In recent years, the construction industry has been among the most enthusiastic adopters of new technologies. This is partly the legacy of the 2008 financial crisis, when construction firms were forced to adapt to the changing economic situation by delivering strong improvements in efficiency. Investing in new technologies was one way in which this was achieved. But competition in the sector remains intense, and so the enthusiastic adoption of these technologies has continued even during the years after the global financial crisis - to save money and stay ahead of competitors.
GPS telematics systems deliver relevant data on the condition, performance and location of assets in the field. Telematics in the construction industry falls into two categories – on-road and off-road. The benefits the technology provides differ significantly between those two categories. In this article, we will elaborate on how on-road and off-road telematics systems operate, and how they are helping construction companies to enhance efficiency and deliver customer service that's generally better all round.
On-road construction telematics
The construction industry makes extensive use of on-road vehicles, and so GPS telematics has been widely adopted for use with these fleets. But we can break the use of on-road construction telematics systems down into two further sub-categories – the movement of people and the movement of materials.
Ensuring that human resources are in the right place at the right time, so that team members are in place to complete the job when it needs to be completed. Site reporting is a key feature offered by telematics, keeping managers up to date with which members of the team are on site. That way, they can establish whether everyone is on site when they should be. Knowing who's on site and when is also an important health and safety consideration.
Telematics systems also make it much easier to monitor the movement of materials, so that managers can ensure materials are on site when they're required. Of course if the required materials aren't present on-site, the team can't do the work they need to. By facilitating the movement of materials in this way, telematics makes it simpler for construction teams to progress according to their planned schedules.
Further improvements to efficiency are facilitated by enhanced route planning - and the consequent reduced fuel costs - in addition to enhanced monitoring of driver behaviour. This allows fleet managers to highlight and devise strategies for eliminating undesirable driver conduct, including harsh braking, tailgating, aggressive acceleration and rough cornering. This again can deliver real improvements in fuel efficiency.
Off-road construction telematics
Telematics can also be used to track the location and performance of plant equipment. It's all about utilisation and maintenance, as well as helping construction firms to cut hire costs – instead of recording miles on the clock, it tracks hours of use, enabling managers to not only keep tabs on the location of equipment, but also report on whether that equipment is being utilised across multiple sites.
Naturally, equipment which isn't being used isn't generating revenue. Optimising equipment distribution across sites can therefore accelerate progress with construction projects – allowing them to be completed quicker, and eliminate unnecessary spending on equipment hire. When it comes to maintenance, telematics systems include equipment fault code notifications and assist with the planning of maintenance schedules, helping to keep equipment operational while maximising output and minimising the need for hire.
Telematics also provides security benefits – while the equipment and vehicles used in the construction industry aren't easy to steal due to their sheer size, theft is a very real problem for the sector. Also enhanced fuel usage measurement, provides insight into when equipment is running without being in use. This again helps to improve efficiency by reducing unnecessary idling.
Prospering in a time of uncertainty
The economic implications of Brexit for the British construction industry – and the UK economy as a whole – remain unclear. There are likely to be at least some negative implications, however. In particular, the weakening of the pound – down against the dollar by around a fifth since the EU referendum last June – looks set to result in a sizeable increase in fuel prices. This could well prove significant for the profit margins of construction firms.
Continued investment in technologies that reduce downtime, facilitate enhanced planning and drive up overall efficiency will therefore be crucial to seeing the industry through the current uncertainty in healthy condition. This is why fleet telematics is likely to play an increasingly important role in the construction industry over the next few years.