Best of BI: Maverick Transportation centralizes data to make real-time decisions

Real-time data lets this trucking company boost driver productivity without sacrificing safety.

For Maverick Transportation, a national long-haul trucking company with more than 1,200 drivers on the road, even small changes to processes can lead to swings of hundreds of thousands of dollars on the bottom line. Changes in routes, driver training, gas mileage, accident rates -- they all affect profits. Until recently, however, the company couldn't easily visualize real-time trends or accurately predict future outcomes.

"People were running a lot of reports, but not getting real-time information," says Wayne Brown, vice president of IT. "They were basing decisions on data that was days or weeks old."

That changed when Maverick's IT department recognized that the company needed centralized data and the ability to do predictive analytics. The team integrated disparate financial systems using Information Builders' WebFocus Developer Studio, a BI development tool.

"We realized we had a very powerful tool that we could leverage across the enterprise," says Brown.

The operations, IT and safety departments, in particular, wanted to gain insight into what factors influenced safe driving records and how they could boost driver productivity without adversely impacting safety.

Brown, along with three business systems analysts, integrated data sources and created dashboards that business managers can easily understand and use. To create predictive analytics models for Maverick's data, the team partnered with Fleet Risk Advisors, a trucking industry analytics firm.

To integrate all of the data sources, they used several integration technologies, including Web services, adapters from vendors and old-fashioned hand-coding.

Today, Brown says that three full-time analysts develop dashboards for virtually every department, for functions such as operations, safety, maintenance and financials. But all of the dashboards access the same database, so users can get a wider view of the enterprise, if they want.

"Getting information in real time is very important," says John Coppens, vice president of operations. "Before, I could institute changes but wouldn't see the results until the monthly or quarterly report. Now you can see the results daily and weekly. That's made us much more nimble."

Coppens and other users have the option to view data in a variety of ways, including drilling down into individual driver or truck performance. "We need to use these metrics to be aware of the factors that impact productivity every day," he says.

Next: Minnesota's DOE embraces fast-access BI dashboards

Hildreth is a veteran IT writer based in Waltham, Mass. She covers enterprise technologies, from BI and CRM to social media and IT management.

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