George Heck's Posts

The Challenges of High/Fast Growth Companies vis-a-vis Asset Tracking

The dream of many owners is to grow their company from a small business to one of the major players in their market, and to do it quickly and strategically. As anyone who has attempted this journey knows, it’s a lot easier said than done – especially if you don’t invest in the technology and infrastructure to support expansion. Everyone wants to reap the rewards of fast growth, but not everyone understands what it takes to make it happen.

In today’s world, if you run a construction or other type of industrial business and want to achieve fast growth, there’s one investment you can’t do without – a modern asset tracking system. Here’s why:

As your company grows and begins taking on bigger and more complex projects, you’re going to need more tools and equipment (assets) to handle more jobs and increase revenues. This requires investing in two different types of assets – the tools and equipment you use to perform the work, such as earth movers, backhoes, etc., and the equipment you need to efficiently manage your assets.

Challenge 1 – Scalability

In the early days of a new business, small companies can usually get by with manual procedures and looser control over asset utilization and management. The owner and a few key employees know the business inside and out and can make sure the right things happen at the right time. But as you grow, if you don’t have the right tools in place to monitor and manage the influx of new assets and people, data will be lost, key individuals won’t be able to access the data they need and your quest to achieve rapid growth can quickly become a nightmare rather than a dream come true.

Challenge 2 –  All for One or One for All

Fast growth creates continuous change. If key players who have a lot of knowledge about your assets are on vacation, or multiple personnel are tracking assets in their own separate way, you can’t access accurate data when you need it. If you are using static magnet boards and spreadsheets to manage your assets and don’t have the technology in place to permanently document and update records in real-time, it causes confusion and rework. Automated record-keeping and accessible data is critical, and modern technology offers digital tools to automate and store data efficiently together.

Challenge 3 – Data for Informed Decision Making

The third big challenge has to do with securing the new customers and accounts to drive your company’s rapid growth. As you pursue bigger and more sophisticated clients, you need modern tools and technologies to capture operational costs, win future work and forecast future growth. Once your business reaches a certain size, “going with your gut” just won’t cut it.

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Let Go of Your Past

In today’s fast-paced markets, business success is all about having the right data in the right place at the right time. That way, your senior management team, mid-level managers and front-line employees can all make well-informed decisions to optimize asset utilization. And if you’re growing quickly, you’re going to find yourself with a lot more data to manage than ever before. Old-school asset tracking tools and techniques will hold you back rather than propelling your company forward.

It may feel uncomfortable to consider leaving magnetic boards or manual tool lists behind, but consider the problems they cause. Magnetic boards can only display a limited amount of data and in one place. If it gets erased, it’s lost forever. Compare that to a digital asset tracking system such as Tenna, which has room for virtually unlimited amounts of data. Moreover, this data is available to anyone, at any time – whether in the office or on a job site – as long as they have WiFi or Internet access and is always up to date.

Conversely, tool lists don’t reflect real time, so the information constantly has to be updated – a time-consuming task. Yard rounds can be rife with human error, and they don’t help locate anything that’s already missing. Excel spreadsheets are somewhat better, but they’re still a static, dated way of tracking assets that need constant manual updating. With telematics and digital asset tracking, you can find location and other asset data in just a few clicks. You know the data is up-to-date, and you know it’s accurate.

Grow or Go Home

Still not convinced of the need for modern asset tracking?  Consider the following:

How many times have you mistaken a 1 for a 7? Lost a critical part or tool? Ordered a piece of machinery from the yard only to find it nonoperational due to irregular maintenance? How often do you purchase a new part or material and then discover you already have several in stock? How often does it take you longer to correct data-entry mistakes than it took you to record the data in the first place?

Then there’s the issue of tracking driver time, miles driven, fuel usage and all sorts of asset usage data. You can do it the old way and take hours to collect and organize the data manually. Or you can have it automatically tracked and instantly relayed to your asset management system for everyone to see. Which do you think your managers would prefer?

Like it or not, today’s business environment demands the fast, accurate capture of asset management information. With today’s cloud-based systems, you can easily track assets of all types and sizes, all in one integrated system. Stop begging your employees for updates. Let the information alert you when you need to pay attention, and switch from reactive to proactive management.

Failure to invest in digital asset tracking will inhibit your company’s growth, so why risk your future?

Industrial Asset Management – Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

Technology is reshaping the world of asset management (and the world at large) faster than anyone could have anticipated. To get an idea of where our industry might be headed, Tenna asked three experts to share their ideas on upcoming changes that will rock our industry in the near and distant future.

Today: Positive Impacts of Asset Management to Key Stakeholders

As an experienced asset manager, George Heck offers an in-the-moment perspective on the current state of digital asset management. He defines assets not only as machinery, equipment and trucks, but also inventory items that are used and re-used on infrastructure jobsites and projects.  Therefore, proper accounting for all assets in order to prepare accurate estimated bid proposals requires the willingness and discipline to adopt the correct asset tracking platform for the business.

An asset management strategy should include provisions that will effectively net the most utilized asset base with the greatest return on investment to provide future work. Asset management should be implemented on a field level to capture the true costs of assets as they enter a project and are tracked throughout the project. They can then be evaluated for future use elsewhere within the organization or disposed of completely.

This base level is where a comprehensive asset tracking platform can create the efficiencies in collecting the crucial data, whether through manual process or by autonomous means. Key areas impacted by accurate asset management include specific project or jobsite profitability, but this flows upward into specific areas of accounting, procurement and eventually into cost projections in estimating future work.  Successes achieved with effective asset management can include:

  • Reduced spending on unnecessary assets (equipment and truck) rentals or purchases
  • Reduced spending for inventory items currently on project, but not accounted for
  • Reduced spending on repairs of under and non-utilized equipment and trucks
  • Increase of cash for disposing of certain under and non-utilized equipment and trucks
  • Reduced insurance cost dependent on the amount of reduction in asset base
  • Reliable and safer equipment being properly utilized to maintain cash flow levels

Increased automation of data into an asset management system allows companies to focus on the core strengths of building infrastructure projects.  Digitization of the daily and weekly construction processes will continue to increase and be part of a system of continuous improvement, including more integrations with different software tools for accounting, real-time market valuations and disposition.  A combination of accurate and efficient asset management will yield recognizable returns from the jobsite office trailer into the executive decision-making suite.

Tomorrow: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Autumn Braswell, Chief Operating Officer for iQor, predicts that AI and IoT are beginning to converge in a way that will radically reshape the entire business landscape. When used together, the two technologies can provide an unprecedented level of support that allow businesses to unlock the full value of IoT and remain competitive. IDC, a global marketing intelligence firm, estimates that more than 80 percent of IoT spend through 2020 will be on B2B applications and use cases, becoming a primary driver of digital transformation.

One challenge with IoT-enabled applications is their ability to deliver service, product, customer support, business and operational data at a faster rate than ever. With so much data coming in, companies need new processes for gathering, analyzing and comprehending it all. Investing in AI will enable businesses to realize the full potential of IoT by housing the ability to make sense of the data and draw new insights that can be used for a competitive advantage.

For example, IoT will have a large impact on customer service, particularly in the areas of understanding where failures stem from, identifying customer issues and determining what product components need to be replaced. By applying AI technology to all the data and insights generated by IoT, businesses will be able to accurately predict product failures, the number of calls a specific call center will receive, and other service-related metrics and act accordingly.

Scott Amyx of Amyx Ventures agrees that disruptive technologies rarely work in isolation. In fact, he points out that it’s the convergence of technologies that drives up the innovation curve to a near-perfect 90-degree slope.

IoT plays a critical role in several ways, starting with the ability to quantify inanimate and animate objects to build a real-time data matrix of the world. From the environment and natural resources to buildings, cars, cities, homes and people, IoT will generate incredible volume, variety and velocity of data. That data will then feed the neural networks to understand patterns and create probabilistic predictions of future scenarios. That, in turn, will inform businesses, governments, and other organizations to make real-time, fact-based decisions that drive up optimization, productivity and efficiency while squeezing out cost and mitigating potential risks.

In addition to the symbiotic relationship between IoT and AI, the shift to distributed and decentralized computing networks is also driving the move to a fully connected world. For example, the long-established television paradigm of distributing network-created content to the masses via broadcast and cable is rapidly giving way to real-time streaming and user-generated content in a many-to-many distribution model. In the world of computing and data, we are seeing a similar shift from centralized (on premise servers, data centers, cloud) to decentralized. Not only is data being generated on decentralized IoT, it is also being stored and processed locally (wild fog).

Specialized AI chips are enabling decentralized machines and gadgets to run AI algorithms locally without ever needing to make API calls (Lambda functions to AWS) or roundtrips to process, store or disseminate. Meanwhile, wireless sensor networks are now being used to access distributed computational power, memory, storage, bandwidth and features of edge devices to perform jobs. All of which has huge implications for telecomm business models, cloud computing giants, privacy, data ownership and security. Working in unison, IoT, AI and blockchain will create a hyper-connected world that where every action and inaction will be quantified down to the iota. Think the Matrix – minus the human batteries.

Beyond: The Future of Humanity

According to Scott, the fourth and subsequent industrial revolutions will be both good and bad, depending on which segment of the population you belong to.

Advances in technology are about driving down costs. Over time, everything from genome sequencing to hard drive costs shrink to a tiny fraction of what they used to be. This benefits society by providing a much larger benefit for the same relative purchasing power, allowing us to consume more and enjoy more leisure as productivity frees up more time and resources. Impending technology disruptions will also create unimaginable new industries and jobs that we can’t begin to fathom today. Who would have thought a decade ago that Snapchat, an AR photo filter/chat app, would be worth billions while employing engineers to create AR filters for selfies?

But there are always two sides to every story. In this case, the imminent net job loss from artificial intelligence, robotics and the fourth industrial revolution is already impacting income inequality, leading to a rise in populism and nationalism around the globe. AI-driven cyber-physical automation is expected to displace 50% to 80% of the human workforce by 2030. As the pace of convergence of exponential technologies reaches a near-vertical slope, the trend of human displacement is unstoppable.

For the structurally unemployed and underemployed, this portends a bleak future with limited options. Only those with highly specialized Ph.Ds. in fields that create, train and maintain AI, robotic and advanced scientific and technical systems may have a place in the world of hyper-automation. Furthermore, as AI continues to master new niches, it will amass a superset of capabilities that will not only replace tasks but holistic job functions. Sooner than we can imagine, no senior executive, policymaker or subject matter expert will be safe.

A bleak picture, perhaps. But in his second book, “The Human Race: How Humans Can Survive in the Robotic Age,” Scott offers hope by proposing a vastly different, out-of-the-box solution called the Human Currency. A global economy and a cryptocurrency based on human-to-human empathy services, Human Currency will build the needed resiliency and sustainability into the system to ensure the viability of the human race for centuries to come.

Without question, the future will look very different from today. In the meantime, you can count on Tenna for cost-effective asset management solutions that will help your business will thrive in tomorrow’s industrial world.

Tracking Sites and Yards

Tracking tools, equipment and other assets in laydown yards and job sites used to be an inefficient and time-consuming task for construction and other large industrial companies. Manual processes for checking equipment in and out of sites made it difficult to determine their location and status. Yard inventories were often inaccurate and out of date. Misidentification, loss and theft of assets increased operational costs in addition to making it difficult to complete projects on time. Plus, the lack of real-time data forced managers to constantly work behind the curve rather than ahead of it. With the advent of digital tracking technologies over the past decade, today’s asset managers have it much easier. (more…)

How Asset Tracking Can Help with Regularly Scheduled Maintenance

When working hard to complete projects on schedule and within budget, preventive maintenance of your fleet equipment and vehicles can easily get overlooked or delayed. Yet, few things are more important for the growth of your business and your bottom line than taking good care of your capital-intensive assets.

Keeping your assets well-maintained improves safety on the road and at the job site, and helps complete jobs on time by reducing downtime for equipment and employees. Timely maintenance lowers fuel and operational costs because your assets work more efficiently. It also lowers repair costs (which average five times more than maintenance costs), while making it easier to comply with OSHA safety regulations. (more…)