Maintaining equipment has traditionally been a hands-on and hardware-focused effort, but a growing number of heavy construction contractors are turning to software to cut fleet maintenance costs as well as the amount of time their equipment is out of service.
Bringing automation and efficiency to their preventive maintenance process and turning data on their fleets into actionable business intelligence are primary reasons.
Contractors have long realized the bottom line and uptime advantages of doing more maintenance work in a preventive mode rather than in a reactive repair mode. Shifting the ratio in their favor, however, is a challenge for companies battling the limitations of spreadsheets and offline, paper-based processes.
Barriere Construction made the move to a specialized software solution for equipment maintenance management in 2010. The company completes heavy civil and industrial construction and paving projects in Louisiana and has a large materials division. Brett Todd oversees a fleet that includes more than 200 on- and off-road assets. He says automated preventive maintenance has provided a competitive advantage for Barriere.
“Automating our PM process with the software has allowed us to cut the amount of time spent on emergency repairs nearly in half to around three or four percent,” according to Todd. “That translates to significant cost savings and it keeps our equipment on the job and earning money.”
Todd used to sort through forms and reports on equipment utilization to devise preventive maintenance intervals manually with a calculator. Now telematics systems deliver meter reading and fault codes directly from each asset to the maintenance management software system at Barriere. The software uses that data to create and manage the preventive maintenance schedule automatically and to alert the team.
Todd says that when an unexpected repair requests comes in from the field, being able to see the repair history and the upcoming preventive maintenance requirements for that piece of equipment on the screen is another major benefit in preparing and scheduling work orders.
“In the past, it was common to do the repair as quickly as possible and then find out we had to go back a week or so later and do preventive work on the same machine,” he explains. “Now, with the software and centralized information, when we bring that machine in or we go out to the site to do the repair, we do the upcoming preventive work at the same time. The mechanics are far more efficient, and the machine is out of service once instead of multiple times.”
Accessing the maintenance software via mobile tablets provides mechanics performing the work on Barriere’s fleet – especially those on the road working at job sites – with additional efficiency advantages. Todd points out that they get schedules and work orders and can complete the work orders electronically, without having to come to a shop, resulting in what he calls more wrench time and less windshield time. The management team then benefits from electronic data flowing back to the company immediately.
“The software gives us one source of accurate information on the work that has been done on a piece of equipment,” he explains. “We’re now using that data to predict and minimize maintenance requirements and to analyze lifecycle costs.”
Specialized maintenance management software helps Barriere track 28 key performance indicators related to equipment maintenance. “The software supports a far more proactive and preventive approach to maintenance,” Todd concludes. “Essentially, we’re leveraging the technology and the information available to make better business decisions.”