Utility Contractor

MAR-APR 2018

As the official magazine of NUCA, Utility Contractor presents the latest information affecting every aspect of the utility construction industry, including technological advancements, safety issues, legislative developments and instructional advice.

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28 Utility Contractor | March/April 2018 T echnology has been making inroads into the construction industry for many years now. In some areas, change came quickly and the impact im- mediate. In other areas, change was more evolutionary that revolutionary. Regard- less, there are virtually no areas left un- changed, with countless more changes on the horizon. No doubt, there will be problems solved via back-of-the-napkin plans, and there will never be a substitute for a skillful, con- scientious and knowledgeable crew, but technology is allowing construction com- panies to be more efficient and productive with tools from bidding and managing a job, to fleet management and maintenance planning. To get a snapshot of how technology is impacting the market, including the latest trends and future potential, Utility Con- tractor sat down with Kyle Cain, Product Manager - Equipment360/FuelerPlus; Phil- lip Robinson, GPS Technology Manager; and Amy Tarkington, Product Marketer – Equipment. The trio is with NUCA member and Bronze National Partner HCSS. Based in Sugar Land, Texas, HCSS has been devel- oping software to help construction compa- nies streamline their operations since 1986. HCSS started off by offering estimating and management software, before delving into the equipment side. What is HCSS's role with utility con- struction? Robinson – We have a long association with utility contractors. They have used our estimation software, HeavyBid, to win jobs and then HeavyJob to track costs at the field level and funnel that information to the ex- ecutive level. More recently, we have work- ing with telematics data from equipment and integrating that with other products, particularly operations and maintenance applications. We are trying to steer clients away from the traditional model of waiting until some- thing breaks before fixing it. With the right data, you are able to establish a preventive maintenance program. Historically, this has been a very difficult thing to track, but it is possible with the GPS data and telematics. How has technology changed the construction industry? Robinson – We have seen a paradigm shift in which crucial decisions are able to be made at lower levels in the organization. Traditionally, the model was that foremen in the field would capture cost data and push that information up to accounting and then eventually to the executive level. In that model, you would be able to capture and analyze data on maybe a monthly ba- sis – weekly if you were really good. Now with improved data we are empowering foremen, shop managers and mechanics to make informed decisions at their level. Tarkington – Key to being able to use data across all levels of the organization is making it easy to capture and easy to share. Again, that helps decisions-making at the field and shop level, but it also aids at the executive level in making asset manage- ment decisions and in strategic planning. Cain – Mobile devices have played a key role. With access to mobile devices like iPads and smartphones, we can input infor- mation directly from the field and quickly push it out to the entire organization. Robinson – There have also been gains related to safety and efficiency. With access to mobile devices, inspection data gets back to the office immediately, rather than wait- ing for paper reports to filter up. So, if there is a mechanical issue, for example, that will show up in the fleet management software right away and the problem can be ad- dressed before a disruptive repair is needed. Tarkington – Everyone having access to the data helps with efficiency. You are able to see where all your equipment is and schedule it for the next job accordingly. A big area of advancement is the integration of the data across different platforms, such as fleet management and job management software. With technology changing so rapidly, how do you keep current with the lat- est technologies? Robinson – There are a couple of dif- ferent ways we keep current. Foremost, we have a research and development de- partment that investigates newer technolo- gies, specifically related to hardware. From there, they try to massage those develop- ments into new applications for custom- ers. Another thing we do is host an annual user's group meeting with our customers. We have classes and product town halls, which provide an open forum for the cus- tomers to tell us what they are looking for. We don't manage fleets or run construction jobs, our expertise is applying technology to those tasks, so we rely on the custom- ers to tell us what they need to improve efficiency. Contractors have varying levels of comfort using technology. How do you ensure that they are able to get the most out of the available technology? Robinson – For new and existing cus- tomers, we have an implementation pro- cess. When a customer buys one of our products, we typically bring them to our of- fices for about a couple of days for training. By bringing them here they are able to get away from the all of the distractions at their own office so they can focus on implement- ing the software. Once that is done and the contractors have a chance to work with the product a little bit, we go onsite and con- duct training with office personnel and field personnel. But that is just the beginning of the partnership. From there we are avail- able to address any issues that may come up down the road. UC Business The Evolving Role of Technology in Construction

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