While still a relatively new advancement in the construction industry, asset management technology (telematics) is achieving rapid acceptance as more contractors experience the productivity gains and cost savings it can provide. And while once viewed as the domain of large fleet owners, the technology has since become more readily available, and practical, for even small fleets.
That said, it?s important to find a system that fits both your budget and your business objectives. A common mistake first-time users make is to base selection primarily on price. But while a $300 investment for basic hardware and $11/month for messaging can be tempting vs. an $800 system and $35/month messaging fees, you may find the more expensive package actually costs less when you break down what you get in return.
?It?s in how you derive benefit from it more than the initial price of the hardware,? says Bud Sims, director of OEM business development, Qualcomm Enterprise Services. ?If you can?t use the data, it?s worth nothing. If it?s very valuable and helps you to run the business, then $35 a month may be inexpensive.
?A contractor should take his time and do his due diligence before purchasing to make sure he?s buying the right product,? he advises, ?then develop business systems around it.?
The three basics
A basic asset management system typically lets you track hours of operation and equipment location, as well as set virtual boundaries (geofences). The core hardware consists of a small monitoring device ? covertly positioned on the machine ? that uses cellular and/or satellite technology to automatically transmit real-time operating and location data to a secure web site or, in some cases, directly to your business systems.
According to Sims, as many as 80% of contractors today would benefit from the three basic functions provided.
For example, hours of operation can be used to plan and schedule maintenance, improve billing accuracy, extend equipment life and avoid downtime due to engine failure, says Bob DeAngelis, senior director, LoJack Commercial Division.
?We have [companies] who use our products that were previously monitoring 200 vehicles with just spreadsheets,? notes Jennien Yarmie, vice president marketing support, Longview Advantage. ?You don?t have an accurate reading of the hours on those assets. The operator must provide the hour reading. Populating the hours directly into your business system means less recording and transcription effort, less errors and an audit trail.?
Using an asset management system enables you to efficiently manage your entire fleet, reducing costs and increasing productivity. ?Automating service alerts means less downtime... while optimizing fleet utilization,? Yarmie adds.
?It makes the whole process of maintenance timing much more efficient,? Sims agrees. ?You?re much less prone to under- or over-service machines if you have accurate hours to work with ? and that means cost savings and better equipment management.?
Operating hours can also be used to more effectively track equipment utilization. ?In other words, [you know] if the machine was on the job and worked a full eight hours today, as opposed to it sitting idle,? says Sims.
Real-time location data can offer further benefits. According to DeAngelis, it can help you to manage equipment availability, secure accurate location for equipment pickup and improve workforce productivity.
?The ability to know exactly where the machine is so you don?t spend time searching for it is really valuable,? says Sims. ?It?s not uncommon to have a large jobsite where the machine could be a half a mile from where it was dropped off, and have a technician spend an hour or two looking for it just to change its oil.?
Geofencing capability lets you to set pre-defined radial boundaries around equipment and receive alerts if the equipment leaves the area. ?[It] allows users to minimize risk of loss due to unauthorized use, enforce restricted areas and be notified immediately of theft incidents,? DeAngelis explains.