When it comes to asset management technology, it took some time to pull the construction industry out of the Stone Age. But it’s really happening.
For construction companies and contractors, spreadsheets and whiteboards have always been the tools of choice for managing leased and owned assets, from excavators to aerial lifts to crawler loaders and everything in between. There were a number of reasons (apologies, really) for their reluctance to embrace available technology:
- “We’ve always done it that way.”
- “It’s too expensive. We are already working on extremely thin margins.
- “It’s too complicated to learn.”
However, as construction companies and independent contractors have begun to realize the benefits these asset management tools offer – cost savings, increased productivity, and proper allocation of resources, to name a few. only a few – they warmed to the idea.
In 2019, 22% of general contractors said they use “equipment tagging” to track and manage their assets, a number that is expected to increase significantly to 42% this year. Once considered a competitive advantage, tracking software has become a necessity that improves jobsite safety, increases productivity, and enables better scheduling. Additionally, since there is a huge shortage of skilled labor, construction companies need to be able to do more work using less skilled people. Tracking asset management helps alleviate some of that burden.
For construction companies and entrepreneurs who have decided to dive into the world of asset management technology, hearty congratulations. However, before you even start dipping your little toe into these waters, there are some things you should know. Not all asset management platforms are the same; like any technology, some products are better than others, some offer more functionality, while others have very niche applications. Although not an exhaustive list, here are five critical factors to consider before committing to a specific asset management solution:
- Rent and own
If you’re like most construction companies and contractors, you rent and own equipment. For equipment that you might use very sporadically, it’s probably better to rent; However, buying equipment that you intend to use regularly may make more sense in the long run, given the constant need for certain pieces of equipment as well as the tax advantages that come with depreciation. There aren’t many technology platforms that will not only keep track of leased and owned assets, but also help manage and allocate equipment from both categories, as each has its own unique parameters (e.g., leased assets incur overdue fines, owned equipment does not.). But if you’re doing both, you should consider this a top priority.
- Data scope and functions
Quite simply, you want a platform that offers a wide range of functions that produces as much actionable data as possible. End-to-end requirements such as maintenance planning, logistics, dispatch, asset verification, inspection forms, data compilation, document sharing with remote teams, records management, rental calls, asset allocation, warranty information on owned assets, automation of project summaries, alerts for overdue rentals and specific permissions to selected team members are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. When it comes to the data you can receive and the functions you can perform, clearly more is better. No one wants to log in, train and maintain five different platforms; one that can do it all is a much more acceptable option.
- Adaptable maintenance
This also applies to owned equipment. Maintenance schedules can be extremely difficult to track, especially if you’re using spreadsheets, whiteboards, or another outdated method of tracking assets. It is not enough to use a technology platform that simply lists all equipment and the date of the next maintenance routine for each part. There are platforms that also color-code maintenance tasks, so users can see when maintenance for a machine is coming; the day on which it must be carried out; and a nudge when he’s late.
You will also need a system that will segment maintenance categories (e.g. repair, safety, preventative, administrative) along with field customization, vendor/technician assignment, cost tracking, and notes associated with events for historical review. These can all be set up as email or SMS alerts, so in many cases you don’t even need to open the platform. And reminders can be set at user-chosen intervals – running hours, miles or time.
- Ease of use: user interface
Technology is supposed to make tasks easier, but it doesn’t achieve the goal if the technology is difficult to use, impossible to understand, and unintuitive. When evaluating a construction asset management platform, you’ll want a feature demo. While observing what it can do, watch how it works. Are there a lot of one-click quick functions? Is it easily navigable, i.e. can you quickly find the specific function you are looking for, without having to scroll through countless screens?
When you access the data you want, is it easily searchable, filterable, and sortable, so you can quickly get to the essence of what you need, or does it require tedious review? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself to gauge how easy it will be to use the platform and convince others in your business to use it as well.
- Flexibility in growth
For better or for worse, there are many players in the asset management game. Some have targeted small businesses while others have developed robust solutions specifically tailored to large enterprises. That said, look for a platform – and a company – with a solution that can meet your business needs both financially and technologically with a stable of satisfied customers, large and small.
The thing is, construction is an industry that hasn’t been around for very long (at least not in its current incarnation). Yet there are great companies that truly listen to the customer and build systems that meet customers where they are today with technology that evolves with them. Ultimately, the best approach is to check out the company’s website, customer list, references, and book your own demo to experience the product first-hand and help put it all into perspective.