Automation replaces guesswork, oversight and missed service intervals
By Jennifer Angrisano
Business Analyst – B2W Software
Recent comments from contractors using specialized software to manage fleet maintenance sum up a simple truth. Preventive maintenance is essential to keeping maintenance costs low and uptime high, and heavy construction contractors will struggle to sustain a strong preventive maintenance program without specialized software.
“It is a well-documented fact that preventive maintenance is more effective and less costly than the other option of run until failure,” confirms Kris Hay, director of fleet for Brubacher Excavation in Pennsylvania.
Hay heads up a team of 15 mechanics using software to help maintain 150+ pieces of “yellow iron” and 55 heavy trucks along with light trucks and smaller assets from two shop locations. “I don’t know how you would be able to run a fleet the size of ours on a spreadsheet. I’m sure there are companies doing it, but I think the software is imperative,” he adds.
Dave Pacella, equipment manager at Massachusetts utility contractor RJV Construction concurs. As the company added equipment, it turned to specialized software to cut unscheduled maintenance costs and downtime.
“As an equipment manager, downtime is bad, so the more we can do preventively helps us out,” Pacella explains. “The software allows us to input our hours and mileage, and it tells us when it’s time to do the preventive maintenance. It takes the guess work out of our daily operations.”
Pacella calculates that his company spends about 8 percent of its annual revenue on equipment maintenance, while he says the industry average is about 15 percent. “I think a lot of that has to do with our strict preventive maintenance program,” he adds.
Glen Howard is service manager for a contractor based in New Jersey that completes a diverse range of projects in 39 US states. The company is a long-time user of specialized maintenance software. “The biggest advantage is preventive maintenance. We can see in advance when services are due and can get them done on schedule,” says Howard.
Howard’s team has three shops and manages more than 1,800 pieces of heavy equipment. Maintenance records and service schedules were kept on paper before implementing the software. “It was a constant struggle to figure out what was due at what time on each piece of equipment,” Howard explains. “Now, everything is right in front of you on a screen. You’re not searching through filing cabinets or piles of paper.”
Dave Pacella says preventive maintenance actions themselves are more organized, regimented and likely to be completed as a result of the software. “We’re checking more things at the service intervals that we might have overlooked in the past,” he explains. “When we do A, B and C to a piece of equipment, the software is also reminding us to check X, Y and Z.”
The speed at which information about equipment status travels from the field to the shop also impacts preventive maintenance. Many contractors now complete and submit equipment inspections instantly using electronic forms.
Getting that document instantaneously in a digital format has been a game changer, according to Ben Tucker, director of equipment and facilities at Barriere Construction in Louisiana. “You’re cutting out time lapse and, if there is a defect on these inspections, it doesn’t take two or three weeks to get it fixed. We can often deter failures before they happen.”
Barriere relies on 200 on- and off-road assets for heavy construction and paving. A more proactive maintenance program focused on prevention rather than repairs has helped the company push its equipment uptime rates to above 95 percent and drive emergency repairs below three percent, according to Tucker. “That’s world class and its money in the bank,” he adds.
Many contractors using maintenance software pull telematics data directly from their equipment into the software system daily. That information drives preventive service intervals, cutting out manual data entry and guesswork.
“We set up the maintenance intervals in the system, and the computer does the leg work for telling us what is due and when,” says Howard.
Whether your company manages 2,000 pieces of heavy equipment, 200 assets, or even a smaller fleet, the preventive maintenance advantage of specialized software is undeniable.
“I would think, anybody who has equipment in this industry should be using a maintenance software systems,” concludes Pacella. “We live and die by it.”