The Whole Fleet at Your Fingertips

Thanks to its new TotalView solution, Merchants Fleet Management is helping clients access masses of data for actionable insights to save money and drive efficiency

Essentially every company, in essentially every industry, has looked to the promise of big data for the next advantage in a highly competitive world. The most agile, competitive organizations are finding whatever opportunities they can in that information highway to get ahead. But not every organization has the resources or expertise to find them. Merchants Fleet Management recognized an opportunity to help its clients achieve those successes with TotalView, a solution that seamlessly fuses the company’s long history of strategic fleet management with clear, compelling analytics dashboards.

Whether it’s the prime area of business or merely a single facet, thousands of companies across the United States operate vehicle fleets. Since its founding in 1962, Merchants Fleet has helped streamline and optimize that element of business for its many clients. Whether focusing on leasing and insurance or telematics and GPS tracking, Merchants Fleet is helping fleet managers at more than eight hundred companies cut costs and increase efficiency.

Each of those clients could be tracking massive amounts of data, relating to everything from fuel spend to maintenance information. Fleets also need to be frequently tracked and maintained across the United States at any given moment. Fleet managers also need to track information relating to handfuls of vendors. And although some small businesses have taken the initiative to track and collect data, unlocking key takeaways and finding overarching trends in their midst presents another massive challenge. To help these small-business owners and meet the increasing demand for more sophisticated data tools, Merchants Fleet developed TotalView as a way to keep those streams of data contained in a single, actionable platform.

“This industry game-changing technology provides actionable data and analytics delivered through easy-to-use dashboards and reporting, providing the ability to manage total cost of ownership for fleet managers,” Merchants Fleet CIO Ken Kauppila explained to CIO Review. “We have put real ‘data science’ into establishing great information and analytics for our customers, suppliers, and employees from thousands of input data sources and source systems.”

In order to build the solution, Kauppila and the Merchants Fleet tech team partnered with Pariveda Solutions and Tallan to develop a custom, comprehensive platform. The developers used the Microsoft .NET Framework as a way to connect the essential data assets, meaning that the entire lifecycle could be displayed in a way that even non-experts could understand and determine next steps.

In fact, the TotalView project acts as a natural extension of Merchants Fleet’s generations of fleet management expertise, bringing advanced recommendations and industry knowledge to the fingertips of each customer. In addition to the custom data dashboards, the program allows users to generate drill-through reports, gather hundreds of pieces of information on each vehicle, optimize vehicle choices, and easily access invoices. Although other tools might make some of this information available, none offer the ability to gather it all in a single place. But perhaps most important for an industry based on mobility, Merchants paired TotalView with a mobile app, meaning that fleet managers can get their hands on information anywhere in the world.

Clients have the ability to customize their dashboards to each focus on a single element, such as fuel and maintenance, which can then be run and monitored individually or concurrently. Similarly, clients can set reports or alerts that can be automatically sent at predetermined intervals.

And rather than only deliver a top-tier tool to their clients, the Merchants Fleet team ensured that the organization would have professionals on hand to assist with further making the TotalView insights actionable. In a sense, TotalView allows Merchants Fleet to solidify its innovative nature while offering new ways to connect with the company’s best-in-class customer service.

“TotalView is how we compete now,” Dan Hannan, Merchants Fleet’s executive director of strategic consulting services, explained in a recent case study for Microsoft. “Since we launched TotalView in 2014, we’ve identified savings of over $25.5 million in life cycle management costs for our customers.”

While those savings represent a major success for Merchants Fleet’s clients, the tool has also allowed them to make better informed, more strategic decisions for the future, ensuring even further savings down the road. Those numbers are also only the beginning of the success for Merchants Fleet itself. According to the Microsoft case study, the organization has also increased sales by 15 percent since the launch of TotalView, a sign that potential clients are seeing its value just as easily as fleet managers are getting a view of the solution in action.

Building the platform took a lot of time and work. Two of the biggest challenges were recruiting top talent to Merchants Fleet and for the technology team to build trusted connections throughout the organization. However, Kauppila stressed “IT transparency” as an essential skill for a technology leader, particularly when undergoing a major project. “Driving accountability through all levels of the IT organization and changing the attitude, approach, and sense of urgency were base building blocks that were put in place to start the transformation,” he told CIO Review.

Whether with their clients or the other stakeholders in the organization, it’s clear that no amount of focus on technology has softened Merchants Fleet’s commitment to building relationships and driving positive change. In fact, if anything, it’s made those commitments stronger than ever. “We wanted to make sure that TotalView was an extension of that personalized strategy and not a replacement of it,” Hannan told Automotive Fleet. “This is not a self-serve solution. We’re providing more data [and] more solutions, which is just augmenting our ability to interact with our customers.”