Programming the Perfect Partnership

Building the right product often means finding the right partnership. With more than 100 years of trailer-building experience and keen insight into the needs of their customers, Great Dane is well positioned to deliver reliable, efficient trailers that move your business forward. When it came time to infuse its trailers with the power of today’s digital data-driven innovations, Great Dane turned to digital innovation experts, Inspire11, a full-service, digital and analytics consulting firm. The goal of the strategic partnership was to turn Great Dane’s trailer product knowledge into actionable business intelligence through technical architecture, data management, application development and other developmental goals.

“Great Dane is a trailer manufacturer,” said Dennis Skaradzinski, Great Dane chief engineer, highlighting the challenges Great Dane faced in bringing its smart trailer concept into the world. “Creating a smart trailer with sensors requires expertise with sensors and hardware – that was challenge one. Challenge two was data collection, telematics transmission to the cloud, parsing the data and presenting it in a usable format is a challenge beyond the scope and expertise of Great Dane resources. We knew what was required but did not know how to make that happen. Inspire11 does.”

“Up to this point, trailers have lagged the truck in data collection and analytics, but what’s interesting is that many end customers are primarily concerned about their cargo, which is transported and kept safe by the trailer. Additionally, while the truck is more expensive on a unit basis, many fleets have a trailer-to-truck ratio of at least two-to-one,” said Brian Kim, Principal, Inspire11. “Clearly, the trailer is an incredibly important asset to customers, but had very minimal data being collected about it, and virtually no analytics. A smart trailer solution provides many unique data points that enable outsized benefits for its users.”

The biggest smart trailer opportunities go beyond the obvious location application and include the ability to measure trailer weight to determine the cargo load status and improve trailer utilization rates for fleets. Having visibility into the trailer door opening and closing also gives fleets the ability to track the security of cargo.

“Giving accurate trailer mileage to customers allows for optimization of preventative maintenance schedules,” Kim said. “Providing performance data on all the other trailer components, such as brakes, lights and wheels, further enables customers to lower their total cost of ownership while improving trailer uptime and on-time delivery.”

Kim went on to explain that Inspire11 worked closely with Great Dane to understand customer demand, identify the competitive landscape and determine the potential benefits for both customers and Great Dane.

“Using feedback we consolidated from Great Dane and its customers, we designed a prototype to demonstrate the functionality,” he said. “From there, we moved into actual development of the platform, starting with a flexible technology architecture that can handle many different types of data inputs and outputs.”

The result is FleetPulse—a data-driven solution that uses propriety information on trailer specifications and design to help you know when to perform maintenance. FleetPulse will be available for both web and mobile applications, and in addition, for customers who want data fed directly into their own systems, Inspire11 has developed the FleetPulse application programming interface (API) to do just this.

But FleetPulse is more than that. It’s a beginning—the foundation upon which tomorrow’s trailer telematics solutions will be built upon.

“As the smart trailer evolves more components suppliers will develop smart devices – and it is happening now,” Skaradzinski said. “Adding those into the FleetPulse system will create more data for collection, for analysis and for predictive analytics. Inspire11 will assist Great Dane to move in that direction, helping our customers, our suppliers and Great Dane provide a service beyond just building trailers.”