PSI Blog

In 5 Steps to a Depot Management System for Transport Companies

21 Jul 2020 - Transport, Technology

Stadtwerke Bonn depot in Friesdorf. Source: Stadtwerke Bonn GmbH

When it comes to a Depot Management System, many transport companies look forward to see process improvements and reduced work effort.
While the benefits of a DMS are obvious, decision-makers are often unclear about how to go about introducing one. However, a structured implementation strategy can easily deal with these uncertainties. The right checklist makes the path to a new DMS much easier.

How Long Does It Take to Introduce a Dms?

Every DMS implementation is as unique as the company where it is being implemented. Factors such as the number and size of the depots, interfaces, available resources and capacities, and cross-depot processes can significantly affect the implementation time. The existing structure is critical. For example, if many processes have already been digitised and mapped using internal tools, existing relationships, methods and procedures must be considered and discussed by the provider and the company. Here, customers can Benefit from PSI’s years of market experience, which allow PSI to draw upon many existing systems and references, including finished software modules, eliminating the necessity to rewrite or defining many specifications.

A rule of thumb is: A realistic project timeline for completely new introductions or replacing older systems is one to one-and-a-half years.

How Much Work Will It Mean for My Employees?

From the magnetic board to a modern software system. Source: PSI

In an ideal world, a company's DMS project manager would be dedicated exclusively to the project during the introduction. However, these skilled employees are usually also needed for other activities and are involved in day-to-day business. Experience has shown that to avoid delays, 75% of working time should be reserved for the DMS implementation.

There are also costs associated with the key users who must hold, prepare and follow-up on internal training, as well as create training documents. During the hot phase of the project, they should therefore reserve about of 50% of their time for a successful introduction – although time demands can vary greatly week-to-week.

In 5 Steps to a Depot Management System

Introducing a DMS system is usually accomplished into five phases. In reality, some of the phases tend to overlap. Nevertheless, they are extremely helpful as guideposts and a checklist.

1. Project Kick-Off

  • Hold kick-off event: This introduces the project and the areas and functions to be implemented. Its goal is to involve all employees and integrate them into the project from the beginning. Once all relevant points have been clarified, the remaining points can be discussed as a milestone in the first phase.
  • Set up project organisation: Members of the project team are named. Project managers at the introducing company and at the supplier are named. Key users are identified. Required developers from the DMS provider are named. The steering committee is selected, which will be highest escalation level and can provide clarity in the event of differences of opinion.
  • Colaborate on the project manual: Create a written document defining how to work together within the project. What should be considered? Where are the required documents? How will collaborators handle changes? How will risk management be implemented? It is important to define everything as soon as possible to avoid misunderstandings later in the heat of the moment.
  • Create projet plan: The project plan, including the five phases, is created jointly. A project may be split into several parts to reduce its complexity.

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An example illustration of project organisation for a DMS implementation. Source: PSI

2. Process and system design

  • Sub-project workshops: Gather and discuss requirements from the affected areas. Record and discuss processes and how to map processes in the subprojects (e.g. workshop and supply).
  • Definine target processes and map them in the system: The central question here: How will the company work in the future? To answer this, project managers, developers, and the company introducing the DMS jointly evaluate how processes can be (re-)designed sensibly. Here, companies can benefit from the expertise and industry knowledge of the experienced provider PSI.
  • Change management: If in practice, changes are required that diverge from the performance specification or contractual agreements, these adjustments should be discussed no later than during process and system design.
  • Specifications for interfaces and adjustments: How are the sub-systems to be integrated, what do the semantic interfaces look like and how does the cooperation between the three parties work? As an experienced provider, here PSI is especially able to apply its strength in managing sub-contractors. Introducing a DMS involves many sub-contractors which must be supervised by a general contractor to minimise customer risk.

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3. Implementation process and system design

  • Application configuration: The provider configures the system and sets the parameters according to the individual needs of the company. Thanks to the many existing functions and software modules at PSI, this process can often be shortened if customer requirements allow them to be used.
  • Implementation of interfaces and adjustments: This is where another of PSI's strengths comes into play: Thanks to the abundance of implemented interfaces to known subsystems available on the market, many relevant systems can be integrated without developing new interfaces. To begin, a test import is performed; the first data transfer often does not provide the desired results. One reason may be that the data is not available in the other systems in the required quality. It may also be completely missing, or specific parameters must be changed for the new system.
  • Creation of documentation based on the best-practice documents: Descriptions of functions and processes
  • Data migration concept
  • Integration workshop: Suppliers and companies walk through the process together from A to Z across all departments. Does the process work in theory across departmental boundaries? Does the interaction function or are interfaces required between subsystems? Are there media breaks?

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4. Installation and training the core team

  • Installation of software components
  • System overview for key users: The training comprises an interface and system handling training, followed by a typical process flow, which is run through using customer data. At this point, we also recommend collaborating on the creation of a "Big Picture" (future process map) of the processes. The contents of the process map form the basis for the subsequent design phase.
  • Supplementary training: These include user interface training and application operation.
  • Data transfer for productive operation
  • Integration test: The integration test resembles the integration workshop. However, the test is performed under real conditions with migrated data and using implemented interfaces and all program adjustments. All processes across the entire company are tested.
  • Declaration of operational readiness: The determination is made as to whether online operation can be ventured from the perspective of the provider and the company. This is the milestone for the implementation phase.

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5. Start and support of live operation

  • Training users
  • Commissioning: Milestone for this phase
  • Online support/ maintenance
  • Through a Remote Maintenance & Testing System (RMTS), the provider can access the customer system at any time. Using its own test system, it can reproduce and quickly eliminate errors.
  • Well-trained key users and PSI's flexible DMS provide many configuration options to cus-tomers, allowing them to independently adjust dispatching criteria during operation. Only experience gathered during actual operation can demonstrate whether the DMS works in all cases and establishes how an experienced dispatcher would work. In this way, the company’s experience can be continuously fed into the DMS without involving the pro-vider, and the system can be optimised. This improves employee/user acceptance of the system.

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What Are the Pitfalls When Introducing a Dms?

Avoiding errors is more important than correcting them. DMS projects have already failed or been seriously delayed because of the following easily avoided pitfalls. Together with their provider, companies can easily avoid:

  • Unclear goals
    Companies should clearly defined objectives before beginning with the implementation. They must answer the question of what is to be achieved with the new DMS.
  • Underestimated complexity
    Process and system design can be lengthy when requirements are complex. The question of how many functions will be introduced at once can also influence the time required. For example, if all processes – from the commercial department to production – are mapped with a DMS, the project will be correspondingly complex. A certain willingness to compromise on the part of the supplier and the company is required. This includes accepting that standard-capable products cannot model every individual process.
  • Poor change management
    Over the course of the project, it becomes ever more apparent what is truly necessary. This often diverges from the requirements defined at the beginning of the project. There is a change case that needs to be facilitated. Solid change management and creativity are needed on both sides to find solutions that work for both sides.
  • Talking at cross purposes
    Make the effort to become a well-practised team with your provider. Finding a common language takes time. Terms often do no have the same meaning across different IT solutions. Similarly, colleagues in production and IT may have different names for the same thing. The requirements from the performance specification should therefore be jointly discussed in detail.
  • Poor data quality
    Data migration can be quite complex and take a long time if data with the required quality is not available.

What Can Companies Do to Ensure Quick Implementation?

Before the project kicks off, companies should think very carefully about the goals of a DMS implementation and develop a solid plan in the form of an IT strategy. Which steps are to be taken, and when? For this, it is advisable to carefully analyse the current state, and based on this, to define how processes should be developed in the future.

Timely internal discussions create a shared understanding throughout your company. Different departments should discuss the processes which affect them and reach an agreement before the project begins. It is not necessary for the provider to supervise this process in a cost-intensive manner. It can focus on its core competencies and map and optimise the desired processes.

Finally, the necessary resources for implementing the project must be made available. The success of a project stands and falls with a motivated project manager who has the backing of management. Key users with expert knowledge and an understanding of IT and the ways systems interact contribute to both a speedy introduction, as does (partially) releasing employees involved in the project from their every-day responsibilities.

Your benefits with PSItraffic/DMS

  • Transparency at the depots
  • Vehicle parking and assignment in real-time based on Qualicision
  • Improved vehicle availability
  • Reduction of the vehicle reserve
  • Optimised vehicle supply (cleaning, sanding, refuelling)
  • Manual, semi or fully-automatic vehicle dispatching
  • Use of standard interfaces
  • Integration with AVMS (Automatic Vehicle Management System)
  • Integrated quality management system

What is your opinion on this topic?

Eric Nöh

PSI Transcom GmbH
Head of Sales Public Transport
Phone: +49 30 2801-1680