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Diversified: On Point With Compass

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It’s on point, and a step in the right direction. Compass is Diversified Transportation Limited’s (DTL) new integrated system, which combines all of the company’s operations. Imagine every bus as a computer in motion now.

THE NEW TECHNOLOGY launched in January 2014 combines DTL’s business processes including maintenance, scheduling, billing, payroll, as well as on-vehicle systems. And, with 10 million passengers transported annually, 745 buses of which over 500 are on the road at any given time, 745 drivers, over 200 shop personnel and 130 operations personnel - the four years it took for launching the new technology make it worth the time.

“We were one of the pioneers in the oil sands. We were here when construction of the Great Canadian Oil Sands (GCOS) began in 1964, and when the first drop of oil was extracted. We brought motor coaches to town,” shares Mark Hannah, Vice President, Oil Sands, DTL.

Indeed, when GCOS launched and when oil production began in 1967, DTL was right there with their daily “employee transportation service,” picking up employees at designated spots near their homes. Today, they service among others, the big three oil sands giants – Syncrude Canada, Suncor Energy, and Shell Albian Sands.

“Compass has made us pioneers again. Diversified is the first transportation company in the world to implement a multiple ERP (enterprise resource plan) of this magnitude, truly establishing us the industry leader in employee transportation,” explains Hannah, who has been with DTL for eight years in Fort McMurray and the parent company for 25.

DTL is owned by the Pacific Western Group of Companies, which is based in Calgary and owned by the Colborne family. It is a full service bus transportation Company, with operating subsidiaries in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario. (The group) has over 4100 employees and a fleet of over 3000 vehicles,” according to the PWT website.

“We work with world class clients with world class expectations. Through collaboration with them, we have now developed a world class solution creating value for our clients and easy to use technology for our passengers.”

“We are also community supporters, and so far have contributed over a billion dollars to Fort McMurray. We support local vendors in all that we do, from purchasing parts for our vehicles to supplies for our offices. We are also proud of our association with local groups such as the SPCA, Centre for Hope, and Keyano College,” Hannah shares proudly.

This pride in the company’s culture is evident at the DTL head-office north of town.

Located in the Taiganova Eco Park, this hub is one of three locations in town where drivers report for work using airport-style check-in terminals and log onto their vehicles as part of the new, paperless system (as of January 16, 2014). Maribeth Wilson, Director of Communications for DTL leads the tour expertly and efficiently.

“Compass is our ‘single source of truth.’ This means it allows us to make decisions based on fact, not assumption. It provides our clients with GPS-verified bus and route information, increased transparency, and improved reporting – thereby further enhancing our service delivery,” notes Wilson, who has been with DTL for two years, and in the transportation industry for over 26.

At a $25 million price tag project Compass employed many factors making it unique, state-of-the-art and world class. The new system features scheduling software called Hastus. It is developed by Giro Inc., a recognized world leader in specialized routing and scheduling software. Hastus is the go-to for national and international mass transit scheduling systems – ranging from BC Transit in Victoria to Metro Transit in Halifax to the Hong Kong MTR, and Barcelona TMB, just to name a few.

Then there’s the tracking and global positioning system for Compass, customized by Strategic Mapping (SMI). A Canadian company, SMI delivers intelligent public transportation technologies to transit agencies around the world, and provides dispatchers with current data and two-way communications directly with drivers as well as helps on the operations management and vehicle maintenance side of things.

Imagine the paper eliminated from the company’s system, and start with this number. There were 500,000 trip tickets generated annually. Now, all the information is collected through their systems and housed in JDE – financial and payroll software.

“We are innovators,” continues Wilson.

“Compass has allowed us to provide better customer service by helping us reduce the number of designated stops, the number of unique routes and providing more consistent on-time arrival,” she added.

Speaking of routes, Diversified went from 1200 to approximately 60 routes. Now that’s efficiency at its best. Stops were selected with safety in mind.

“Everything we do is from a safety perspective – 92% of our stops are within 300 metres of walking distance. Usual standard is 400 metres,” Wilson enthuses.

This culture of safety was started by R.B. Colborne, founder of Pacific Western Transportation. Ubiquitous part of our local culture, Diversified buses featuring motorcoaches take employees to and from site, the yellow buses, or as they are affectionately called “yellows” are for on-site transportation – and they match the school bus colour for safety reasons.

“We don’t say accident, we call them ‘preventable collisions’ in our culture. Safety is paramount – from notices to tool box talks, to reminders, safety is always on our minds,” Wilson explained.

“Safely home is not only our tagline, it speaks to our culture”, continued Mark Hannah. We do 1200+ trips on a daily basis. Our combined mileage is equivalent to circling the globe 2.8 times each day.

“We now have an in-vehicle mentoring system (IVMS) that alerts drivers to speeding, harsh braking, and such, and reports back to us,” he notes.

Just like the oil sands clients it serves – Diversified is a 24/7 operation. The first bus is on the road at 3:30 a.m. for Shell Albian Sands.

“Our goal is to get you and us safely home. It’s our daily promise to you,” Wilson shares.

It’s a promise Diversified has been keeping for half a century now. The group will celebrate their 50th anniversary in Fort McMurray this June.

And, while we are on the subject of celebration, Joel Trudell, Director of Operations for DTL who oversaw the operational rollout of Compass, had much to celebrate when it was launched. He says it defines how the company does business now.

“We married technology with transportation, in a way that has never been done before in North America,” Trudell enthuses.

“We no longer have to take someone’s word on what happened. We have empirical data. From schedules, human resources, payroll to traffic jams, we can now see it all. Soon our customers will have to do is access pertinent information via the My Bus passenger portal through their phones or computers, so they know when their bus is coming, or if it’s delayed, and more. We are a more customer-focused organization now,” Trudell explains.

He has been with the company for 14 years.

Indeed, clients, who can now see the exact location of buses via a client portal - were consulted on all aspects of Compass.

“This project was a collaboration from the beginning. Our clients are key stakeholders,” adds Trudell, who also chairs the Fort McMurray Tourism Board, and is the transportation director for the 2015 Western Summer Games.

Vice President of Information Technologies, Thomas Schmidt is another company veteran. He’s been with the group for 16 years, and says the idea behind launching Compass was always about increasing efficiencies.

“Project Compass brought together our teams like never before. We persevered. What we are most proud about is we are dealing with factual data now. We no longer rely on hand-written information passing through the system, but “truth” based on empirical data. We can expand and build on the system, which is very exciting,” Schmidt shares.

Milan Eric agrees. He has been with Diversified for six years. The Information Technology (IT) Manager for Diversified, Eric says working on and launching Compass was both exciting and challenging.

“It’s a new way of visualizing how the business is going to run. We are touching every single department. There is more accountability for us,” says Milan, who is part of a team of eight IT personnel in Fort McMurray employing about 1050 computers in the seven facilities and on all vehicles to run Compass. The group receives IT support from the parent company in Calgary as well.

So there you are. Diversified is making a difference with efficiency one bus at a time – thanks to Compass. It has made the company embrace customer service on a higher level, and allowed it to provide customer service on a higher level as well.

Diversified Fast Facts: • Total number of employees Diversified has in the region = 1240 • Total number of employees Pacific Western Group of Companies = 4100+ • Number of coaches and yellow buses at any given time on the road = 500+ • Number of coaches owned by Diversified = 465 • Number of yellow buses = 280 • Annual kilometers travelled = 41,000,000 • DTL Makes up 20% of entire Canadian motorcoach industry’s annual kilometres (200,000,000)


Kiran is a national award-winning communications specialist, freelance journalist, and social media consultant. She loves telling community stories, and is a strong advocate for inclusion, diversity, women’s rights, and multiculturalism. Got story ideas? Contact her via Twitter: @KiranMK0822.