Equipment management is a science that has been studied and tested by some of the most brilliant minds in construction. The truth is that each business operates with so many slight differences that it is difficult for one formula to fit all, and there will always be passionate debate over what should work best. The value in having these debates is that we usually find ourselves all on the same side – working to extend and maximize the productive life of our equipment so that we can continue to build from a competitive position. Listening to each other’s success stories, and joining in the conversation, will help us find the right path that fits your specific needs.
Superior Bowen is an asphalt paving and construction company located in the Midwestern United States. For years, their equipment division studied their equipment metrics and tracked their maintenance trends using work orders entered into their accounting system. They learned that over time that while this process saved handwritten notes from getting lost, it lacked the ability to serve the needs of the shop, produce advanced reporting, and provide standardized processes for servicing the equipment.
Jesse Wheeler was hired as Superior Bowen’s Equipment Manager at the same time they replaced their accounting system with Equipment360. “When I came on board, that was one of my first big initiatives,” says Jesse. “Take Equipment360, implement it, and get the most value out of our investment. We were in desperate need of something better. Equipment360 was a glaring opportunity.”
Two years into using Equipment360, Jesse says they have a cleaner system that shows them how they are spending their time in the shop. “Reactivity is always expensive and disruptive,” says Jesse. “We can see now if we are spending time fixing broken pieces, or if we are doing preventative and predictive maintenance. We can go back and pull data to find out what happened last week to understand where we spent our time, and decide what we need to do to get better.”
Here are a few key points that Jesse shared with us that have helped improve their equipment management.
1) Stay Curious and Communicate Better
Jesse says that before they brought him on, the company started an initiative to improve its business processes to hedge against rising construction costs and to build a more efficient path for future growth. The leadership showed a curiosity for gathering clean and factual data that they could learn and grow from. By providing a culture that rewarded continuous improvement and curiosity, as a new equipment manager, Jesse felt he could create lasting change.
Taking this attitude forward, he encouraged his mechanics to focus on preventative maintenance, and inspections to stay ahead of burdensome breakdowns and reactivity (fighting fires all the time can weigh heavily on any equipment shop). By focusing on these items, they can improve an understanding of equipment economic life, build stronger reliability, provide stricter compliance, and boost productivity in the field.
Using the Equipment Reliability Report, Churn Chart, and Asset Management, Jesse can reliably use the cost collected from his mechanics’ work orders to forecast a health score for each piece of equipment. This outlook helps maintain a strong operational fleet year-round and provides evidence for communicating why there was a decision to replace vs. repair equipment.
“We’re very big on core values, and we’re very big on communicating those core values,” says Jesse. “We Listen, we learn, treat each other with respect, and respect our relationships. It helps facilitate communication that might need to be had in the field or the field needs to have with us. When it comes to technology, We’ve been fortunate that our CEO is very interested in the latest technology, and how we can leverage what we have to the fullest. We need to do our due diligence to find the right programs and make sure we will get an ROI from them. But, once we do that, the leadership is ready to invest in the things that will make us more efficient tomorrow.”
2) Create Lists and a Job Plan
At any stage of the process, it can be helpful to create a priority list of problems that you want to solve or tasks you need to perform. If you already have a list of what you know you want to do, you can easily share that vision with others.
For example, Jesse found that his mechanics were using manuals to supplement their preventative maintenance schedule because what needed to be done was not entered on the work order description. To resolve this, Jesse started using Equipment Checklists to create a job plan for each preventative maintenance and expanded that to create lists for completing an equipment inspection. He went this route instead of entering descriptions because the description field is just a plain text field that does not provide interaction. The checklists not only provided a way to remove the books from the equation, it also allowed for accountability.
The mechanics could use these checklists to mark each step as done, confirm they inspected each part of the equipment upon receipt and delivery, and there is a record of it on file. “If you check it off, we have to make sure it gets done,” says Jesse. “It has helped the technicians report defects in a cleaner manner rather than pen and paper, and we no longer have to worry about a bad checkmark or a smudged pen. Our quality control has improved as a result as well.”
3) Set Priorities and Backlogs to Handle Repairs During Off Season
Superior Bowen has a winter season that they use to address equipment repairs that could not happen during the busy season. They use searchable priorities and work order tags to rate the urgency of the work order, and to help them decide if work can be performed later.
” We use work order priorities ‘P1,’ ‘P2,’ ‘P3,’ and ‘P4.’ P1 is most urgent, and P4 we use for winter maintenance,” says Jesse. “We also use various work order tags, depending on the work order, to identify neglect, abuse, and damage. For more urgent needs, we use an emergency tag to make sure we don’t miss anything.”
If you can only work on part of the work order, and the item is not urgent, you can easily send that line item from the work order to the equipment’s backlog. It will never get lost. When a new work order is created or preventative maintenance is automatically triggered for that equipment, the backlog item can be added to the work order. The latest version of Equipmet360 also allows the backlog to include an image attachment.
4) Automate What You Can
Allowing a computer to handle the repetitive tasks will free your mechanics and managers to do the jobs they were hired to do, and increase the efficiency of their day without potentially losing information along the way. Here are three things that you can automate to free up your time.
- Set up Preventative Maintenance Schedules by equipment type – Automating the preventative maintenance schedule is one of the core functions of Equipment360. If you can extend equipment life, show a record of regular maintenance for warranty claims, and not have to think about when the next service is due because the program is watching the clock for you, then you will have a well documented and healthier fleet. For every new equipment added to that type, the PM schedule will be added to it without you needing to make changes. You need only initialize it with a current meter reading.
- Use Equipment Checklists for PMs and Inspections – These Checklists can help you create accountability and reduce the need for supplemental paper that would need to be hand entered later. In the field, the mechanic app has quick access to these lists, and it can improve what is expected on each job.
- Import Meters from HeavyJob or Telematics – Meters drive the schedule of preventative maintenance. Current readings that automatically flow from a GPS telematics unit will ensure you perform maintenance on time. If you do not have telematics units on your equipment, you can use the meters entered from your foreman on your HeavyJob timecards to drive the maintenance schedule. Every time a timecard is locked or sent into the manager, it can send the meter to Equipment360.
5) Improve Your Community
“There is a strong community, and a lot of science out there surrounding equipment management,” says Jesse. “Lean into the resources that are out there like the Mike Vorsters and Andy Agoos of the world, and join roundtable discussions whenever you find an opportunity with HCSS. Let’s learn from those who pioneered by doing it the hard way, and find better metrics to track because it will make life easier.”
He also encourages using Equipment360 to have better conversations with other parts of the company. “Sometimes a relationship can develop between the shop and the field,” says Jesse. “We’re always looking for ways to schedule repairs while keeping the field operational and keep our availability transparent. We also keep track of normal wear and tear versus abnormal use of equipment so that we can provide training opportunities for operators, and data to support spikes in equipment damage.
Let us know in the comments how you are pushing improvement with your equipment department, and join the HCSS Community to connect with construction equipment managers and other HCSS users.
HCSS Fleet Support specializes in Equipment360, and can help you with your questions using the software. They are available all the time at 855-231-7877.
HCSS also has an option to hire veteran HCSS consultants to help you focus your efforts based on where you want to take your shop. Matt Fidler is one of those consultants, and he regularly contributes to the Success Blog.