Not Simply Technology, But Process Change
While it makes sense, you’d be surprised by how many companies violate the old rule: don’t buy technology for technology’s sake. In other words, just because something looks great and does some amazing things it doesn’t mean that it will make your business better. Technology by itself is basically useless. You can collect all of the data you want. You can print and review reports to fill your office, but if you don’t have a way of acting on that data or of interpreting those reports, you are no better off than if you had simply taken the day off. For technology to add some value to a company, some of that company’s processes and/or methods need to change. This change does not have to be extreme in order to get a significant amount of value out of a new technology. In fact, the best way of adopting new technology is to employ a three-step plan for process change. Each step is incremental and allows a company to integrate the new technology when and where most appropriate. The process change steps are:
- Step One: Use technology to increase the efficiency, accuracy, and usefulness of existing processes. For most companies this is an easy first step. No one in the organization has to fundamentally change what they do nor do they have to learn new processes. They simply use the new technology to help them speed up and improve the existing ways of doing things. E-mail is a classic example of this. When e-mail first started rolling out in the workplace, it didn’t change the basic process of written communications; it just made it more efficient and more rapid. With fleet management, a simple example is recording hour meter readings. Most construction companies collect hour meter readings to manage maintenance, cross reference with reported work time and number of other functions. Historically these readings have been collected by hand and reported on paper. A fleet management solution can provide company management with real time hour meter readings delivered right to the desktop.
- Step Two: After becoming accustomed to the technology introduced in Step One, the organization modifies old processes to take better advantage of the technology. In this step an organization has to look at is existing processes with a critical eye towards improvement. For example, all organizations monitor how much their equipment works during the day. These measurements are used to cross reference job costs, payroll costs, performance to bid, etc. Again, this is generally recorded by hand and reported using paper documents. Some fleet management solutions provide the ability to monitor equipment and measure, again in real time, exactly how much time it spent working and not working. Depending on the technology, a fleet management solution can calculate “working time” to eliminate the time spent running but idling, while including the time spent working but not moving. A classic example of a piece of equipment that works but doesn’t move (much) is an excavator.
- Step Three: Eliminate many older processes and methods, then create brand new processes and methods that rely exclusively on the new technology. Implementation of this step is dependent almost exclusively on an individual company’s culture, overall business methods, communications methods, management strategies and business environment. Usually taking this step involves engaging a consulting organization to assist the construction company. Companies bring in consultants, not because the construction company can’t perform the work themselves, but, because the construction company is generally too close to the problem. Implementing this step of process change will allow the construction company to realize all of the value from the fleet management solution. That having been said, this step is also the most difficult on the organization, and to succeed it must have buy-in from all levels of the company.
Construction companies are poised to experience increased efficiencies and increased profits similar to those experienced by manufacturing companies in the 1990s. The majority of these increases can be obtained through the implementation of new fleet management methods or the enhancement of existing fleet management processes. To one degree or another, construction companies can more readily achieve these increases by implementing and wisely using new wireless and software technologies already in the marketplace. While not all construction companies can benefit to the same degree from fleet management technology, and different companies will require different solutions, in general, technology can assist construction companies in achieving their goals.
Earthwave Technologies is a provider of telematics solutions exclusively for the heavy equipment contractor. Our wireless fleet management system, Fleetwatcher, is used to help construction contractors get a better look at their fleet and help them:
- Reduce Idle time
- Cut fuel and equipment costs
- See cycle time and count
- Track fleet location and activity
To help with these areas Fleetwatcher provides reports for our customers to easily read the data and develop a plan to address any problems these reports may highlight.