MONTVALE, N.J.—Dan Sutich grew up in the business. His parents, John and Doris Sutich, founded Perfect Limo Service of Montvale, N.J., in 1984. And like many of those who were born into the industry, Dan eventually started searching for ways to help the business run more efficiently.
As a graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Dan did a brief stint in corporate America. But he quickly learned, as many entrepreneurs do, that the opportunity to make change in a big organization is limited. So in 2012, Dan turned his focus back to the family business and started applying his technical know-how to the limo industry. He recognized how price competitive the industry had become and started to ask himself: “How can we cut our costs to increase our profit margin?”
After crunching some GPS data, he saw the biggest opportunity to cut costs was by running vehicles more efficiently and cutting down on mileage and gas. For example, the data showed that many of the miles put on vehicles were not actually “trip” miles. “There are probably 40% extra miles on any given day on average. That’s where my software idea came from: How do we get that 40% smaller?”
Dan eventually came to realize that the biggest factor affecting mileage and miles-per-gallon was driving style of the chauffeur and dispatcher judgment, and he set out to build a more intuitive tool that would account for as many human variables and biases as possible. From this quest for vehicle efficiency, Dan founded Perfect Chauffeur with partner and fellow Northwestern alumnus Jim Spadaro.
Most companies use a queue-based system, where trips are assigned to drivers on a rolling basis as they the drivers become available. Dispatcher discretion can play a big part in trip assignment as well. The problem is good decision making is almost impossible to train for and requires much practical experience. “At the bigger companies, the best dispatchers have been doing it for 25-30 years. That’s about how much experience you need to do this really well and not mistakes.”
Like many software developers, Dan has evolved his creation over time. His original intention was to do only an optimization system, although he found that getting real-time data from current reservation systems was not feasible. To solve that problem, Dan decided to make Perfect Chauffeur a customer and operations management system — one that is intuitive and helps eliminate human error.
“The way the dispatching systems in general work… there should be more there to guide you. Right now the only thing that can guide you is another person looking over your shoulder. The software needs to help, at least more than it does.”
Perfect Chauffeur is intended to be more interactive and help users make better decisions to ensure that chauffeurs are scheduled more efficiently, pick-ups aren’t late, and that less work is farmed out. The aim is that by taking into account more factors —trips, vehicles, driver attributes, customer preferences, whether a customer has a global entry pass for international arrivals — more efficient, data-driven decisions can be made. The software isn’t meant to eliminate human judgment altogether or dictate what to do, but it will present what choice is supported by the data and provide the option to override that choice.
Beyond the data and technical knowledge he brings to the software he’s developed, Dan credits the time he put in the family business. “The advantage I have is that I’ve been dispatching for a long time. I know it very intimately.”
Dan plans to have a fully functional demo version of Perfect Chauffeur for the LCT Show East in October, a beta product by the end of the year, and a full production version in early 2014.
— Denis Wilson, LCT East Coast Editor
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