It’s not easy for an organization to recognize that it has made a poor technology choice, particularly when there are senior stakeholders that have backed the decision and money and time has already been invested. However, sometimes it’s necessary to change tack, lick your wounds, and start again. That’s what Mohawk Industries - the world’s largest flooring manufacturer - recently did when it realized that its system of choice for monitoring its 800-strong fleet of delivery trucks wasn’t up to scratch.
Operating out of Georgia, with 34 satellite warehouses across the US, Mohawk delivers to organizations that range from the Home Depot and Lowes, to ‘mom and pop’ carpet stores that exist in most US towns across the country.
Speaking with diginomica at Samsara’s recent user event in Austin, Texas, Mohawk’s Senior Manager of Logistics Technology, Shane Faulkner, explained that the company had a couple of challenges that it was facing. On the one hand, Mohawk was on a countdown to the US turning off its 3G networks in 2022, which underpinned the Mohawk’s five year old communication system in each of its delivery vehicles. Secondly, the system that Mohawk had chosen to replace the 3G system - as noted above - turned out to not be fit for purpose.
It’s a legal requirement in the US that commercial trucks are fitted with an electronic device and this system is connected to the truck’s ECM, its main computer. That way the system can monitor the speed and movement, which indicates the hours of service (the time a driver spends driving). This was previously all done via pen and paper, which is prone to error and made manipulation possible (putting drivers at risk). Now organizations can monitor their fleets centrally.
Faulkner joined Mohawk in the midst of its system upgrade and was landed with a project that he saw wasn’t going to work, despite his best efforts. He explained:
I inherited the decision to replace that system with a new system, the vendor of choice - I was not happy with it but it was not my decision
When I first came on, and I heard about this, I actually went to our VP of transportation and asked him - are you sure you want to do this? And they said yes, that decision had been made. So reluctantly, I carried on.
However, Faulkner’s original assessment of that vendor turned out to be accurate and Mohawk u-turned on its decision after just six months. He said:
We tried for six months. We got all of our 3G hardware replaced with this new system. But at the end of the day, they could not do hours of service accurately - and that's your core software. You have to provide your core hours of service or you're in trouble with the government
That seems like the basic requirements and they couldn't do that. So long story short, we had to rip that investment out of our trucks - it was a huge mistake.
Time to pivot
Realizing the system wasn’t fit for purpose, Faulkner decided to implement Samsara, which he said had been on his radar for some time. He said:
Ever since I came into the role I had been watching what Samsara does. And so we reached out, got a pilot going very quickly. And we actually started integrating with our back office systems during the pilot phase, which is kind of unheard of. But I had that much confidence in them that they were going to be our vendor of choice.
Mohawk had a dedicated implementation person from Samsara, but it also needed help with the hardware installation across the country. It has two shops - a trailer and a tractor shop - based out of Georgia. Faulkner said that approximately 20% of the organization’s vehicles go through Georgia on any given week, which means that 80% of the remaining vehicles are scattered across the country. It was that 80% that Mohawk needed assistance with.
Samsara recommended ProLogic, also based in Georgia, as an implementation partner. They came back to Mohawk with a very aggressive plan. Faulkner said:
We all had our doubts. I said to them, can you really pull this off? They said they could because they were going to send out multiple teams each day, to multiple different sites. And sure enough, they did it in 85 days. They pulled it off. It's incredible.
As Faulkner noted, Mohawk has already started integrating Samsara with its back office systems via APIs. Mohawk currently has a 40 year old system that runs most of the business, its core manufacturing software, which it is transitioning off of and will be replaced with SAP. That’s a five to six year, multi-million dollar project.
However, whilst that project is ongoing, Mohawk has built integrations that enable a more automated ability for it to plan routes and also deliver job details to drivers in their trucks each day. Faulkner said:
Our local fleet is totally reliant on that old manufacturing system, to know where to go and pick up a trailer and move it to. So that was one of our key integrations. We’ve got to be able to send a route from that system to a truck, the driver takes the move, does it, finishes it - then sends a communication back to the system that says ‘this driver is done, let’s move on to the next assignment’.
Because these drivers are just piecemeal. When they come in each morning, they have no idea what they’re doing. Samsara has to tell them, which is communicated via that back-office system. So that was our big integration point.
Another big one was ORTEC route optimization. We replaced our old system about three years ago with ORTEC, so that was another key integration, because we build our routes in there, which has all the tools you need, including customer service windows, do they have a dog door, all of these factors that play into how long it takes to serve as a customer.
ORTEC will generate the routes and also generate the API calls to Samsara to create the route there. So that was key. We do about 200 routes a day and each route has about 10 stops.
Real time results
Mohawk now has an “overwhelming” amount of data, according to Faulkner. The organization is collecting all of the data from Samsara, ORTEC, its manufacturing software and sending this to its own internal data lake - one repository for all of its logistics data. Faulkner said:
Once you have it all in one place, it's very easy for your analyst to build reports, build dashboards and Power BI is our tool of choice when it comes to dashboards.
The big report that our VP of transportation gave us as a goal was to build out a plan versus actual report. A plan versus actual report is when ORTEC says it's going take you 110 miles to run your route. We can send that route to Samsara and then Samsara can come back and say that it took your driver 120 miles.
So, 120 versus 110, that's your PVA (plan versus actual). That tells you the story of either a) your driver’s not driving right or b) your routing software is not optimized correctly.
That report has opened our eyes to all the inefficiencies in the process. Whether it's driver based in efficiencies, or it's right route optimization software settings, something's not right.
And the end goal, ultimately, is for Mohawk to drive out inefficiencies in its business. Faulkner said:
We want to save money. We want to run our trucks as efficiently as we can, because each mile out of route is just fuel burned.
In terms of advice for other organizations, Faulkner said that to get the most use out of Samsara, it’s helpful to train staff to get the most out of the system. He said:
You need users who are inquisitive. You want to dig deep into the software. And I tell our managers that all the time. I say, ‘we've given you a great tool to manage your fleets’. Each of our 34 warehouses have a manager, those people are responsible for their drivers, and as you can imagine, there's a broad spectrum of talent and skill sets.
Some of our managers, you see when they start rising to the top, because they go into Samsara and they dig into it. They looked into all the bells and whistles that it offers, and they're using it to manage their fleet. While the other lower portion on the other side just sees it as ‘login, oh there the driver is, okay’.
So there’s a broad range. I encourage our managers to increase their technical skill sets in order to utilize these new tools. Because if you don't, you're just going to be left behind.