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Samsara Gave Logistics Warehouse Real-Time Visibility, Control Over Ops

Modern logistics companies need to have integrated operational tracking data. Here's how Samsara pulled one company's data together into a single pane of glass.
Apr 17th, 2023 3:00am by
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Just as data warehousing and data delivery operations need to be managed and tracked, so do physical brick-and-mortar warehousing and logistics operations. While both types need to be accurate and efficient, physical operations must also monitor the actions of people and equipment to ensure safety.

Logistics Warehouse consisted of a small warehouse with only a few trucks when owner and chairman, Douglas Moore, purchased the company in 1999. First, Moore grew the warehouse side, and then expanded the trucking side, said Chris Morland, director of operations. “In 2013 he decided to make a bigger leap: we started leasing the trucks, and added the repacking service.”

Since then, the company has grown to nine warehouses totaling over one million square feet, point-to-point transportation services in 28 states, and local delivery services. It also provides value-added services such as repacking and specialty packaging.

Logistics Warehouse has more trailers per truck than other logistics companies, said Morland, but its previous tracking system only tracked the trucks. So workers had to go out physically every month or two to count the trailers, service them, or repair them. To increase visibility and cut costs, the company wanted a more comprehensive telematics solution for both trucks and trailers.

One Platform to Track Them All

Morland’s team wanted a platform for both trucks and trailers that was easily accessible to both operations personnel and drivers, and would give customers up-to-date, real-time information on the progress of their deliveries.

Ideally, the solution would be easy to integrate with the rest of its systems, such as dispatch software.

“We were using a system that’s well-known but the hardware was bulky, got in the way of the driver, and kept breaking, and the screens didn’t work reliably all the time, said Morland. “Tracking was not complete enough or fast enough for our needs, and the very expensive equipment cost too much to fix when it broke.”

The team looked at several different trailer tracking platforms. Key considerations included which hardware had to be to installed, how long that would take, and whether different devices would require different software. Also important was whether the system offered real-time tracking and imaging, instead of giving trailer updates every few hours.

Morland narrowed down the field to Samsara and one other company.

From the beginning, what made the difference was customer service. “Samsara gave me all the information I needed and had an attitude of ‘Let’s try this and see if it works,'” he said. So he also started looking at Samsara’s trucking solutions.

Tracking, Hardware and Diagnostics

“With so many other companies’ solutions, you couldn’t look at trailers on the same page as your trucks,” said Morland. “But with Samsara, truck and trailer data, including camera feeds, are all visible on the same map.”

On that map, Samsara’s use of geofencing technology in its Vehicle Telematics solution lets customers follow their truck’s progress, and other relevant details, until it makes the delivery.

Cameras and other hardware provided by Samsara are higher quality than competitors’, yet equipment cost and ruggedness are much better and it’s easier to use, said Morland. “For example, the previous supplier’s vehicle gateway device had a screen on the truck’s dash hanging off a wire that got in the driver’s way. The driver had to also use a phone and keep switching between the two.”

By contrast, Samsara’s small Vehicle Gateway device plugs into the cab, out of the driver’s way, while drivers can access the Driver App on their personal phones. The app is as easy to use as the popular Candy Crush game app, said Morland.

Diagnostic software is also superior. “Samsara’s telematics solution continually diagnoses the truck — if a fault code comes up, it emails dispatch and my leasing company, so the problem gets solved quickly,” said Morland. “Or we may discover there’s no big problem to solve, without having to spend the time and cost of sending someone out physically to look at the truck or taking it somewhere to get it fixed.”

Warehouse and Safety Issues Monitored, Too

A couple of months after implementing Samsara’s telematics solution with Vehicle and Asset Gateway devices and truck dashboard cameras, Logistics Warehouse added Samsara’s Site Visibility solution and cameras for warehouse and packing operations.

“We have 20 cameras throughout our facilities focused on the gate and equipment,” said Morland. This tells personnel when someone enters company property.”

In warehouses, other cameras let staff monitor safety issues, such as whether a forklift emerging from an aisle is using alarms correctly.

Workers on production lines can be monitored for efficiency and safety. “A lead supervisor can use Site Visibility to monitor workers from their office, instead of paying multiple supervisors to watch workers in person,” said Morland. “We’ve cut the number of supervisors from six to three.”

Site Visibility uses AI and computer vision to detect people and motion across multiple video streams, said Samsara’s chief product officer, Jeff Hausman. “You can paint a picture with multiple video camera feeds. Within any one of those, you can break the feed into separate areas, each showing details of the feed image. In the event of a security or safety incident, Site Visibility triggers automated alerts to notify managers.”

All operations are now visible on a single dashboard. From among all that data, staff can easily find a video of a certain date and time, look at workers’ logs, or check a truck’s hours of service, Morland said.

Easy Integration with Existing Systems

The best way to connect all the data about vehicles and warehouses into a single platform is by giving customers an integrated software experience, said Sean McGee, Samsara’s vice president of product management. “How do you pull all that data together into a single pane of glass that gives them one place to manage and moderate all those operations?”

Samsara’s open model supports third-party data inputs from a number of different software providers and OEMs, he said. “Once the data is in the platform, we become a system of record: assets, vehicles, workers, locations — it all gets pulled into one place customers can use as a ‘single source of truth’ for their operations.” On top of that, Samsara then builds different software experiences and workloads.

The open API makes it possible for developers to build their own integrations with existing systems, or they can select from out-of-the-box integrations built by more than 200 partners on its App Marketplace.

“For example, McLeod is a transportation planning system to plan all the loads they need to use on behalf of shippers,” said McGee. “Customers can create that plan in McLeod and rely on Samsara’s platform for execution of the plan, transported over the API. They can then see the plan in the Samsara dashboard, while drivers see these updates in their mobile Driver App.”

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