Case Study: Followmont leads the way with technology
Queensland-based Followmont Transport had a problem: the business had outgrown its document- and spreadsheet-based management system. It was a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
CEO Mark Tobin decided to take the bull by the horns and install a selection of back-end systems to simplify management and provide detailed operational, financial and HR data.
He did so by following a simple process: identifying goals and problems; creating an overall technology plan and choosing the right solutions; supporting deployments with project management and training; and taking stock of the results and benefits.
Now, Followmont is a technology-driven company that’s growing confidently. Here’s how they did it.
Problem: A business that was too much to manage
“About five years ago,” Mark says, “the issue we had was we’d become everything to everybody. Our revenue streams were so diverse … it became impossible to manage the business through spreadsheets.”
The problem affected the entire business, so the solution had to do the same. But before he thought about what specific technologies or solutions might help the company, Mark took a step back and did some planning.
He started by looking at how Followmont worked with its customers. “We become very close with our customers so we can give them solutions for helping them grow their business,” Mark says. “It’s not just picking up freight.”
He also looked closely at the company’s operations. “We carry all types of freight. Our unique offering is to be able to move freight very quickly through a regional network.”
With these considerations in mind, Mark and his team created a technology plan centred around customer relationships and fast service. It guides project and purchasing decisions by placing them within a whole-of-business context.
It also helps avoid the problems (and costs) that come from adopting technologies without any forward planning. These problems include incompatible systems, unnecessary capability duplication and higher resource requirements caused by a lack of standardisation.
Solution: Choosing the right tools for the task
Followmont’s immediate problems centred on information flows and the operational headaches they were causing. Mark realised that the company needed to bring all its information together, so the company invested in a business management software system.
Now, “everything that we’ve got here, we monitor”, he says. “Customer data, payroll, sick days, headcount, fuel management. Accident MVIs, LPIs, anything to do with people. Our revenue streams, payments and accounts … I know what time the office shut last night, pickups and deliveries … we monitor the stops and the turnarounds.”
But the data you gather is only as good as the use you make of it, and the technologies you buy are only as good as the teams using them. Mark appreciates this, so Followmont also uses data to help identify training needs – and makes significant training investments.
“One of the biggest gaps in the industry is that ‘truck driver’ isn’t classed as a trade,” Mark says. “We get no government funding, so as an industry, we have to put money back into training. Otherwise, where will we be in five years?”
Followmont has full-time, professional trainers on-site, and staff training is ongoing in all roles. He notes that for the drivers, “we do a whole training complex, depending on the truck. It’s about dangerous goods awareness, likely problems, every aspect of being a professional operator.”
Deployment: Rolling out new technologies
Mark says project management and governance are critical to any technology rollout. Together, they keep a project on track, monitoring all aspects of the rollout from selection and purchase to deployment, training and evaluation. Even in smaller businesses without dedicated project management teams, it’s critical to have someone watching over the whole process, from technology selection to deployment, training and evaluation.
Seeing Machines is one of Followmont’s newest technologies. An Australian-made driver monitoring system (DMS), it tracks driver distraction and can detect microsleeps and other potential problems. Mark saw an opportunity to improve Followmont’s safety performance.
“Once I saw what the product could do, I walked into the business and said, ‘we’ve got six weeks to get an order and get them into the trucks’.”
In hindsight, Mark wishes he’d communicated the rollout better, but that’s where the company’s strong governance practices came into play. Despite the compressed timeframe, the project management team kept the deployment on track. Their job included keeping the drivers informed about the system and overcoming some misgivings about being monitored.
Keeping everyone on-side with a project is vital. After all, the best technology in the world won’t help you if no-one uses it. The project team spent time explaining the technology’s benefits and how the data would be used. Once the drivers understood the rollout, they were fully on board.
Results: a data-driven organisation
How has becoming a data-driven organisation transformed Followmont? The company has a technology plan, operations and new projects are humming along, and long-term plans are in place to make sure it stays competitive, well-run and a great place to work.
Ultimately, using technology to improve your business comes back to leadership. “You have to sing from the top”, Mark says, to bring people on board.
“It’s about how do you get a good news story across. What’s the new system and what it’s going to do for frontline staff?”
Marks’ final advice is to persevere and make sure you’ve allocated enough resources to make every project a success.
“We all get it wrong. We all have battles. I think where people go wrong is when they go for the cheap product or the easy product. But you can’t say a project’s going to work when it doesn’t.”
Step back and plan. Keep your staff informed. And give your projects the resources they need to succeed. In reality, it’s not quite that easy – but with forethought and planning, it doesn’t need to be that hard either.
Disclaimer: This disclaimer governs the use of the content of this “Case Study: Followmont leads the way with Technology”. This case study is meant to provide you with an opportunity to reflect on your technology needs. It is not intended as legal, financial or business investment advice and should not be construed or relied upon as such. Before making a commitment you should consider seeking your own independent advice.