So what's your take on using GPS-enabled devices to monitor employees? Is it Big Brother, better business or both?
IT Business Edge recently interviewed an executive from Xora, a provider of GPS-enabled mobile resource management software, who shared a number of ways that his company's clients use the product. Among them: streamlining the payroll process, boosting the accuracy of job-costing estimates and improving fleet maintenance.
Read the full interview: Adding Mobility to Management
An application that sounds especially useful involves optimizing route schedules. The exec explains:
Let's say you are running a regional mattress delivery operation with six stores, three distribution centers and 15 trucks, and you have on average 100 deliveries per day. This enables you to take all of those delivery locations -- or service locations, if you are in the service industry -- and import them into the application, XRoutes. It will automatically use various algorithms to divvy up those routes intelligently. So it will tell you: "These six delivery locations will be done by this truck, and in this order." It also allows you to print out manifests for the drivers and the warehouse workers so they know they should pack up that first delivery last on the truck so it's easy to pull off, for example.
The stops are programmed into the mobile phones of service personnel, and they can use the phone to indicate when they've completed a scheduled task and are ready to move on to the next one. Monitoring their progress allows dispatchers to keep customers apprised of any expected delays.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, there has been pushback from labor unions and other groups that contend such devices are too intrusive and are being used punitively by employers.
According to an Associated Press story published on SiliconValley.com, six Allen County, Ind., employees lost their jobs after GPS devices showed they were running personal errands while on the job in department vehicles. Yet the devices can't show the specifics of circumstances such as one described by a 27-year department employee who contends she went home because she was ill and returned to work after exceeding her alloted time for lunch by just 38 minutes.
A Teamsters spokesperson interviewed in the article says that contract negotiations -- including a tentative agreement with United Parcel Service -- increasingly include specific mention of such devices.
Yet government organizations using the devices report reductions in fuel expenses, improved productivity, fewer accidents and better customer service.
We have to wonder how such devices will fly among younger employees who, while they like technology, aren't so keen on rigid schedules and working under close supervision. Many experts believe that both employers and the newer generations of employees will have to alter their expectations.