Project Profile: Telematics Saves a Ton

May 1, 2011
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When Jeff Bremer was hired as the equipment division manager for Aggregate Industries’ western region in 2008, the heavy construction and paving company had a fleet of approximately 110 trucks, more than 1,400 pieces of yellow iron, and not a single Global Positioning System (GPS) among them.

Today, the company manages its 408 most-used trucks and pieces of equipment using a fleet-and-asset management solution from Trimble-technology that paid for itself in the first year’s fuel savings alone.

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“Our 450 employees and 1,400 pieces of equipment make us one of the largest paving and heavy construction companies in the Las Vegas valley, but just two years ago we didn’t know where each piece of equipment was throughout the day, let alone how long it was idling or how many loads had been completed,” says Bremer. “Aggregate Industries has always run a smart, efficient business, but as we were looking for even more ways to build in efficiencies, it became clear that we needed more advanced tools to monitor our equipment.”

Bremer and several other managers evaluated six telematics providers, looking for the one that offered the best combination of products, pricing, and support to meet the needs of such a large fleet of equipment. The company selected Trimble based on its reputation as a leader in the construction services industry, competitive pricing, and strong relationship with Caterpillar.

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In May 2009, Aggregate Industries purchased a fleet-and-asset management solution from Trimble that consisted of GPS receivers for 333 of the company’s primary pieces of equipment, as well as a software solution that allows managers to view and analyze data about each piece of equipment from the office in real time. The company began by installing the GPS receivers on loaders, highway tractors, water trucks, scrapers, excavators, pavers, dozers, service trucks, and ancillary equipment. Bremer later purchased an additional 75 Trimble GPS units, bringing the total number of trucks and equipment that could be monitored from the office up to 408.

“The GPS receivers are mounted right on the truck or piece of equipment and monitor details like engine idle time, cycle time, load counts, fuel consumption, and the precise location of the vehicle at any given time,” says Bremer.

Back in the office, managers can view the data using a web browser, as well as generate on-demand charts and reports, set e-mail or text notifications for unexpected activity, and analyze the information for better long-term or immediate decision-making.

Access to real-time information about equipment usage is paying off in spades for several departments throughout the company, including operations and dispatch, where someone is monitoring the information constantly throughout the day.

“Our dispatch coordinator is by far one of the heaviest users in the company,” says Bremer. “He can view the location of each piece of equipment on a map, which he uses to route and dispatch equipment and workers throughout the day. He can see if there’s a congregation of trucks at a specific location that might indicate a problem, or he can see if a particular piece of equipment can be rerouted to help at a nearby job site. This single use of the technology is allowing us to work much more efficiently in the field.”

In fact, Bremer estimates that the company has increased the utilization of its over the road trucks by 13% in the past year because of the ability to better monitor the trucks’ location.

Another department that relies heavily on Trimble fleet and asset management technology is the operations team. Now, managers are able to confirm the usage data provided by local contractors who are renting equipment from Aggregate Industries.

“We can double check information like the number of hours a piece of equipment was running while it was rented out, and we also use it to determine which types of trucks or pieces of equipment are more efficient for specific types of work,” says Bremer. “We’re using the data for overall equipment effectiveness analysis, and we’re making business decisions based on the results.”

For example, the company is now relying on utilization data, as well as job-site logistics, to determine whether to use a transfer truck or a belly dump to haul a load of asphalt to a specific location based on the past performance of each truck.

Although operations and dispatch are seeing big increases in efficiency since implementing the system, the single biggest cost-savings has come from monitoring idle time and decreasing fuel consumption.

“Now that we have a better idea of how much time our equipment is idling, we’ve implemented policies about idle times. If a piece of equipment isn’t being used, it needs to be shut off,” says Bremer.

Those policies-and an overall greater awareness of fuel efficiency and idle times-have paid off. According to Bremer, the company saved nearly $325,000 in fuel costs during the first year alone. Those savings alone were more than enough to pay for the entire Trimble fleet and asset management solution.

“The money we’ve saved on fuel has more than paid for the technology, and that doesn’t even take into account all of the other efficiencies and cost savings,” says Bremer. “It’s pretty easy to justify the expense with quantifiable results like that.”

One of the other cost savings Bremer is referring to comes in the form of safety. Now, when someone calls the company claiming that an Aggregate Industries truck threw a rock that resulted in a broken windshield, the safety department can pull up the history of that unit and confirm whether or not it was in the given location at that time.

“We’ve had incidents where someone claims we broke their windshield, and we’re able to prove that our truck wasn’t even in the area,” says Bremer. “We’re able to deny the claim quickly and easily and get back to the business at hand.”

The company is also using the fleet and asset management data to drive business decisions like increasing or downsizing the size of its fleet, better managing service schedules, and more accurately bidding on new jobs.

“We’re constantly working with Trimble on new ways to use the technology,” says Bremer. “We continue to use even more of the available reports, to set new alerts, and we’re even looking into combining data from our fleet-and-asset management system with data from other systems. This way, we could consolidate positioning data with data from the scales on the loader at our quarry, for example.

“There’s no doubt about it, our fleet-and-asset management solution is changing the way we work and, ultimately, making us much more competitive,” says Bremer.