GPS: Positioning your project for success

CONEXPO-CON/AGG
July 24, 2018
By CONEXPO-CON/AGG
Today, competitive construction companies are looking for ways to save costs and reduce the amount of time searching for lost assets—including tools, equipment, and materials. To help, companies are incorporating global positioning systems (GPS) and advanced asset-tracking solutions to gather data on construction projects.

With truck and equipment health, driver behavior, and usage at hand, construction companies are able to reduce costs, risks, and frustrations while increasing productivity and efficiency, according to Ryan Driscoll, marketing director, GPS Insights.

“The kicker of all of this is that once the technology is set up to your business structure, most of it is automated for you,” Driscoll explains. He adds that almost 50 percent of commercial businesses with vehicles and equipment are using GPS tracking technology today.

While this type of technology has been used in many large construction companies for years, now small and medium enterprises are also adopting asset-tracking systems to improve business processes, according to Transparency Market Research. This is partly why the use of such technologies are anticipated to grow roughly 12.9 percent through 2026.

This will impact the construction jobsite in myriad ways. First, knowing where an asset is located can help with job costing and billing, while also giving workers the information needed to make employees more productive throughout the day, according to Driscoll. Also, employees can wear panic buttons that will notify management of emergency situations when they arise so that help can be dispatched right to the jobsite.

Peter Bigwood, vice president of sales and marketing, Brokk, adds that data will be much easier to come by with the help of technology, but it will also be a challenge to know how to apply it effectively. “Safety can be enhanced. Maintenance procedures can be improved upon, with a much more proactive approach possible.”

He says some of the biggest technologies impacting the construction industry today include telematics, GPS, drones, and robotics, just to name a few.

At the same time, the technology is also advancing. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine intelligence, combined with robotics, will change the way construction companies interact with equipment and tools in the future.

As all this happens, construction companies will need to put good strategies in place to leverage the technology and then take the right steps to implement the solutions in a way that will be both effective and profitable for the company.

Set a solid technology strategy
How can construction companies put good strategies in place to use technology on the construction jobsite? Bigwood of Brokk, says, cautiously.

“There is so much fluidity in this space that it often pays to proceed with caution to make sure that a given technology has ‘legs’ before it is implemented,” he says. “Some, like telematics, are well entrenched by now, with major players firmly established.”

Driscoll of GPS Insights offers a slightly different piece of advice to construction companies when looking at how to be successful with GPS tracking solutions for fleet management: think differently.

“Instead of a tactical focus on idle time, speeding, or knowing where each truck is on a map, looking through a strategic lens at what challenges you are trying to overcome and attacking those challenges is the way to go,” he explains. “Of course, the tactical approach will make improvements for the business, but holistically tackling your challenges … will give you the best return on investment and have the greatest impact on your business.”

He points to one example of such a challenge: improving fleet safety to reduce accidents and equipment downtime by 50 per cent.

Identifying a challenge and creating a concrete objective for the use of the technology can help construction companies be successful in the long run when implementing asset-management technologies on construction projects.

Time to implement
Once a company sets a strategy for the use of the technology, the next step is to implement it on a specific project or companywide.

Implementation is a very important step for the success of a project—because if not implemented right, the use of technology can ultimately feel like a waste, according to Driscoll.

The company offers a very specific step-by-step guide to construction companies to follow to ensure timelines are met and everything is up and running as it should be. Then it helps schedule time to train all users so they understand how to use the software based on their role in the company.

This is a very important step, adds Bigwood, suggesting that leaning on the vendors for support when implementing new solutions and training operators is critical.

“New technology will perforce require a learning curve, and suppliers are well aware of that,” he says. “Most provide the necessary orientation and training free of charge, at least to start, and then make it available for a charge as usage takes off.”

Proper training in the early phases of a new technology implementation is essential to the successful use of the systems on the jobsite.

Technology’s increasing role on construction sites
While telematics and GPS are already well entrenched on many construction projects, the systems are continuing to evolve as AI and machine learning are growing more intuitive. Basically, as the technologies advance, asset-tracking systems are becoming smarter, which means greater productivity at the construction jobsite.

“This is an exciting time to be in the construction industry as these technologies insinuate themselves into traditional means and methods,” says Bigwood. “Coming from the robotic business, we are seeing our products become more and more mainstream as the workforce ages, and new workers shun traditional manual labor.”

At the same time, safety and productivity are becoming even more paramount—and technology, in all its forms, has a major role to play to help on the construction jobsite.

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