Magazine

BostonCoach


The Project: Use wireless network to track limos and combine that data with customer bookings to manage its fleet.

The Payoff: Since January, productivity has soared 20%. That's expected to boost sales 10%, to $104 million, this year.

You know that guy who waits patiently for you in the baggage claim area, holding a little white sign with your name on it? Ever wonder how he got there on time? Chalk it up to the Web and wireless communications. BostonCoach, which juggles 600 cars nationwide, uses both to run its complex game of match-and-ride.

What's different for a passenger lounging in the back of a BostonCoach Lincoln is the silence. Gone are the bursts of walkie-talkie chatter with a dispatcher. Instead, a driver simply hits buttons on a wireless phone to let dispatchers know his whereabouts. Back at the control center, dispatchers track the drivers using two Web "dashboards" developed with IBM (IBM). One monitor shows the precise location of the driver, based on his mobile-phone signals. Another shows who needs to be picked up, where, and when. Software for mapping and matching tells dispatchers which car is the best bet to pick up Mr. Big.

Since launching the system in January, BostonCoach has squeezed 20% more rides out of its cars. That adds $10 million annually to the company's $94 million in sales. "This tool helps us create capacity without adding resources," says Todd Stephens, senior vice-president of marketing at Boston Coach, a division of Fidelity Investments. And the dispatch center now gets by with three managers instead of four. So next time you enjoy a prompt, quiet ride, thank your driver -- and the Web. By Faith Arner


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