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Propel IT: Simplifying Logistics with Data-Driven Solutions

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Alexander Smith, COO and Pramod Mallapragada, CTO,  Propel ITAlexander Smith, COO and Pramod Mallapragada, CTO  
Being involved with logistics and transportation companies for a good portion of my journalistic career now, I have come across many of them stung by late deliveries frequently. What they usually do is “hammer down the wiggle wagons on the hammer lanes,” which does not help the cause. I came across one such case lately, but unlike other companies, this transportation firm was able to steer out of its predicament thanks to an innovative Pittsburgh, PA-based technology company, Propel IT.

The idle time for the drivers was snowballing into a massive headache for the terminal managers of the company. Clueless as to what to do, and in desperate need for a solution, they collaborated with Propel IT. Although unsure about how this company could address the situation, what followed next amazed me. During their initial engagement with the process-stuck client, Propel IT identified that a particular drop off location for the drivers had a lot of wait times which ultimately caused late deliveries. After identifying the main reason behind the mishap, Propel IT, with its state-of-art technology, helped the manager reduce the wait times. The company delivered efficiency reports catered toward identifying the suitable drop-off and pick up times thereby reducing their drivers’ idle time and late delivery ratio, and that too while making it look simple.

“As the industry keeps going through rapid changes in technology offerings Propel IT is sensitive to the fact that each company will have a different type of device in their automobiles”

Amazed at the outcome that a transportation company can achieve with Propel IT's cutting-edge technology, I decided to interview the leaders of their pack—Alexander Smith, the COO, and Pramod Mallapragada, the CTO of the company. As I interviewed, I couldn’t stop myself but asked out loud, what the principles and values are that the duo abides by, being senior leadership executives of the company, to steer it forward? Smith replies, “We are an intentionally small group of dedicated employees. Our small size enables us to be incredibly agile, and rapidly adjust our product pipeline and even our current offerings to fit the ever-changing needs of our customers. We listen to every employee’s voice to inf luence the direction of the company. There are no bad ideas, and we make it a point to listen to each and every idea that our team has. There is no point in hiring talented individuals if you don’t pay heed to what they have to offer.”

Centralizing Data, Seamlessly

The logistics and transportation companies have been plagued by many major issues which include driver shortages, late deliveries, safety concerns, and fuel costs. Further, government mandates and increasing pressure on logistics fueled by the e-commerce boom and demand are pushing companies to adopt, learn, and manage processes efficiently.

“Each of these issues is growing every year and Propel IT has specific solutions that focus on each of them,” says Mallapragada. The company's expertise in real-time data capture and analytics has enabled it to develop a trucking-specific GPS product that routes and tracks truck driver performance at critical locations including high-risk truck route segments, loading, and unloading facilities, or diver specific hot spots. The application dynamically updates its mapping platform to alert drivers both visually and audibly as they approach those areas and even relays advice on how to better navigate through or reroute around such locations. “By analyzing the trucker performance, we are able to determine where a company may need to improve, for example, we help them identify unsafe behaviors in high-risk areas that lead to accidents, thereby averting possibilities of risk and loss,” mentions Mallapragada. Further, Propel IT has been able to identify and relay inefficient unloading and loading times at specific locations to help all the parties involved understand what is causing the delays and take remedial measures. This ultimately allows companies to seamlessly evaluate and enhance f leet and drivers’ ability to deliver products on time.

By analyzing the trucker performance, we are able to determine where a company may need to improve for example, we help them identify unsafe behaviors in high-risk areas that lead to accidents, thereby averting possibilities of risk and loss

What makes Propel IT steer ahead of the other vendors is that the company renders output in formats that best suit the role of any stakeholder be it f leet managers, 3PL entities or even the drivers. Smith adds, “Another unique feature of our products is the ability for third-parties such as 3PL firms, insurers, risk managers, consultants to create geo-fences with text-to-speech capabilities that will alert the driver of important information about the area they are in.” The feature, by allowing third parties to create geo-fences without having to wait or hear from for busy f leet managers, increases the rate of deployment. Propel IT implements its machine learning algorithms that predict and identify which of their clients’ drivers will most likely be in a safety-related incident and also the reason behind it. Focused on reducing the time lost by f leet managers in analyzing the existing data, Propel IT enables them to make decisions and manage their drivers by automating the entire process.

Four Pillars of the Competent Solution Arsenal

Propel IT, through its approach and solutions, ensures proper visibility from top to bottom. “Every driver, manager, executive, and necessary third-party will have customized dynamic dashboards that connect them to the valuable information they need,” states Mallapragada. Next, the company focuses on adaptability. Smiths says, “We don’t want anyone to view our product as a burden or a complicated integration process, and we don’t want it to go unused; therefore we have made sure to partner with leading telematics and ELD companies. If you have an older Omnitracs or Peoplenet type unit we can seamlessly integrate with their web services/ APIs to gather your data, clean it, analyze it, put it through our AI and then appropriately update everyone via our product dashboards.” The company rides on the four main offerings that it delivers— FuelOpps, SafetyOpps, RetentionOpps, and RouteRisk.

The first solution in the company's arsenal, FuelOpps monitors the behaviors of truck drivers that impact fuel efficiency including temperature-based idling, progressive shifting, high RPM, highest gear ratio, and speeding. The solution tracks drivers' habits at loading and unloading locations to identify bottlenecks and other inefficiencies. Propel IT's SafetyOpps solution focuses on the safe driving habits of professional drivers and trucking companies including—lane departures, speeding versus posted speed limit or company specific speeds, hard braking, and harsh acceleration. Further, RetentionOpps leverages behavioral analysis and timely surveys from which Propel IT can identify who is going to leave the company and why they are leaving which can result in up to 25 percent reduction in turnover. Propel IT also delivers a standalone Android or iOS application that generates second by second data and can include all of the above features and includes additional features such as in-cab real-time safety alerts, truck, and cargo-specific GPS routing, driver and f leet-specific dynamic hot-spotting, and near real-time ETA updates to any and all parties involved.

Laser-Focused on Customer Needs

In addition to their state-of-art solutions and technology, the other factor that puts Propel IT ahead of the competition is their customer-first strategy. “As the industry keeps going through rapid changes in technology offerings, Propel IT is abreast of the fact that each company will have a different type of device in their automobiles,” comments Smith.

The company ensures that its product offerings need no costly downtime to install, the training requirement is minimal, the support is world class, and the pricing is affordable. Mallapragada says, “We are proud to listen to our clients’ needs and concerns so we can adjust accordingly and immediately, especially considering the plethora of rigid requirements, mandates, and laws that they have to adhere to strictly.”

The Road Ahead

The interview that I conducted with Smith and Mallapragada was very satisfying for me due to two main reasons; the first one being that after a very long time, I came across a technology that can automate several data-intensive tasks, including accurately predicting when safety incidents will occur. And secondly, Propel IT enables drivers, managers, and necessary third parties to know where inefficiencies exist within fuel efficiency, routing, detention, idling, safe driving habits, and other areas of operations, at the click of a button or a few taps on their smartphones.

The portfolio of solutions that the company was delivering made me all excited to ask about the future of such a cut-above-the-rest entity. Smith mentions that over the last year, Propel IT has intensified its focus on offerings for insurers, 3PLs, risk managers and owner-operators which has broadened their partnerships, which in turn is increasing their customer base quite rapidly.

As their next big step to advance in the industry in terms of expanding its services portfolio, Propel IT will be focusing on product offerings in a very carefully planned process. Smith informs, “We will be addressing the basic requirements of this industry. We intend to become the data leaders in our space, but we also intend to connect all parties involved in the most seamless, intuitive, and collaborative fashion. As more technology is introduced to the industry, we will be there to make sure it is easy for our clients to integrate, manage, understand, and profit from.”