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CIOs Can Lead Digital Transformation to Improve Equipment Management
By Dale Asplund, EVP & COO, United Rentals®
Despite all this, technology is not always the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks “construction equipment management.” And yet, the foremost challenge facing construction companies today is the complexity of the modern jobsite. Project lifecycles are more fluid, and project “creep” can reshape the scope of resources required, impacting equipment and workforce productivity. Digital solutions can simplify this complexity and give managers a clear line of sight.
Equipment – both owned and rented – may not be as large a component as labor or materials, but it is a strategic variable in the equation. Big iron, pumps, generators, light towers, boom lifts and a vast range of other equipment are a barometer of overall project efficiency. Put another way, how equipment is utilized on a jobsite is often reflective of how labor and other resources are utilized. When you identify the pressure points, it can point to opportunities for cost and time savings.
In fact, fleet management can be stymied by having too many distractions – leading to a focus on features instead of benefits, such as mitigating idle equipment and understanding the root causes of machine failure. In addition, a construction company that operates with multiple tech systems can be hobbled by isolated information: equipment data separate from project planning, separate from labor tracking, and so on.
The best way for a CIO to eliminate fleet management obstacles is through digital transformation – deploying a single digital system of record for all equipment and using that data to drive operational change for best-in-class performance. One of the primary levers of change can be benchmarking.
Keep a Digital Eye on the Fleet
A mixed fleet, consisting of owned and rented equipment, is a reality for most construction firms. Add the intricacies of managing equipment across multiple jobsites, and it can be difficult to know what equipment is available, where it’s located, and whether it’s needed. If just one essential unit is mismanaged, the resulting inefficiency can cause a ripple effect of disruptions and delays.
The best way for a CIO to eliminate fleet management obstacles is through digital transformation – deploying a single digital system of record for all equipment and using that data to drive operational change for best-in-class performance
Reliable information about equipment – its cost, whereabouts, utilization and operating condition – can be as valuable as the equipment itself for project success. This is especially true of equipment rentals, which can be driven by time-sensitive, unexpected needs. Rental is a responsive solution, but obscures visibility into costs and utilization, making it easier for projects to veer off plan.
A digital fleet management strategy can increase the value derived from rental expenditures. Most rented equipment is relatively easy to relocate around a jobsite, or even among jobsites, where it can be the most productive. Customers using a better fleet management system could generate information across the organization in a cohesive way, giving everyone similar visibility into equipment resources.
Drive Operational Change through Data
The next initiative in digital transformation is to leverage the data to make operational changes, with an eye toward equipment consumption and utilization.
Using equipment rentals as an example – consumption is defined by how much equipment you have on rent and the durations; in simple terms, it’s how much equipment you use. Utilization is how efficiently that equipment is put to work. Utilization measures differ by equipment category; for instance, low utilization may be acceptable for a generator as a backup power source, while an aerial lift should have higher utilization from near-constant use.
Comprehensive data about consumption and utilization, if presented, brings agility to the planning and management processes. This, in turn, extracts more value per dollar from equipment spend. Construction firms that integrate equipment data into their planning process find they can compete more effectively because they’re doing more work with fewer cost constraints. Data drives better utilization of all equipment, rented and owned, and reduces spend on add-on rentals and capital purchases.
Benchmark Performance to Solve Gaps
Transformation requires looking beyond the business to the industry at large to continuously improve operations. Benchmarking provides a unique point of view on how a company’s performance ranks compared to peers. It’s a way to uncover the unexpected. When equipment utilization is compared to industry benchmarks, it can pinpoint opportunities for improvement and quantify the dollar impact.
Using a benchmarking process, every piece of rented equipment can be measured against industry norms or market leaders using metrics such as utilization and days past due. If, for instance, aerial fleet utilization ranks below peers, the solution could include setting up low-utilization alerts in the fleet management system to flag managers or reviewing GPS time-and-use reports more frequently.
Strategic and Operational Excellence
It takes a concerted effort for a construction company to improve how it consumes equipment. But it’s worth the undertaking because a best-in-class equipment strategy can transform inefficient behaviours and deliver substantial cost savings.
Today’s complex, ever-changing jobsites demand continuous agility. By leading the move to digital fleet management, construction CIOs can ensure that equipment decisions are made with real-time information. A real digital transformation, where equipment, data and decision-making coalesce, can mean dramatically better productivity and smarter ways to succeed.