innovationQ&A: Dan Greteman

CIO, Ruan Transportation Management Systems

Ruan Transportation began in 1932 during the Great Depression with a single truck and a single load. Today, the company has its third generation of the Ruan family in leadership and has grown to more than 315 nationwide operations, 7,500 trailers and 5,600 employees. Among those team members is Chief Information Officer Dan Greteman. He provides more than 10 years of experience as a top technology leader with experience at Farm Bureau Financial Services and Nationwide Insurance. At Ruan, technologies such as blockchain and Tesla trucks are taking the trucking leader into new areas of innovation. Greteman offered some thoughts and observations on innovation at the company.

How do you define innovation?

Leveraging technology to improve the lives of our customers and team members.

What was your first significant innovation, invention or process?

Ruan was a very early adopter of mobile solutions. We have had mobile solutions for decades and recognize the value of a common interface that can deliver real-time and relevant information as needed.

How is Ruan using blockchain technology as a company, or how does it hope to use it?

Ruan recognizes the potential positive customer impact of knowing when a particular item originated and made its way to you. Additionally, the potential of lower cost and immutable data are powerful.

What are some of the ways a company can cultivate a culture of innovation?

One of the best ways to cultivate innovation is to make time for it. Employees are busy with the events of the day and having time to allow the creative process to happen is one of the best initial steps in the innovation process.

“Unemployment in technology is less than 1 percent, and we need to get more people to recognize that technology is everywhere – no company runs without it.”

What is the state of Iowa’s biggest challenge when it comes to innovation?

One current challenge is the low unemployment percentage. Iowa’s workforce is largely employed, but we need more skilled workers to keep up with demand. Unemployment in technology is less than 1 percent, and we need to get more people to recognize that technology is everywhere – no company runs without it. Folks can have a great, successful career as a technologist.

What are two or three of the most exciting areas that you are working on?

Mobility and telematics to enable our professional drivers, as well as customers, to have access to real-time information. We are also leveraging sensor technology to know where a product is and when it will arrive at its destination.

What is needed to make it easier for technology like blockchain to reach the marketplace or an industry?

Application – when customers are asking us to leverage technology, we respond. Ruan is a member of BiTA [Blockchain in Transportation Alliance], which is actively working to ensure we have strong standards and consistent application across the industry.

What areas of education or expertise are needed in your field? Are you able to find the workforce you need in IT?

Technology is everywhere, and having more professionals join is in everyone’s best interest. Our high schools and colleges are producing many talented and knowledgeable team members. We need to keep and increase that pipeline.

What is the most pressing global challenge that innovation could meet?

Technological advancement is outpacing wide adoption. The power of artificial intelligence and machine learning is out there today. The applications and positive impact for society are endless – we all just need to apply it more.

What is your top goal in innovation this year?

My goal in innovation is to show folks the possibilities. The technology exists and is already helping our sales and operations teams and is showing customers the application is the opportunity.