For CIOs in the business of enabling fleet operations, there are host of products available that utilize GPS and software to better manage where their vehicles go and in what order. This can save a lot of gasoline.
At UPS, for example, the company rolled out an initiative call Package Flow Technology in 2003 that uses handheld computers and upgraded package labels that contain more and better information to optimize a driver's daily load for delivery.
The software handles route layout and ensures drivers don't miss that little package in the corner which causes them to turn around and go back, said UPS Spokesperson Heather Robinson. For a company that spent $2.1 billion on fuel in 2005, these savings can be substantial.
The system also helps eliminates left-hand turns, which means less engine idling and lower fuel consumption. "By basically knowing in advance what type of packages are coming in, we can basically customize and tweak routes on a daily basis," she said.
UPS markets this technology to its customers through UPS Logistics Technologies.
California-based Fleet Management Solutions offers a similar technology to its customers by coupling GPS tracking technology with a host of more advanced offerings that can tell managers where a vehicle or piece of equipment is, if it's on, how fast it's going, how many miles-per-gallon it's getting and it's speed by tying directly into the car's onboard computer.
This enables fuel-conscience managers to limit, for example, idle times and put in place policies that discourage lead-foot driving.
"When fuel was only a dollar a gallon in the U.S. it was not that big an issue but once that got North of $2 per gallon, it started really impacting the bottom line, said company Founder and CEO Cliff Henley.
"So if (a customer says) 'Hey, we want to try to average 18 MPG but at this point we're averaging 14 MPG because of all of these excessive idle times, excessive speeds and excessive power takeoffs … they can look at this empirical information and do the math and put rules and guidelines in place to change employee behavior."
Easier said than done, of course, but since the company opened its doors in July of 2002, its message has been embraced by such marquee customers as the Department of Defense, Halliburton, the countries of Egypt and Afghanistan, and Alcoa Aluminum to name a few.
In Part II of this article we'll look at the other area where IT can have a big impact on energy consumption: The data center.