Fleetboard’s Innovation Funnel is a process that new digital ideas have been put through since the middle of 2016. Suggestions for future digital solutions can be put forward to the Innovation Funnel by employees, partners or customers.

At the "Media Workshop Fleetboard – Driving logistics forward, a group of international journalists took on the role of Fleetboard's Digital Product Team as the jury for an “Elevator Pitch”. Faced with three ideas, the largest number of journalists voted for "Fleetboard Truck Guard", so paving the way for the idea to advance to the "Shark Tank".

The aim of Fleetboard Truck Guard is to prevent fuel theft by monitoring vehicles with the help of various technical aids such as additional sensors or cameras, installed directly on the truck. These aids are connected digitally with both the vehicle and an app. As soon as a theft is detected, an alarm and a message are automatically sent to the fleet manager's 'dashboard' and the mobile end device of the driver.

Fleetboard employee Steven Quaak had four weeks in which to form a small, agile project team that could build a prototype of the product and put together the associated business plan.

In the case of Fleetboard Truck Guard, the team around Quaak spent the last few weeks holding numerous discussions with the development department and sales and marketing department of Mercedes-Benz Trucks and with more than 20 customers in five different countries. Although the discussions identified a series of technical hurdles, specifically in relation to the retrofitting of sensors and cameras and to ensuring an adequate power supply when the vehicle's engine is switched off, the team continued to pursue the idea.

From the customers' perspective, there is considerable demand for a solution of this nature as a means of preventing fuel theft, but the clear requirement is not to have to invest in any additional hardware. The discussions furthermore identified that, as a first step, customers would like to have some sort of oversight system that quite simply shows up any irregularities relating to the fuel.

Having given due consideration to this feedback, the project team reworked its original approach of providing a solution with the help of hardware. The focus is now instead on a purely digital solution involving a lower level of investment and requiring only limited work at the customer's end - for Fleetboard as well as for the customers - which is therefore now much more attractive and more quickly implementable.

The first specific step to be undertaken by the project team is a "Fuel Report": this involves an evaluation of data to reveal and highlight anomalies, for instance a fuel level that is too low when consumption has also been low. To cope with this, Fleetboard is developing a big data solution that is already capable of comparing existing data relating to fill levels, consumption, or the average speed of the trucks, with anomalies that may arise with respect to the tank fill level or fuel consumption.

The customer receives an intelligent comparison of the results, allowing them to draw conclusions about fuel losses. This solution relieves the customers of the currently still very time-consuming task of comparing fuel receipts and telematics data with dates and times in order to identify such irregularities. It should be possible to produce the report on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Customers are therefore able to draw conclusions about the places and times where fuel is being stolen most often and to introduce corresponding countermeasures. Drivers may, for example, be instructed to ensure that the fuel level of any vehicle parked in vulnerable places or at vulnerable times is only ever low, or even to leave the filler cap unlocked, in order to minimise the financial losses and damage. The project team has already prepared an initial mock-up of the Fuel Report and will shortly be testing the solution with the first few customers.

Further development: possible active intervention if fuel-related anomalies are discovered

A further development might, for example, see the big data solution very quickly identifying even minor fuel-related discrepancies, even during vehicle downtimes, and enabling a real-time alert to be sent to the transport company. The driver or the police could then be immediately alerted via text message or email. The next step after that would be the connection with the vehicle itself, whereby the truck would switch its lights on or sound the horn of its own accord in the event of a real-time alert being received.

The project team will be presenting this prototype to the Digital Product Team at the next "Shark Tank" meeting. It is then up to the Digital Product Team to decide if Fleetboard's solution for reducing fuel theft should be taken any further.

The first step in the Fleetboard Innovation Funnel is what is known as an "Elevator Pitch": each participant has a maximum of five minutes in which to present their ideas to the Digital Product Team and to convince them of the customer benefit. The Digital Product Team is a cross-functional panel of experts from various functional areas of Fleetboard, Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Daimler Financial Services and the IT Department. If the team approves the idea, it moves into the prototype phase.

The participant puts together a small, agile project team that spends four weeks looking further into the idea, checking the potential for its implementation with customers and other business units of Daimler Trucks and developing an initial prototype. During this phase, it is quite common for the feedback received from customers to lead to a re-think of the fundamental concept behind the original idea and the taking of a different approach.

The next stage involves the prototype, and the business plan that goes with it, being presented again to the Digital Product Team - this time in the "Shark Tank" format (also known as a "Dragons' Den" in some countries).If the majority of voices here, too, support the idea, work begins for the project team on the implementation and further development of the product through to market launch.