How Branch Civil is Using Telematics to Improve Maintenance Operations

fleet management telematicsAttend the education session “Making Data Useful: A Telematics End User's Journey” on Tuesday, March 10, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. REGISTER NOW

From Branch Civil’s Situational Awareness Room (SAR) at their headquarters in Roanoke, Va., Equipment Superintendent Chris Caldwell keeps his eye on 400 on-road vehicles, 500 pieces of heavy equipment, and approximately 1,000 pieces of utility equipment. From this central portal, he manages equipment logistics, field maintenance and fueling operations. 

When Caldwell received a call recently regarding a broken track on the only excavator on a jobsite, he located a driver hauling an excavator in Richmond and directed him to the jobsite within 30 minutes. “Instead of the job being down for two or three days, using telematics, we had a replacement within two hours,” said Caldwell.

Digitizing Equipment Operations

That wouldn’t have happened four years ago before Branch Civil digitized nearly every aspect of their equipment operations. The company worked with a developer to create a software program that would connect them to their jobsites digitally and turn mounds of data on processes, equipment, and people into useful information. Their innovative practices earned Branch Civil the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) 2019 Fleet Master Award for Small Fleets.

Natalie Kerschner, Branch Civil

“We were mapping out every part of our process and examining the time it took to do things. We found that the mechanics were spending hours completing administrative tasks every week. That was reducing the amount of wrench time on the equipment,” said Equipment Operations Data Analyst Natalie Kerschner. Now mechanics log vital data into the systems via mobile devices as they happen.


Tim Morgan, Branch Civel

“The whole purpose of the SAR is to service the guys in the field,” said Equipment Operations Manager Tim Morgan. “Whether it’s equipment, mechanics, or outsourcing the service and repairs, when we get requests from the field, we can make a quick decision.”  In the SAR room, there is a person monitoring data, including fault codes, a service person, and a logistics person.


Turning Telematics Data into Useful Information

In addition to the shop in Roanoke, Branch Civil can dispatch equipment from a shop in Virginia Beach, Va.  Three superintendents divide responsibilities throughout the three-state operating region, ensuring decentralized control. “We give as much command and control of the day-to-day operations to the superintendents as possible, but everyone has access to the data,” said Morgan.

Currently, 80 percent of the on-road and construction equipment fleet is connected. Branch Civil accesses data from OEM portals through an API (Application Programming Interface), and they track small tools and equipment with telematics by hand. Rental equipment receives an equipment number in the system, and an iPad acts as a surrogate telematics device that monitors location, hours, and fuel usage.

“One of the biggest struggles is deciding what you want to know,” said Morgan.  “We just came together and said this is what we think makes sense. The goal is always to take that data and turn it into useful information.”

Kerschner’s focus is on just that. “I keep an eye on the value, health, and costs of equipment to assist in making repair and replacement decisions.”  During the process improvement phase, she worked alongside Caldwell and Morgan to determine what tasks could be more automated and efficient as they moved forward.

The company is moving toward building key performance indicators into the system to track availability, reliability uptime, service time, and mechanic wrench time.  “Ultimately, the goal is to get us to the next level of predictive maintenance,” said Morgan.  “Our controller said that in the first year, the amount we save in rentals would pay for the program,” said Caldwell.

Morgan, Caldwell, and Kerschner will share the full details of their telematic journey at CONEXPO-CON/AGG on Tuesday, March 10, 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. The topics that will be covered include how to approach data and how to get management buy-in.

“You can’t run from the technology,” said Morgan. “It’s coming.”

Functioning as a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Branch Group, Branch Civil is an employee-owned company involved in heavy civil construction, design-build, and site development in Virginia and North Carolina.

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