Connecting the 3 Pillars of Fleet Maintenance and Management
Unified software for field tracking, scheduling/dispatching and equipment maintenance can drive uptime and profitability
John Kane, B2W Software
January 26, 2018 - Profitability in every construction sector hinges on people, materials and equipment, with data emerging as an equally vital asset. In heavy construction, in particular, equipment is disproportionately important. By leveraging technology to unify the processes related to fleet maintenance and management, contractors can cut costs and increase utilization.
Heavy construction projects in North America are getting larger and more complex. Equipment is also getting more complex and more expensive to own and operate. The financial risk and reward associated with managing equipment, along with the operators and crews associated with that fleet, are critical.
Every company strives to maximize uptime and utilization while minimizing maintenance costs and total cost of ownership. Succeeding is difficult due to the dynamic, interconnected nature of the business. The pieces are always moving, and the requirements are constantly changing. Teams responsible for scheduling, dispatching, operating and maintaining equipment deal with unexpected breakdowns, change orders, weather, traffic, employee issues, changing material delivery schedules and dozens of additional variables.
Information and connectivity – preferably real-time information and connectivity – are key to taking on these challenges. Contractors need to know where their assets are and where they are going. They need to assess performance and condition and they need information and connectivity to drive an efficient preventive maintenance program.
Unfortunately, many contractors manage the processes that impact equipment utilization and costs independently and they equip their teams accordingly. One system is used for scheduling and dispatching. The maintenance team has its own separate processes and systems. In the field, foremen and supervisors use tools for field tracking that do not give them the ability to make repair requests directly or to see the status or location of equipment. GPS and telematics technologies track assets, but manual integration steps are needed to sort out that data and make it useable.
The liabilities of this approach are clear. Getting accurate, up-to-date information in order to make good, data-driven decisions is difficult. Collaboration breaks down, and it’s a struggle keep the field, the office and the shop on the same page.
Consequently, contractors have a hard time getting the right asset to the right place at the right time. They have limited visibility into the condition of assets and how they are performing, making it challenging to optimize uptime and minimize maintenance costs. As a result, equipment issues threaten the budget, the schedule – or both.
Connecting the 3 Pillars: Field Tracking, Maintenance and Scheduling/Dispatching
A more holistic approach to fleet maintenance and management creates opportunities for better results through increased visibility and collaboration across workflows. Emerging technologies, and emerging ways to unify technology, can fuel this approach. These include intuitive, enterprise-class software solutions, GPS and telematics innovation and the web and mobile developments supporting them.
When software solutions used for maintenance, field tracking and scheduling/dispatching are unified within a platform, contractors can:
- Import data from the scheduling/dispatching application to create and modify daily field logs, eliminating manual data entry as well as errors
- Create resource requests from the field tracking application that are instantly visible and actionable within the scheduling/dispatching application
- Use the field tracking application to communicate repair requests directly to the maintenance application in real time
- View repair requests and the maintenance status of an asset within the dispatching/scheduling application, allowing dispatchers to maximize efficiency and equipment utilization
- Access one central and accurate source of available and assigned resources in real time, including a map view for visual assistance
- Import GPS and telematics data directly to the scheduling/dispatching application and to the maintenance application to optimize dispatching and drive preventive maintenance intervals
These are just a few examples. The key advantage is that contractors can now connect their workflows and work with accurate, real-time, or near-real-time data to improve equipment related processes. This kind of connectivity and access to information opens the door to more process efficiency. And it empowers employees and executives to make better, data-driven decisions.
Fleet maintenance and management is challenging and critical to the bottom line. The best companies hold total cost of maintenance to below five percent of total revenue. For many companies, that number climbs to 10 or even 15 percent, and some companies can’t or don’t measure.
Additionally, maintenance is only one part of the equation. There are related costs associated with underutilization, inefficient scheduling, idle time, confusion about where an asset actually is, hording of equipment on job sites and other management factors.
Traditional, isolated processes compound these challenges, but a holistic approach built around unified software and collaborative workflows can help contractors improve uptime, utilization and the total cost of ownership for their equipment fleets.
John Kane is a product manager for B2W Software, headquartered in Portsmouth, NH. He has had a leadership role in the development of the company’s specialized B2W Maintain application for equipment maintenance and repairs. John has more than 16 years of project management, program management, technical data analysis and troubleshooting and reporting experience. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.