilize aerial photography instead of satellite imagery, which allows us to get to that three feet of accuracy, which is what we need for this product. The geofences are created for inside shoulders, outside shoulders, off ramps, on ramps, interchanges, bridge decks, gore decks, frontage roads, every unique road area has its own geofence and we can prove that it was in fact swept, and a precise catalogue of these geofences can be created and provided to a customer, often aligning with their street analyst for billing so we can easily reconcile what we did with billing every month. Again, without IntelliShift’s willingness to build a seamless integration tool here, this never would have been possible.
So, here’s a little look at the customer view we talked about, and this is that Amazon mentality, this is let’s provide them as much information as we can. Each contract can be viewed on a map, they can define the date range; if they want to see what we swept last night, they can toggle that date range themselves, they don’t have to wait for us to send them a report. If they want to look at last month, last year, two years ago, that’s all in the user’s hands now. It’s a simple shading system, the roads are shaded green to indicate that they were swept during the toggle date range, or red to indicate they have not yet been swept. Parameters can be set to define a completed service, that’s the heart of a verified sweeping service. A customer can tell us, “We require you to use your water dust suppression system when sweeping.” We track that input / output through IntelliShift; a customer can tell us they don’t want us to exceed a certain speed threshold because they’re worried about degradation of sweep quality. We can build that parameter into this tool, and it will not shade that area green, it will not treat it as a verified service if those customer required parameters are not met. With time, our customers grow so confident that they’re typically able to reduce their inspection staff because they know we simply can’t fool them; we can’t bill them for something we didn’t do with this system, we have to do what we said we were going to do. And, that service data can be exported into a simple Excel workbook that can be aligned with billing. That solves one of our biggest customer complaints.
So, in conclusion, VSS and IntelliShift is ConnectedOps: data-driven decision making; automated data flows; cost clarity and reduction; satisfied customers. These are our goals. When we achieve these, we achieve astronomical growth as a company. So, who do you want to be? Amazon or Toys ‘R Us? I know which one I’d choose.
Thank you everyone for your time today. I hope you’ve enjoyed the presentation and look forward to more today.
John Carione: Thank you, Jake. That was fantastic, to hear your insights about your deployment. It’s now time for a fifteen-minute break. If you registered early enough and gave us your address, you probably received some IntelliShift snacks and some IntelliShift socks in the mail. We hope you enjoyed both. After the break, please join whichever of our three product breakout sessions best fits your individual needs. Click “join” to view the session of your choosing. I hope your day is going really well so far.
Watch the video of this session, “Customer Keynote: Sweeping the Nation with Jake Rubin of SCA.”