GPS Buying Basics
Originally published: 12.01.06 by Peter Strozniak
Evaluate how eight key capabilities will improve your efficiency and productivity.
Hundreds of companies sell GPS solutions, each offering a bewildering array of capabilities at a variety of price points, so plan to conduct some research before you buy.
“There are a lot of smoke and mirrors in the GPS industry, and when most people hear of GPS, they think it’s all the same no matter who they buy it from,” says Dennis L. Abrahams, President and CEO of SageQuest, a Beachwood, Ohio-based GPS vendor. “But that’s just not the case.There are a lot of hidden costs that you have to watch out for. Some vendors will charge you extra for installation; others will charge you fees for additional data features and other options. We see all kinds of stuff.”
What really drives the value of the GPS product, Abrahams says, is finding the right system that is practical for your company and easy to use. That means doing a bit of soul-searching to determine what your company needs from a GPS solution. Ask yourself: Where do you want to track and reduce costs? Where do you think you could achieve efficiencies?
Armed with this information you can begin to review vendors. Identify five or six companies that are successfully serving hvacr businesses. You can find many with a quick search on the Web, where some GPS vendors post case studies and testimonials. Contact the hvacr owners quoted in the testimonials and ask about their experiences with GPS.
SageQuest, which has about 100 hvacr companies among its 400 clients in 35 states, offers a free apples-to-apples comparison chart that you can download and print for free. The chart lists eight essential capabilities that you should look for in a GPS solution and allows you to rate, compare, and score each GPS solution side-by-side. To review the chart, go to sage-quest.com, and click “download info,” on the left side of the page.
The eight capabilities and what you should look for include:
1 Plot frequency: Note how often the GPS can track or update a vehicle’s location. Many hvacr operators opt for a frequency of every five minutes to every 15 minutes. But a GPS solution also should be capable of plotting trucks every minute or every two minutes.
2. Information storage: Indicate how long the GPS vendor will retain information for you. The standard is 14 days to 30 days. However, some GPS vendors offer information storage for up to 90 days, which can be useful to spot patterns of how your trucks are being used.
3. Product features: Look for information on offerings such as geofencing, maintenance scheduling, breadcrumbing of routes, and real-time alerts.
4. Mapping: Find out how often the vendor updates the maps in its system. Most hvacr vendors expect maps to be updated at least every six months, so they include new developments and streets.
5. Report detail: Check to see if the vendor offers reports with the level of detail that you will need.
6. Report flexibility: Find out if you will be able to customize the report or if you must use a standard report.
7. Report ease-of-use: Evaluate whether the reporting function is easy to use.
8. Overall value: Decide which vendor meets your needs.
The checklist is designed to evaluate how well each feature, and ultimately each system, matches your needs, rather than comparing the systems with each other.
More Online Resources
Other GPS vendors that serve the hvacr industry and provide a wealth of information on their Web sites include: