The construction industry has widely adopted a myriad of technologies to help with efficiency and effectiveness on the job. But in this rapidly evolving digital age, post-implementation has left many of its thought leaders scratching their heads and asking, “Now what?”
Technology not only increases productivity and provides real-time information, but it also gives companies data on how machines previously performed in certain applications and conditions. This type of data is generally referred to as big data and its power has yet to be truly embraced.
While construction leaders may not be aware of the full realm of insights available through big data analytics programs, they do know that they want the results that they provide. In fact, a survey of construction companies in 2014 revealed that 57 percent want consistent, up-to-date financial and project information and 41 percent want forecasting, allowing them to better prepare for best and worst-case building events—and that was three years ago.
Fast-forward to today and big data has grown even bigger. Its impact stretches far beyond financial projections and forecasting of construction projects, and well into every aspect of the business—including its fleets.
BIG DATA SCIENTISTS AND CONNECTED VEHICLE SOLUTIONS
Connected vehicle solutions enable vehicles to share data via the cloud and also provide the tools for interpretation and analysis. Along with historical information, individual construction fleets and equipment generate massive amounts of unstructured data on a daily basis, such as when workers are driving thousands of miles between sites or moving equipment throughout the grounds. But without proper technology and a team in place for analysis, this data can go to waste.
An example is a commercial construction firm that is noticing higher repair costs and equipment rental costs in a particular region. Data scientists connecting this information to fleet data would find a large set of vehicle fault codes and a backlog of preventive service, which would lead to breakdowns and replacement rentals. Ultimately, this would point to poor attention to fleet maintenance, which is having a downstream impact on project cost.
BIG DATA FOR FLEET WORKFORCE SAFETY
When construction managers hand over their vehicle keys to their employees, one of their major concerns is their driving habits. With this in mind, construction managers prioritize safety not only because they want to make sure to keep their employees and the communities where they live and work safe, but because they also realize that productivity and savings are directly tied to safer driving habits. When drivers are speeding or operating recklessly, they are wasting fuel and exponentially increasing the risk of a crash, which in turn leads to money lost. In fact, one single accident could easily exceed $1.4 million in expenses for the company at fault.
To overcome this, construction firms are investing in innovative safety features that alert both drivers and managers of safe driving infractions in real-time while they occur. This not only alerts the manager of risky driving behavior, but also empowers drivers to understand their actions in real time and curb poor behavior before an accident.
By incorporating this real-time information with historical data provided by GPS tracking and monitoring technology, construction managers can view behavioral data across their entire organization and seamlessly compare performance of one driver to another, ultimately stimulating healthy competition to drive safe.
BIG DATA FOR VEHICLE AND ASSET UTILIZATION
One of the main challenges for construction project managers overseeing fleets is vehicle repairs, with one of the biggest headaches coming from seemingly unexpected pop-ups of the check engine light or malfunction indicator lamp triggered by diagnostic trouble codes (DTC). Managers must ask themselves whether or not they should allow employees to continue driving, assuming the problem is minor, or if they should take the vehicle in for diagnostics and waste a day or more waiting on repairs.
If they decide to risk a day of lost revenue on an unplanned visit to the service station, they run the risk of disrupting construction project schedules for a condition that might be minor like a loose gas cap, or continue using the vehicle and risk a more serious issue such as a failing catalytic converter that could affect the vehicle engine and business in the long run.
Construction managers can avoid the maintenance and repair guessing game by adding an on-board diagnostic plug-and-play device that can translate multiple DTC occurrences at once, coupled with fuel economy information and overall maintenance data. This innovation, combined with telematics and big data analytics, is leading to an automated diagnostic system for fleet vehicles.
The “virtual mechanic” can provide an assessment of the trigger of the check engine light and offer a recommendation to the driver and the fleet manager on whether to take the vehicle for immediate repair or to schedule a checkup at a convenient time, empowering fleet managers to make informed and more effective decisions.
BIG DATA FOR SERVICE OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT
Every fleet owner knows that for their business to be profitable, operating costs need to be as low as possible. Along with route optimization, monitoring fuel usage is one of the best ways to drastically reduce those operating costs. With U.S. prices for gasoline expected to reach their highest levels since 2014 this year, construction managers are paying even closer attention to how much their workers are spending at the pump.
But minimizing fuel usage goes way beyond just getting MPG reports and gas station receipts. By tracking historical averages for fuel prices and real-time route analysis, data can offer in-depth insights to provide a more accurate estimation of gas costs. Armed with data-backed fuel reports, construction firms can accurately pinpoint how much their drivers are paying for fuel, where they can buy cheaper fuel and what is actually being purchased at gas station, virtually eliminating the chances for fuel theft or any inappropriate spending.
In the future, by leveraging expert insights from data scientists with connected vehicle solutions, construction companies will be able to harness the power of big data to transform unstructured data into actionable insights that enable better, more profitable decision-making surrounding vehicle management, fleet health and driver safety.