KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —Pilot Flying J sparked innovation among its employees with a two-day tech event. The travel-center company gathered about 120 employees and split them into 10 teams who raced against the clock to develop and present tech-forward solutions to problems for the company and its customers.
The "hackathon," dubbed Innovate. 19, took place in the student union of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Each team represented a charity focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The three winning teams saw $10,000 go to each of their preferred charities, courtesy of Pilot Flying J.
The panel of judges included Pilot Flying J founder and Chairman Jim Haslam; Knoxville Entrepreneur Center Executive Director Jim Biggs; former UT Knoxville Chancellor Wayne Davis; Pilot Flying J President Ken Parent; and Knowledge Launch President and CEO John Tolsma.
A team dubbed “The WINners” won best overall by developing an online portal meant to streamline communication across teams. It allows employees to more easily access documents such as pay stubs and information sheets detailing benefits.
Team “COUNT on US” had the best idea for guests with an app that allows truck drivers to research available parking spots and reserve spots before they arrive.
Another team, “Safety Se7en,” won the global category for developing a tool for parking lots that works to help detect and stop human trafficking.
“People were willing to do whatever needed to be done, whether it was their day job or not,” Karen Fitchpatrick, manager of retail technology for Pilot, told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “They jumped in with both feet to do whatever needed to get done.”
Based in Knoxville, Pilot Flying J has more than 750 retail locations in 44 states. The company offers roadside assistance at from more than 135 locations nationwide and has 44 Goodyear Commercial Tire and Service Centers and 34 Boss Shops. The Pilot Flying J network provides drivers with access to more than 72,000 parking spaces for trucks, with Prime Parking at more than 400 locations; 5,200 deluxe showers; and more than 6,200 diesel lanes, with 5,200 offering diesel exhaust fluid at the pump. The company ranked No. 12 in CSP’s 2019 Top 202 ranking of c-store chains by number of retail sites.