Just because a company falls into the small to mid-sized business category doesn’t mean its vehicle fleets and equipment are small and easy to manage.

Contractors, landscapers, builders, or HVAC companies often have a substantial volume of high-dollar equipment to manage. If they don’t monitor and track their equipment & assets effectively, lost, misplaced or mishandled assets can take a serious toll on a business.

There are four basic challenges when it comes to managing these types of equipment assets:

  • Asset Location. Not having the right equipment at the right place – at the right time. This can create a crisis-type environment that costs a business in additional operational expenses to shuffle people and equipment around to meet specific needs at the last minute.
  • Equipment and asset Visibility. A lack of automated visibility and access to equipment. You can’t manage what you can’t see or measure, so companies could end-up buying or renting additional equipment that may not even be truly needed.
  • Unproductive equipment. They may be unavailable due to maintenance issues or have been misplaced, which affects a company’s ability to meet customer demand.
  • Theft. A lack of visibility means that some equipment may be sitting there unattended and ignored. This not only increases the chance they will be stolen, but they might have been stolen and the company doesn’t even realize it.

The answer: a wireless-based asset management system

Asset management is a broad term, including whatever significant equipment a company might need to track beyond vehicles and the trailers to carry them. It could be bulldozers or backhoes for construction companies, lawnmowers and woodchippers for landscape companies, or generators, forklifts, or other important equipment for most any company.

An asset management solution may improve asset utilization, increase visibility, and can help generate more revenue. Such systems provide vehicle, trailer, and equipment management via a single portal that small to mid-sized businesses can easily use.

Sprint’s Asset Management solutions are designed to be easy to use. A company outfits whatever it wants to track with sensors, which function as telematics tracking devices. These sensors are not only capable of indicating locations, but they can also be used to report on temperatures, vibration, and motion. They transmit their data over the Sprint network to a cloud-based server where the company’s managers can log in and find out all the information they need about each tracked item.

How equipment tracking pays off

Let’s take a look at air conditioning and heating – HVAC – companies as an example, where fleet and equipment expenses are one of their largest non-payroll expenses. With all the traveling to different job sites – potentially tens of thousands of miles each year – the cost of fuel and maintenance adds up quickly. Ensuring that assets are used as efficiently as possible is critical to business productivity and cost management.

It’s easy for managers to assume that as long as their technicians are getting to job sites and getting the work done that they have the right number of vehicles and technicians and the right amount of equipment. But often their mixed fleet and equipment are underutilized.

The solution is to “right-size” the fleet and equipment. That is, determine the optimal level by assessing what is truly essential. This is done by analyzing vehicle usage and monitoring the use of equipment assets so that technicians take what they need to job sites, but don’t take too much.

Neglected maintenance creates a serious financial drag, so careful, regular status checks for vehicles and equipment is important. The challenge is performing that maintenance on the right equipment at the right time. With asset management solutions, a company can automate the scheduling of maintenance tasks based on various criteria such as miles driven, engine hours, or time since the last checkup.

Another issue is labor costs, making sure technicians are paid to be where they are when they’re supposed to be, and to accurately track jobsite work time. The GPS technology of wireless asset management solutions can automatically track employee locations and time spent at those locations. This not only verifies information but makes dispatching more efficient.

One more advantage is the ability to receive alerts anytime assets leave your yard or travel outside pre-set boundaries, so you know when equipment is on the move, as well as alerts that can flag you to any use outside normal working hours.

A study of landscape companies by Spireon showed that those using an equipment asset management system reported significant decreases in fuel costs, with some companies even cutting those costs in half. They also reported huge increases in efficiency, in their management capabilities, and in logging their employees’ locations and time spent at jobsites.

What to look for

As you consider asset management solutions, there are several important features to keep in mind.

Foremost for small and mid-sized businesses is ease of use, with a system whose information and management portal can be readily accessed in the cloud, from anywhere, via an easy to navigate interface.

It should also be capable of producing the range of reports you want with a minimum of effort by managers. Those reports might address alerts, detailed history for the asset, a utilization summary, or a landmark inventory status report.

For equipment assets such as trailers, which lack a source of power for the sensors, you want to be sure that your solution features sensors with long-life batteries, so you don’t have to worry that you’ll frequently lose contact with what you are tracking.

If your business relies on high-value equipment assets at remote locations, such as construction sites, and if you find yourself challenged to locate those assets when you need them, an asset management system is a solution you should consider. That’s also true if you face theft problems or unauthorized use of your equipment, inefficient utilization, or if you just want to improve your maintenance operations and your ability to meet customers’ needs in a timely way.