Collaboration boosts the bottom line

Collaboration boosts the bottom line

Managing margins can be challenging due to the cyclical nature of the construction industry. But don’t bury your head in the books. If you’re looking to cut waste, eke out efficiencies and stay competitive, start with your people.

“An operator can really impact the bottom line,” says Jeff Payne, an Implementation Manager for Cat® EMSolutions.

With three decades of machine inspection experience, working with contractors on-site, Payne has plenty of pointers. Firms can take short- and long-term actions to save money … while improving operator safety, skills and engagement.

Use data to coach operators

Technologies built into today’s equipment provide timely data about how it’s being run. Armed with that data, you can connect people’s actions to impacts. For instance:

Slash idle time: Idle time is the bane of your balance sheet. A single machine with a 40% idle rate can waste about $3,120 worth of fuel annually. And that’s the obvious cost: Hidden harms include wasted warranty hours, extra maintenance and declining resale value.

“It’s not uncommon to see machines with 35%, 40%, even 60% idle time. I was looking at one machine that had 200 idle hours in one month,” Payne recalls. “About every 250 to 500 hours, we need to do some sort of service. So by reducing idle time, you not only reduce that fuel burn, you extend your service intervals by not accumulating those hours on the machine.”

Raise operator awareness by posting fuel consumption data—but do so in a way that builds buy-in. Payne suggests considering the operator’s point of view: What would it be like if you came back from lunch and your office was 100 degrees because the air conditioning was off?

Reduce component wear and tear: Proper operator techniques minimize wear on engines, transmissions, tires and undercarriages. Payne says that’s where Product Link and the VisionLink interface remove guesswork from equipment management. Alerts reveal common errors, including:

  • Coasting in neutral
  • Parking brake applied while in motion
  • Transmission abuse
  • Engine overspeed

To address poor technique, have candid conversations with your team. Explain what the alert means and why it matters if ignored. Instill a sense of responsibility and pride in doing things the right way. In one instance, a contractor structured special training to address specific issues and saw abuse events drop by 75%.


Establish a robust safety culture

Honestly, it takes guts to give—or receive—feedback. And honesty is the best way to establish an environment where it’s safe to work and safe to speak about potential hazards.

Payne recently saw that first-hand: “I was just at a company where I had my hard hat, safety glasses and steel-toed boots. Immediately, one of the employees stopped me and said I also needed a fire-resistant, long-sleeve shirt at the site. This wasn’t a manager—he addressed the problem and took care of it. A good training program instills that kind of safety culture right off the bat.”

These days, a strong safety record makes a more competitive company: Customers seeking quotes may be scrutinizing your performance. One firm Payne works with says it is winning jobs based on safety, even if it isn’t the lowest bidder.

Technology plays a role here, too. Using the new Cat Inspect App, you can rate asset condition, add comments, take photographs and share results. It turns your mobile device into a smart equipment management tool. Payne says daily walkarounds with operators are a simple—but critical—way to find safety issues like bent steps, missing handrails, worn seatbelts, fluid leaks and hose and wiring rubs.  


Give employees a role in business goals

Even with well-trained operators and a sterling safety record, firms can take collaboration a step further … with an eye on shared success. Also consider:

  • Having senior operators take the lead: Experienced team members can shoulder reporting progress, daily meetings and briefings so managers are free to build accurate estimates and plan for upcoming projects.

  • Making everyone part of marketing: Operators take a great deal of pride in their work, and they can be your best ambassadors. When they know the types of work your company is looking to get, they can help find new business.

  • Reviewing results with managers and operators: Share what went well and what didn’t, and then make plans to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Owners can create bonus opportunities for team plans that get results.

“It’s really about creating a collaborative culture, one where people’s ideas are valued,” Payne emphasizes. “They might be right or wrong, but they’ll listen and consider. I’ve heard operators at jobsites say, ‘If we do it this way, we can save time and money.’”

EMSolutions is helping contractors save money, train their people and much more. What can it do for you?


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