Technology’s evolution, from the standpoint of its users, has been anything but smooth and predictable. Fax machines and landline telephones transformed communication only to start gathering dust in the wake of email and cell phones. Amazing time savers like typewriters became almost immediately obsolescent with the rise of personal desktop computers and then laptops and tablets. The result for most businesses has been to accumulate a mishmash of technologies over time — some newer, some long past their heyday — that, when utilized all together, make up what is meant by phrases like “business operations” or “IT.” For construction project managers, a typical workday can — technologically-speaking — span several decades as the work of powerful, deft, smart 21st century machinery is still catalogued on paper forms and filed away in a metal filing cabinet by someone who still struggles with Excel.
Last week in the blog, we talked about how all the technological advancements of the last century still haven’t put much of a dent in the three interrelated concerns that keep construction project managers up at night: executing a project well, delivering it on time, and hitting or landing under budget constraints. While it’s true that tech has radically altered the construction landscape so more can get done in a lot less time, it’s also radically altered expectations — for those working in the industry and industry customers, which is one of the reasons hitting project goals is so difficult. Another reason? Construction project managers still aren’t leveraging M2M technology as well as they could be.
Machine-to-Machine (M2) technology is, on the surface, about the equipment that moves the Earth and constructs roads, aqueducts and buildings. Equipped with powerful sensors, today’s equipment can be remotely locked, tracked and geofenced, and it can also send alerts via a smartphone or desktop when a malfunction is imminent or tire pressure or oil levels are low.
Taking advantage of these basic functions of M2M tech can do a lot to assist construction project managers in hitting their goals, but more fully leveraging the technology is essential to truly improve execution, while cutting costs and time. Here’s how that can happen.
Telematics Makes for Big, Big Data
The most impressive offering of M2M technology, and probably the most difficult to leverage well, is in the data generated by telematics that’s popularly known as “big data.” Big data refers to sets of data that are so massive they can’t be analyzed by people; they need robust computational analysis to sort through them at all. Thanks to telematics, every piece of equipment on a job site that has a sensor — and any other asset boasting sensors, including employees with cell phones — generates data that, when properly analyzed, can reveal patterns and trends in everything from how well gear is performing to which operators drive safely and which operators don’t. So, how should construction project managers focus their telematics findings to improve projects? Here’s a handy and relatively manageable short list.
- Better Maintenance
Telematics sensors generate fault codes when things have gone wrong or are about to. Tending to these issues as soon as they’re made known can reduce downtime and extend gear life, but if project managers are really serious about uptime and overall gear health, it’s important to institute a rigorous preventive maintenance (PM) program, schedule it and automate it. That way, every time a piece of equipment hits a pre-set condition based on mileage, hours or calendar, an action can follow. Oil gets changed. Lighting gets checked. Batteries get tested, etc.
- Asset Use
How well or poorly machines get utilized at each active job site directly affects on-time and under-budget delivery. Far too often, machines sit idle at one site, while at another site, machines are pushed too hard. With telematics data, construction project managers and fleet managers can pinpoint exactly where and when under- and over-utilization occurs. Then, armed with good intel, machines can be scooted hither and yon to keep projects on time, and new investments can be wisely made.
- Fuel Consumption
Cutting down on fuel costs is one of the easiest ways to save money on a project, and with telematics data, it can also be achieved. Simply monitoring work time versus idle time will alert project managers to which pieces of equipment — and oftentimes, which operators — are wasting fuel. Once fuel consumption data is known, it’s fairly simple to implement training programs and best practices to achieve better fuel use across the fleet.
- Operator Costs
Not all equipment operators are created equal, and gathering telematics data to determine who wastes fuel, who runs engines too hard, who may not drive safely, who overloads gear and the like will save plenty of money and headaches in the long- and short-term. Once operators who aren’t meeting company standards have been identified, they can be better trained. The result will be lower fuel costs, few safety violations and injuries and gear that hasn’t been misused and overworked.
There are many other ways M2M technology can be leveraged through telematics, but this list provides a good start for any construction project manager looking to improve operations. If you’re looking for an M2M and telematics solution to improve work and extend gear life at your company, schedule a GearJot demo today.