Ditch the Paper: Electronic equipment inspections take fleet management to the next level
Excerpts from an article in Equipment World magazine - including comments from Ben Tucker at Barriere Construction on the advantages of using B2W Inform and B2W Maintain. Click here for the full article.
January 16, 2018 - There are plenty of obvious reasons to convert your maintenance and equipment inspection processes from paper records to digital: improved safety, shop efficiency, regulatory compliance and reduced downtime.
What’s more, electronic records can be easily upgraded and customized into different fields. You can track hours per service or repair. Inspections can be shared with your people, vendors and dealers. Repair histories can be called up instantly by anyone without having to thumb through hundreds of paper files. Inventory can be tied to the reports so you’re not caught emptyhanded on oil filters or other supplies.
Sharing is good
But the most important reason to move to paperless equipment inspections may not be so obvious, yet it has the potential to significantly transform your operations and your relationships with vendors, customers and other divisions in the company.
Ben Tucker, director of equipment and facilities at Barriere Construction headquartered in Metairie, Louisiana, manages a fleet of about 250 on- and off-road assets with a staff of equipment coordinators. Despite the company’s fleet size, it outsources all its maintenance and repair work. Tucker views his B2W Software digital inspection reports as essential to communicating with these outside vendors. The efficiency and timeliness of the reports enable these service providers to maximize their time in the field, he says.
Tucker started using paperless inspections and equipment management about a year and a half ago. Since then he has been able to cut the company’s percentage of machines undergoing emergency repairs almost in half. “For years, we couldn’t get our emergency repair rates below 5 percent,” he says. “Now we’re tracking at below 3 percent, and this year, we’ll probably finish up around 2 percent.”
One of the most significant contributors to this improvement in uptime is the speed with which a paperless system records information. In the past, if an operator or technician reported a problem on the old paper-based system, it could take up to a week before the form reached a vendor or somebody who could get something done.
“The paperless system streamlines the process of getting the information from the field to the vendors to get the work done,” Tucker says. “It gets you on a more proactive timeline on certain things that are critical to the operation. It’s coming in real time.”
The accuracy of maintenance data is also a key issue for fleet managers, says Derek Piwonka, division fleet manager for rail at Balfour Beatty in Colorado. As an example, if an hour meter is broken on a machine or a technician writes down the wrong hours or the wrong machine identification number on a paper form, those errors would get filed away in a paper system, possibly resulting in a missed oil change or service interval, Piwonka says. With a digital system tied to the machine’s telematics and GPS, such mistakes are easy to spot or immediately obvious. Alerts, notices of pending PMs or warnings can be sent automatically via email to everyone who needs to know.
Piwonka started employing digital maintenance recordkeeping in preparation for the electronic logging device mandate for trucks about two years ago and is rolling out a similar initiative to put all his yellow iron assets online using a Telogis Fleet and Compliance system. Before the company started digitizing the information and putting it on the cloud, he was faced with what he calls a “blizzard of paperwork.” Along with the company’s IT staff he’s also structuring his Telogis data to feed into the company’s enterprise resource program (ERP) to better share and inform people outside of the maintenance arena.
With his yellow iron coming on line, Piwonka intends to perform detailed oil change-interval studies on his equipment. Accurately recording the hours of a large number of machines will improve the quality of the study and greatly reduce the paper computations that doing such research by hand would require, he says.
In addition to pushing data around the internet, many digital maintenance and inspection systems allow the technician to take a photo of a problem or repair and upload it to the file or a repair or maintenance log. Having the ability to take photos helps a lot, says Tucker, especially when you are using outside vendors for service.
The big challenge
As with any major systems change, the biggest challenge is often selling the idea to the executive suite and the employees under your supervision. Giometti lists four suggestions for making this happen:
1. Make sure you know what is available on the market. Survey all electronic inspection options to find the best fit. Ask questions and understand the potential ROI for your business.
2. Have a plan to get internal champions and early adopters on board. You don’t have to know everything. You know equipment, you know your business. Get some millennials to help you in the transition. Own it and then put a team around you. This is not about technology; it’s about mindset.
3. The champions who work with you on the pilot should encourage employees to buy into the technology by sharing its benefits.
4. Reward top performers. Gamification techniques offer a lot of room for creativity in coming up with reward programs. The more data you collect in your system the more ideas you can think up to help employees achieve companywide goals. Examples include rewarding people for the number or percentage of inspections completed. You can also use the data to establish performance bonuses.