Tracking Material Hauling through Mobile Data Collection
Wilco Contractors NW Inc. is based out of Edmonton, Alberta, and is one of four separate companies that comprise the Wilco Group of Companies. The Wilco Group specializes in open-space site development in Canada, and has been a leader in the industry for over three decades. These four individually owned and operated companies excel in project management, construction of parks, sports facilities, environmentally sensitive site developments, as well as civil infrastructure developments.
Like any contractor, Wilco dealt with issues arising from the use of paper in the industry for field and shop tasks such as inspections, maintenance, safety events, payroll, and other operations where data would normally be recorded on paper. Wilco Contractors NW Inc. owner, Art Maat recognized that paper created numerous challenges such as time wasted searching for books and forms, scattered data collection, lack of proper communication between equipment operators and staff, and difficulties in tracking asset location and condition.
In 2011 Art and son Mike created a 15 person team up to create Nektar Data Systems, a mobile data collection platform that replaces paper forms in the field and shop with smartphones and tablets for collecting data. The processes of recording information remained the same, but rather than keeping records in books and on paper, data is collected electronically, allowing for immediate, real-time visibility into the physical location and status of assets at all times. The system has drastically improved communication between operators and shop staff, and has created a comprehensive collection of asset information that tracks all maintenance, inspections, repairs, operator usage, hours, and equipment health directly to each individual asset.
How Does Nektar Data Systems Work?
Nektar Data Systems’ application works by tying all recorded tasks, such as maintenance and inspection records, and material hauling tasks directly to a specific asset. This is done through the use of data matrix tags, where each tag has a unique number that acts as the asset identifier and is physically attached to each asset. All recorded events (maintenance, inspections etc.) and data are then tied directly to the asset by scanning the tag or entering the number. This task-asset relationship ensures that all recorded data is forever associated with the correct piece of equipment, which allows for a complete history of all asset information that will forever be attached to it.
Mobile Data Collection for Load Tracking
This ability to scan a tag that is attached to an asset and record a task directly to that asset is especially helpful when Wilco is excavating sites and wants to track loads as accurately as possible, while being as productive and cost-effective as they can. It’s an extremely simple application but one that has impactful positive results on Wilco’s bottom line.
Each time that a truck leaves a site with a load, its tag is scanned, making a record with the date, time, location, and truck information, such as make, model and box size. This information is very important and helps Wilco be as efficient and cost-effective as possible with their load hauling operations.
When Wilco works on site excavation for a project, trucks come and go constantly on site as they remove material and line up around the site, waiting to be utilized by taking away material. This is a difficult balancing act for any contractor, in that one does not want a high number of trucks waiting in line to be used, but at the same time, one does not want all trucks to be away from the site making dumps, while no one is around to pick up excavated material.
Wilco uses the Nektar Data Systems system to help with site productivity and cost-effectiveness by recording the intervals and frequency of materials that are picked up from the site. This data is then compiled daily into meaningful reports that provide the load count and the size of the trucks’ boxes to show the amount of material extracted from the site each day. The reports can also be manipulated to show how many loads each truck is hauling every day to track the efficiency of each driver as well as the efficiency of the flow of truck traffic through the site.
This ability to accurately track the number and sizes of loads coming out of a site is crucial to understanding how much material is being extracted and provides data necessary for accurate billing, improved efficiency and reduced costs. The benefits of using a mobile tracking system on site include:
- Improved planning and forecasting for the number of trucks needed
- Verification of accuracy for billing
- Ability to track level of load hauling efficiency for the entire site in loads per hour and day
- Ability to track individual truck loads to compare historically for any given truck
Improved planning and forecasting
Gathering historical data from any site from day to day provides a contractor with the ability to easily see the average number of loads and volume of materials that can be taken out of a site of a given size. This increase in visibility and clarity allows for more accurate forecasting of hauling needs, including the number of days required to excavate a site, as well as the number of loads and trucks that will be needed to complete the project. This helps Wilco to assess the cost of a project more effectively, budget appropriately and assign trucks to a site in a way that is the most cost-effective.
Better Accuracy for Billing
Using Nektar Data Systems’ application to track the number of loads from a site is especially beneficial when discrepancies arise from another company’s billing. By having a complete list of loads with the truck’s box size, location, and date and time stamp, Wilco can verify whether the amount that they are being billed is accurate to the number of loads that have been taken from the site.
For example, for large sites, Wilco may need to rent trucks from another company. Often, rental companies will bill based on the number of loads that are extracted from a site, so if Wilco is actively tracking each load as it is taken from the site, they have 100% verification that the number of loads for which they are being billed is completely accurate. If there are any discrepancies, Wilco management will know and will have the data to back it up.
In another similar example, Wilco will sometimes use a truck broker to find trucks that the company can use for certain projects. Again, the broker bases his or her pay on the number of loads that are hauled from a site. If a company is inefficient and does not haul many loads every day, the broker may have grounds to request an increase in the amount that they are paid per load. If a broker believes that a contractor is not taking out as many loads as they should be per hour and requests to Wilco that he or she be paid more, the company can present the broker with the accurate number of loads that are actually being taken from the site to show that the broker is being paid a fair amount.
Tracking Hauling Efficiency
Another benefit of tracking loads daily using mobile data collection is the ability to compare the number of loads that are hauled every day and every hour and compare them to the number of loads per day and per hour from prior days. Comparably, reports can compile the number of loads per truck and compare it across different days as well, so that individual truck productivity can be assessed. This is useful in order to know how a site is performing and potentially which trucks and drivers are more efficient than others. Having this visibility is important for any company to understand exactly how much material has been hauled and how much more still needs to be hauled.
Tracking loads is a very simple way that mobile data collection is utilized in order to maximize profits and ensure the highest levels of productivity across sites. Having the ability to accurately and easily track loads from a site provides a company with improved planning and forecasting, verification of billing accuracy, as well as the ability to see the level of efficiency across a site over from one day to the next or the productivity of one any truck(s) for a given amount of time.