By Vincent Monatte, Head of Strategy and Business Development at Vélogik
The Business of Mobility is an Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.
On Christmas Eve 2008, Franck Brédy – a cycling fanatic – founded Vélogik, the world’s first network of bicycle maintenance experts. The company has grown to meet the demands of the new mobility revolution in which e-bikes and regular bikes have become an important part of urban travel. Vincent Monatte – a Managing Director at Vélogik – explains how the company is contributing to sustainable modes of travel.
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Improved safety, increased availability and extended lifespan for fleet owners
As the Financial Times recently reported, “E-bikes outsold electric cars more than fivefold in Europe in 2019, then took off during the pandemic”. What’s good for the planet in terms of reduced emissions is good for commuters and communities, with bikes offering an active and engaged way of getting around. The Vélogik story is one of passion and adventure, epitomised by the spirit of our founder and something that attracted me to join the organisation a few years back on the development and engineering side of things.
Vélogik uses IoT, data and software as a service (SaaS) to improve safety, increase availability and extend the lifespan of bikes for fleet owners. We have around 140 dedicated mechanics who – thanks to a highly supportive environment – can see to a dozen or so bikes a day. For the IoT we’ve partnered with another French company – Velco – who specialise in bike telematics that delivers proactive and predictive maintenance, battery replacement, anti-theft tracking, accident rescue, etc. It’s our job to do the proactive and predictive maintenance, or what we sometimes refer to as ‘curative’ maintenance.
Vélocare and the art of ‘curative’ maintenance
If you go to a hospital the first thing they do is call up your medical history. Thanks to these detailed records, doctors have a better idea how to treat you. Not only that but your medical details are added to the national records, giving health policymakers valuable data about illness and injury. Likewise, we have Vélocare, our proprietary scheduling and reporting software for tracking and managing maintenance operations. With Vélocare we can track precisely who has done what on which bike and where and when the operation took place. In this way we build up a service history for each bike, allowing us to do predictive and curative maintenance while collecting valuable data for fleet managers. And here it’s important to note that the technicians are not only fixing bikes, they’re also capturing data and ensuring its integrity for our systems.
Besides Vélocare we have other software tools for bike management: Véloclik for managing bike rentals, Vélocenter for individual owners to book and manage their bike repair, and Vélodesk for managing customer relationships. The four programs are connected and have open APIs, so that clients can integrate them into their own systems, giving fleet managers data-powered insights into their business. For example, Véligo customers log their maintenance request on the Véligo website, which is integrated with Vélocare, which then assigns a suitable mechanic and ensures the bike is seen to within three days at a location chosen by the user. Véligo bikes are made with 70 separate parts; we manage and track the maintenance of each of these individual parts on Vélocare.
Data for efficient fleet management
One of the interesting findings in our business is how rider behaviour effects maintenance needs. We maintain a thousand e-bikes for La Poste, our mechanics seeing to each bike at least once a week. But sometimes they must attend to the same bike twice in one day. Clearly it’s a case of how the bikes are being treated by their rider. With the data from Vélocare, companies like La Poste can run campaigns to encourage better rider habits and reduce costs for the company. They can also see which make and model is ideal for their needs and the topography of the area its operating in.
We have around 40 000 bikes in our system of which 65% are e-bikes. But only 10% of our repairs are to do with the electrical system. Mostly bikes break because of mechanical wear and tear. It’s also possible that the extra power of e-bikes puts strain on certain mechanical parts which then become more prone to wear. As we start to collect up more data, we can develop these sorts of insights, not only to help operators but OEMs too, who use the data to guide decision-making on evolving their new model designs.
Moving a person from A to B is not something that can be achieved by digital tools alone. It’s a real world challenge that in cities is best achieved by a humble contraption developed by the likes of Pierre and Ernest Michaux back in the 1860s. The bicycle has come a long way since those ‘boneshakers’, but the spirit of two-wheeled adventure is the same. The bike is still a fun, healthy, clean and practical way to navigate a city. Nothing will change this. But IoT and smart data will improve the service of fleet managers, reduce costs for customers, and give cities the information to guide policy and promote better modes of moving. But – perhaps more importantly than all this – we can promote the profession of ‘bike technician’ by providing a supportive and efficient environment for the unsung heroes keeping urban mobility’s most important fleet on the road.
Curious to know how Vélogik can improve your own fleet? Meet with their team at Autonomy Digital 2.0, May – 20 2021 – online!