Managing Your Assets in the Construction Business
By David Ryan for America's Backbone Weekly
If you're the leader of a construction business, you know the stakes are high when it comes to your onsite assets. Construction equipment and supplies can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Protecting and managing your assets is critical for success. Luckily, there are things you can do to manage your assets efficiently and keep them safe. Here are four things you should be thinking about when it comes to asset protection and allocation.
- Visual surveillance. Seeing is believing, and thanks to today's technology, it's easier to keep an eye on your construction sites and assets than ever before. In the old days, you'd have to physically travel to your sites to see what's going on, but digital video technologies have changed all that. Web cameras and drones make it possible to survey sites and provide managers with up to date reporting to better track construction progress. You can install cameras around work areas and even in the cabs of vehicles to give you a first-hand view. You can also use drones to maneuver around and focus on special areas when a high degree of flexibility and detail is required
Video surveillance is useful because it lets you confirm with your own eyes that your equipment is where it should be, and you can also see that your workers are following safe practices, like wearing safety equipment.
There are all kinds of affordable products on the market. For example, the Belkin Netcam Wi-Fi Camera with night vision retails for around $70. It's great for day time surveillance, when you want to see how your projects are coming along, and its low light recording capabilities are a great security feature as they allow you to check in on your sites at night. The Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 can be had for around $200. Its Wi-Fi connectivity lets you control it from up to 165 feet, making it the perfect tool for getting a look at difficult to reach spots, such as the upper floors of an old building that might be unsafe. These are just two examples of the many products out there.
- Remote sensors. Remote sensing technology allows your heavy equipment to be used smartly and efficiently. Remote sensors, installed throughout machines such as earth moving equipment, can remotely monitor engine hours of operation/use, mileage and fuel consumption, as well as providing GPS tracking data which lets you know precisely where your equipment is at all times (see more on GPS below). Combined with software, installed sensors let you create maintenance logs that ensure you're keeping up with scheduled maintenance, which can help your equipment last longer. Products like Orbcomm's PT 7000 (price negotiated with vendor) can be installed throughout your fleet. The PT 7000 system includes the FleetEdge Web application which allows you to manage all your equipment from a single dashboard. In addition to the diagnostic tools, it will let you know if equipment is not being used so you can move it to another site, thereby increasing the efficiency of your business.
- GPS tracking. If you don't want to get a full telematics system like the PT 7000, you can purchase more basic GPS tracking devices and install them on your vehicles. US Fleet Tracking makes GPS systems that run from $239 to $378 in price, and there are plenty of other manufacturers on the market. The biggest benefit of GPS tracking is knowing where your vehicles are so you can allocate their use efficiently. Route optimization helps to save time and money because owners can send equipment to the nearest sites where it's needed most. GPS trackers let them know where their equipment is without having to follow a paper trail or make phone calls. Let's say a business owner is managing projects on six different sites. He gets a call from the foreman at site 3 saying they need earth moving equipment. Thanks to GPS tracking, the owner can see that he has earth moving equipment parked at sites 1 and 6. It turns out that site 6 is much closer to site 3 than site 1, so the owner can now send the equipment from site 6, which saves on the fuel cost that would have resulted from a longer drive, and also allows the folks at site 3 to get digging faster.
GPS trackers can also provide alerts when vehicles are being stolen and help law officials track them. A study by the Chartered Institute of Building revealed that 92% of participants reported regular incidents of site theft. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that the average value of stolen construction equipment is $46,273. GPS trackers, if covertly installed, can help law enforcement agencies recover your machines. If you use geofencing (setting virtual boundaries around your sites) you will receive alerts whenever your equipment is taken off site, letting you contact authorities immediately during a theft.
- Apps and software. If you want to get a sophisticated view of your operational assets, today's construction software solutions can do wonders. Often you'll find software bundled with other solutions, such as GPS and diagnostic sensors (like Orbcomm's PT 7000). But you can also use independent software products that allow you to manage all aspects of your business, including your equipment assets. They can be used to set up equipment maintenance schedules, monitor vehicle location, routing and task scheduling. The Vista platform (price negotiated with vendor), by Viewpoint, is an example of a solution that's ideal for medium-sized construction companies. It's resource management capabilities include a web planning tool, a resource locator which lets you locate your hardware and assign it for use where needed. It also includes reporting tools, which let you and essential personnel know exactly what the status of your equipment is.
There are many other software solutions on the market. You can find a range of options by conducting a Google search, or by following industry blogs and online magazines.
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