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Followmont leads the way

Queensland-based Followmont Transport had a problem: the business had outgrown its document and spreadsheet-based management system.

CEO Mark Tobin decided to take the bull by the horns and install a selection of back-end systems to simplify management and provide detailed operational, financial and HR data.

He did so by following a simple process: identifying goals and problems; creating an overall technology plan and choosing the right solutions; supporting deployments with project management and training; and taking stock of the results and benefits.

Now, Followmont is a technology-driven company that’s growing confidently.

“About five years ago the issue we had was we’d become everything to everybody,” explained Tobin.

“Our revenue streams were so diverse it became impossible to manage the business through spreadsheets.”

But before he thought about what specific technologies or solutions might help the company, Tobin took a step back and did some planning.

He started by looking at how Followmont worked with its customers. “We become very close with our customers so we can give them solutions for helping them grow their business. It’s not just picking up freight.”

He also looked closely at the company’s operations.

Followmont’s immediate problems centred on information flows and the operational headaches they were causing. Tobin realised that the company needed to bring all its information together, so the company invested in a business management software system.

Now, everything is monitored, from customer data, to revenue streams, payments and accounts.

Followmont also uses data to help identify training needs – and makes significant training investments.

“One of the biggest gaps in the industry is that ‘truck driver’ isn’t classed as a trade,” Tobin said. “We get no government funding, so as an industry, we have to put money back into training. Otherwise, where will we be in five years?”

Followmont has full-time, professional trainers on-site, and staff training is ongoing in all roles. He notes that for the drivers, “we do a whole training complex, depending on the truck. It’s about dangerous goods awareness, likely problems, every aspect of being a professional operator.”

Seeing Machines is one of Followmont’s newest technologies. An Australian-made driver monitoring system (DMS), it tracks driver distraction and can detect microsleeps and other potential problems. Tobin saw an opportunity to improve Followmont’s safety performance.

“Once I saw what the product could do, I walked into the business and said, ‘we’ve got six weeks to get an order and get them into the trucks’.”

In hindsight, Tobin wishes he’d communicated the rollout better, but that’s where the company’s strong governance practices came into play. Despite the compressed timeframe, the project management team kept the deployment on track. Their job included keeping the drivers informed about the system and overcoming some misgivings about being monitored.

Keeping everyone on-side with a project is vital. After all, the best technology in the world won’t help you if no-one uses it. The project team spent time explaining the technology’s benefits and how the data would be used. Once the drivers understood the rollout, they were fully on board.

How has becoming a data-driven organisation transformed Followmont? The company has a technology plan, operations and new projects are humming along, and long-term plans are in place to make sure it stays competitive, well-run and a great place to work. 

Tobin’s final advice is to persevere and make sure you’ve allocated enough resources to make every project a success.

“We all get it wrong. We all have battles. I think where people go wrong is when they go for the cheap product or the easy product. But you can’t say a project’s going to work when it doesn’t.”

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