Mobility during & after COVID-19

Last updated on August 26th, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every industry, and fleet management is no exception. In an effort to understand the impacts of the novel coronavirus in more detail, Acerta recently held a remote round table with leaders in mobility and transportation.

The discussion was focused around four key questions:

  1. How has COVID-19 affected your business this quarter?
  2. What innovations are key to coming out on top?
  3. How will short-term initiatives align with your long-term roadmap?
  4. What will the industry look like in a post-COVID world?

The panelists were Mike Branch, VP of Data & Analytics at Geotab, Greta Cutulenco, Co-Founder and CEO of Acerta, Lenny Levin, Senior Data Scientist at Volvo, and Johnny Ramoutar, Senior IoT Specialist at Telus. Michael Walton, Industry Solutions Executive at Microsoft served as our moderator.

Here are a few of the insights that came out of the conversation.

Initial Impacts of COVID-19

“Obviously, there’s been a big impact due to shutdowns,” Cutulenco said. “But we’re also seeing that digitalization has become very important. Across the board—both in manufacturing and on-road mobility—there’s a push for more digital visibility into how processes are running and how to utilize that data to drive ROI and help recover from those shutdowns.”

“There’s certainly been a huge uptick in courier and delivery organizations,” Branch added. “But there have also been downturns in other areas—oil & gas, school transportation, etc. In general, across the entire ecosystem, the biggest dip was in early April, but now we’re starting to see some slow upward trends in key industries, like construction. If you look at the data globally, with countries like Australia that were able to flatten the curve relatively quickly, you don’t see nearly as much of an impact to commercial activity.”

Key Innovations for Responding to COVID-19

“Some of the solutions that were needed we conveniently already had in place, although their use has increased significantly,” Ramoutar commented. “Digitization of forms, for example, has been a high priority to minimize the amount of paper being passed from person to person. Digitizing these processes and marrying them with CRM or ERP has really helped to achieve that goal. Regarding remote work, I’ve found that larger organizations were already prepared to have their teams work from home, but a lot of smaller businesses didn’t have the resources to do that in a large scale manner.”

“My role as a data scientist obviously makes me biased,” Levin noted, “but I believe data and connectivity are key to pretty much everything for both short-term and long-term impacts. That’s what we’ve been focusing on from Volvo Group’s perspective, in terms of the infrastructure necessary to get use out of data for predictive maintenance and other services. Any kind of downtime is hugely impactful for our customers now, much more so than before.”

Short-Term Initiatives & Long-Term Road Map

“This is the most important time for providing services to our customers,” Levin said. “Even though we’ve had to shut manufacturing plants down and revenue from sales have been delayed as a result, from a services perspective, that’s where we’re pushing our innovation resources, especially digitization. Mike mentioned that objectives like these aren’t new, in the sense of what we think is important, but the timelines have changed. Instead of thinking 10 or 15 years down the road, we’ve had to shift to five or seven years and shorten those timelines in terms of where we can move the needle.”

“In the short term—and potentially the long-term as well—there’s going to be considerably less travel, so we need to look at how that will impact our business,” Branch added. From the perspective of a product roadmap, if you’re working from home and you have new norms that mean people aren’t all in the office at the same time, I expect we’ll see more short-term innovations in shorter cycles that the teams can engage in, and we’re starting to see that in our business already.”

Mobility & Fleet Management After COVID-19

“I think larger organizations should expect to take a profound hit to their bottom lines, but history shows that they’ll most likely persevere,” Ramoutar said. “It’s the small and medium businesses that will have tough decisions to make. During my career alone, we’ve had 9/11, the Northeast Blackout in 2003, the Stock Market crash in 2008, and now the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m hoping that we’ve reached a point where businesses will recognize that there’s always the potential for something big and unexpected that forces us to react. When I think about the post-COVID world, I suspect we’ll see a more nationalistic agenda in terms of what Canada can procure domestically. That, in turn, could lead to more job creation in manufacturing.”

“As the whole panel mentioned, there’s a lot of work being done in innovation to drive ROI so that we come out of this stronger,” Cutulenco concluded. “It’s really exciting to hear about what everyone is doing—Microsoft, Telus, Volvo and Geotab—and how they’re all supporting this new ecosystem and bringing new solutions to market to enable us all to prosper in a post-COVID world.”

To hear more insights, download the audio highlights from our round table discussion on mobility and COVID-19.

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