Signs of innovation with TAPCO

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  • 2020
November 17, 2020

Woman standing in front of a school bus

You know those flashing traffic signs you see on the side of the road? They might warn that you’re driving too fast or flash road closure updates. Whatever their message, they are ubiquitous in the U.S.—and, chances are, they are operated by a Wisconsin-based company named TAPCO

Founded in 1956, this third-generation, family-owned company might not seem the most obvious candidate for cutting-edge technological innovation. But don’t be fooled—TAPCO is an early, insightful adopter of IoT.

Not your grandma’s road signs
These aren’t your garden-variety, static stop signs. TAPCO specializes an impressive array of internet-enabled products, including radar-equipped speed limit signs, pedestrian crosswalk systems, and wrong-way driver alerts, which automatically detect cars driving in the wrong direction.

These products produce massive amounts of device data—data that needed to be managed and acted upon as quickly as possible. So, to make the most of these massive streams of information, TAPCO’s leadership partnered with ServiceNow to pilot Connected Operations, a new product that uses existing IoT signals for customer support and field service applications.

Historically, data collected from IoT devices was stored and indexed on TAPCO’s own network and servers. Now, with Connected Operations, these signals are routed to ServiceNow’s Customer Service Management (CSM) and Field Service Management (FSM), yielding greater automation and efficiency.

Faster in the field
Consider the chain of events following an equipment failure. When the solar panel on a speed limit sign fails, for example, a signal is sent to the service center. Before Connected Operations, a human being identified this particular sign and searched through customer records, asking: Is this item under warranty? Does the client have a service contract? How should this ticket be prioritized?

Only then is a field service engineer dispatched.

With Connected Operations, much of this process has been automated. Now, a device’s fail signal triggers an automatic search of TAPCO’s equipment records, and all pertinent information is delivered directly to customer service and the remote operations center simultaneously.

Now, service decisions are made more quickly and accurately. Downtime is reduced and repairs can cost less. In some cases, issues are resolved even before the customer is aware of the problem.

The trial program—currently deployed on TAPCO’s Wrong-Way driver alerts systems—delivered greater capabilities to both customer service and field service by creating new, smart workflows that seamlessly pass data and analysis between once-separate departments.

“The power it gives us is incredible,” says Jason Anderson, TAPCO’s IT director and member of the executive team. “Not having to jump back and forth between multiple systems, not having to look up contracts over on this file server, not having to look up the customer contact. All that information is right here, gathered when the alert arrives.”

This, says Anderson, has allowed TAPCO to continue serving long-time clients—many relationships go back decades—with cutting-edge, data-driven products featuring greater uptime, lower lifetime costs, and greater overall customer satisfaction.

TAPCO’s customers are also empowered. Working on a single integrated platform, they can now submit service requests, check a work order status and track new equipment orders. Thanks to these newly unlocked IoT data sources, these benefits are realized in near-real time.

“Having a seamless, end-to-end workflow…is a huge efficiency gain for us and our customers,” Anderson says. “Now, we’re making decisions based on real data, instead of gut feelings.”

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