How to Manage Your Construction Operations With Telematics

August 14, 2018 John Cameron

What is Telematics? 

Telematics refers to the long-distance transmission of computer-based information. It has long been regarded as being the basis for tracking the GPS location of vehicles. However, telematics technology is advancing quickly and more and more construction-based businesses are looking to extend solutions to track and monitor their workforce and, more importantly, their assets and equipment.

 

Telematics powering service workflows

Telematics deployments are becoming much more cost-effective and the entire service workflow is becoming increasingly connected. Indeed, telematics today can share real-time information and connect mobile workers in the field with the back office, customers and equipment, allowing the entire service workflow to be increasingly connected.

Businesses that invest in telematics driven connected workflows see many benefits; especially when combined with deeper analytics systems. One such benefit is switching the service model from a reactive, break-fix workflow to a preventative and, ultimately, predictive model. These advanced workflows require a tight connection from the asset to the service management system and telematics is often a good candidate for providing this connection.

 

Taking a predictive and preventative approach

The advantages of moving to more advanced service models are significant. In many situations, the downtime of the asset poses a significant cost to the business. Indeed, construction jobs run on tight margins and have a lot of cross-dependencies between tasks. A broken piece of equipment can bring the entire project to a halt; impacting much more than the task it was designed to perform. The ability to perform maintenance at more opportune times i.e. when the equipment is not needed operationally can have dramatic results.

Connecting assets in a service workflow requires more than just reading data from the asset; it requires a rethinking of the service workflow and often of the business model. In a break-fix model; most service requests originate from the customer directly and there is a tight link between the problem and the resolution. In more advanced service models, such as preventative and predictive, these links are less apparent. Construction providers need to be able to communicate and share data with their customers in new ways to ensure that each party understands what is driving the maintenance activities. This is often a much more difficult task than implementing the technology and needs to be considered carefully.

As an example, many assets and equipment today are equipped with sensors, connected to cloud software, that can monitor telematics data. This data can include machine operating hours, the state of the motorized parts and health information such as faults and diagnostic codes. Any unexpected behavior is visible remotely to the construction provider, including its exact location. The equipment sensors can automatically trigger a service call when it needs something repaired or is due for maintenance.

 

Telematics Improving Efficiencies

What’s more, by adopting a preventive and predictive approach to service and maintenance as opposed to a break/fix service structure, maximizes the long-term usage. In the event of a vehicle, asset or piece of equipment breaking down, real-time intelligence into its location enables businesses to retrieve it for service immediately whilst a nearest available asset can be identified and reallocated, helping to minimize downtime. Furthermore, many businesses track service vehicles alongside assets and they can often be viewed on the same map. Identifying the nearest service technician to a broken down asset, therefore, becomes a simple task and this can improve response time considerably.

There are still many advantages to deploying telematics to connect assets even with break-fix workflows. Understanding the condition of the asset before deploying a technician will improve first-time fix rates; which will drive higher customer satisfaction. This is often the first step in changing the service model.

 

Connecting Assets from Multiple Suppliers

A challenge many construction businesses need to consider is how to connect to assets from multiple suppliers. Each supplier often has their own proprietary systems that have different data formats which make integration difficult and time-consuming.

The construction industry is starting to incorporate data standards that help alleviate much of the effort required to establish connections to the assets. One such standard is the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP). A standard protocol was recently adopted that allows for fault code and other information to be shared in a standard way. This standardization helps create more interoperability in the market and will surely be a boost to connected workflows in this market.

 

Maximize equipment utilization across job sites with telematics

The case for telematics technology to considerably improve the utilization of assets and equipment across job sites is a simple one. Businesses can monitor the location of their assets on-demand and generate utilization reports to determine which are being under-utilized across sites. With this information, they are better placed to determine how best the assets should be deployed, if any should be re-allocated, which types of equipment customers need most and compare owned to rented asset usage – streamlining the efficiency and profitability of their asset-dependent business.

Having the ability to monitor assets and equipment on-demand can also help jobs remain on track. If an urgent job comes in that requires an asset be immediately reallocated, any idle units or those closest to the construction site can be identified and reassigned to ensure delays are not incurred.

What’s more, the ability to create accurate utilization reports per job site can help businesses to improve job bids and win more business. Indeed, knowing the actual hours it takes to build a parking lot of a particular size or a certain scale of a building helps companies to bid competitively and can mean the difference between winning and losing a contract.

 

Prevent the loss or misuse of assets and equipment

A major challenge construction businesses face is the loss or theft of expensive equipment due to them being abandoned, misplaced or stolen once they reach a customer site. Indeed, over 10,000 high valued construction assets are reported as stolen annually, causing the annual cost of construction equipment theft to reach $1 billion1.

Businesses equipped with telematics can significantly maximize recoverability rates. They are able to quickly locate their assets, eliminating time spent searching for missing equipment and avoiding the need to replace lost assets.

Many telematics solutions incorporate functionality that ensures that if an asset or piece of equipment changes location or has been disconnected; an alert will be emitted and the equipment or branch manager will receive an exception notification. This helps them to minimize misuse and theft as they can locate the asset immediately and act quickly to retrieve it.

 

The future of telematics

The future for telematics is certainly bright. As businesses within the construction industry increasingly look to extend their telematics capabilities to track their vehicles, workforce and assets, investing in telematics driven connected workflows, combined with deeper analytics systems, will reap many benefits. We will see businesses switching the service model from a reactive, break-fix workflow to a preventative and, ultimately, predictive model. What’s more,  businesses ultimately need to ensure that they are allocating and using their equipment across

sites as efficiently as possible. Those that do not have the visibility into the status of their assets to determine this will be much more prone to costly inefficiencies. These advanced workflows require a tight connection from the asset to the service management system and telematics is integral to providing this connection.

For more information on how you can look to roll out telematics across your field service organization, visit: www.trimblepulse.com

 

1*The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)

 

About the Author

John Cameron

John Cameron is general manager of Trimble Field Service Management (FSM), where he is responsible for worldwide operations and development. Prior to joining FSM, Mr. Cameron was general manager of Trimble’s Spectra Precision Division and before that general manager of Pacific Crest Corp., a company he co-founded in 1994 that was acquired by Trimble in 2005. Mr. Cameron holds a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in mechanical engineering from UC-Berkeley and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.

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