Technicians can’t do their jobs without the proper tools and equipment, so manufacturers are aiming to create products for the tools and transportation industry that are more effective, connected, and cost-efficient than ever before. The following three case studies show how some of these new products are changing technicians’ lives for the better while protecting company assets.
TADANO CUTS DOWNTIME WITH FLEET TRACKING
When a Tadano America Corp. crane out in the field requires service, a Tadano service engineer must drive to the work site to check and maintain the unit. Because these trucks are located throughout North America at service engineers’ homes, it can be difficult to track truck locations and schedules. Since long periods of downtime are unacceptable to most customers, fleet availability and proximity to their locations play a big part in resolving issues quickly.
Low visibility into the fleet was just one reason Tadano began looking for a fleet-management service. In addition, because most of the service vehicles drive 60,000-80,000 miles or more in just two years, it is important for Tadano to maintain their fleet to ensure readiness to meet service requests.
“When we were evaluating the available solutions, our priority was tracking multiple vehicles,” said John Seisser, information manager, Tadano, and a key decision maker in choosing a fleet solution. “The maintenance feature was a key factor in our decision to go with FleetOutlook [by CalAmp].”
The maintenance notification feature offers a real benefit to Tadano. When a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) is triggered, the service engineers receive email notifications that maintenance is due on their vehicles, which makes it easier to schedule service when it’s convenient.
Tadano installed FleetOutlook and the LMU-3030 GPS tracking devices on its North American service fleet. The solution has been the answer to the company’s maintenance needs and has also provided various other benefits.
“We use the installation app, scan the device and VIN [vehicle identification number], put the device in the vehicle, and it’s all set up. We can do it ourselves,” said Seisser. FleetOutlook’s easy-to-use MobileInstall app enables Tadano to quickly install devices and pair them with new vehicles without contacting CalAmp or an installer for help. Seisser also noted that FleetOutlook paid for itself twice in the first year.
With FleetOutlook, Tadano was able to locate a vehicle stolen from a service engineer’s home in North Carolina and another stolen in Texas, both within a few hours of their disappearances. Using reports and alerts has also increased visibility into Tadano’s fleet.
“Reports are automatically sent to me, and it’s a pretty easy system to use,” Seisser said. “I set up geofences and automatically get an email when a vehicle makes it to the location. I don’t even have to wonder, ‘Did the vehicle get there?’”
WIRELESS CLAMP METER CUTS COSTS, IMPROVES SAFETY
MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions is a construction, engineering, control systems, and building services firm headquartered in Seattle. The company’s building services group is among the largest commercial HVAC service companies in the Northwest with offices throughout Washington and Oregon.
MacDonald-Miller standardized on the Fluke Corp. 902 Clamp Meter when it came out several years ago. Technicians used it for daily maintenance work involving voltage, current, and temperature readings. When the new Fluke 902 FC Wireless Clamp Meter came out, they started replacing the previous model with the new Fluke Connect model. “For the day-to-day stuff, the Fluke 902 FC is pretty much our workhorse,” said Eric Sundby, one of the company’s eastern Washington operations managers.
In addition to the wireless capabilities that allow technicians to connect the meter to the equipment and then step back out of the blast zone and read the measurements on their smartphones, Sundby is especially pleased with the new resistance measurements to 60,000 ohms.
“With the previous model, if you needed to read sensors that were above 6,000 ohms, you would have to use a different meter,” Sundby said. “When you’re working on a roof, you don’t want to have to carry extra tools, and you really don’t want to have to run back to your truck and get another meter.”
MacDonald-Miller also likes that the wireless 902 FC offers the same rugged utility and reliability as the previous model, so it handles the day-to-day banging around as well as field maintenance.
While not the deciding factor, expense was also important, considering the number of meters involved. “The cost for the new 902 FC didn’t change much from our old 902 so cost wasn’t really an issue,” Sundby said.
While there’s really no such thing as a typical day for a McDonald-Miller crew, there are some common denominators. For a typical job with rotating equipment, a technician would use the 902 FC to run voltage and current tests as well as phase imbalances in both voltage and current. Moving on to the rest of the HVAC system, the technician would measure temperatures on pressure, suction, discharge, and liquid refrigerant lines.
“We do delta T measurements across the evaporator and condenser coils, and we check suction, discharge, and liquid temperatures,” Sundby said. “We use the 902 FC for that, too, because they just switch a lead and can change to temperature, connect their surface probes, and off they go.”
In addition to the 902 FC, MacDonald-Miller technicians carry a Fluke 116 digital multimeter or a Fluke 87V when they need to take higher-level readings. Some building performance and electrical technicians also carry a Fluke thermal imager. Chiller technicians may carry a Fluke 1520 insulation tester to check for pinhole leaks in windings and other damage.
Maintenance work on commercial and industrial HVAC equipment is not a trivial task, and making sure the people who do it are up to the task involves more than just providing them with the proper test instruments. Most newly hired technicians are graduates of two-year associate’s degree programs at community colleges or tech schools, and when they’re hired by MacDonald-Miller or another union contractor, they enter a union apprenticeship program that lasts for four years — or five, for those who don’t have an associate’s degree. And, even after six years, the training doesn’t stop.
The company maintains a large training facility in Seattle. “We put on three-hour classes twice a week,” Sundby said. “The guys come in at night to learn about new products and testing and programming, whatever it happens to be, from refrigeration to safety,” Sundby said. “Suppliers also conduct classes on everything from meters to variable frequency drives.”
MacDonald-Miller’s servicing operation handles a wide variety of tasks on different types of equipment. By standardizing just a few Fluke instruments and providing its people with strong training and support, the company has been able to increase the effectiveness of its operations and cut costs at the same time.
GPS TRACKING PROTECTS COMPANY’S ASSETS
Plumbing Medic Inc. in Gilbert, Arizona, specializes in all major and minor issues for residential and commercial plumbing. They pride themselves on providing high-level customer service, quality products, and ethical standards in both their services and employees.
Plumbing Medic began researching GPS tracking because they needed to know the current locations of their vehicles. “Our vehicles carry expensive equipment and parts, so it’s important for us to know their whereabouts at all times,” said Tami Gurka, a dispatcher for Plumbing Medic. Another reason Plumbing Medic started looking into GPS tracking was to improve the time management and accountability of its mobile workforce.
Since drivers are spread out all over the Phoenix metropolitan area, management had no way of knowing what they were doing in between jobs. The last big challenge that Plumbing Medic was looking to solve with a GPS tracking solution was eliminating fuel-card fraud. They needed a way to monitor fuel usage, including when and where their technicians were filling up on fuel and how many miles were driven to ensure all purchases were legitimate.
With the use of GPS Insight’s vehicle and asset tracking software, Plumbing Medic can now track where technicians are and how long it may take them to get to the next job site with access to the real-time mapping and estimated time of arrival (ETA) features. Having the ability to locate any vehicle in real time has provided better visibility over expensive equipment and parts in the field.
To raise employee accountability, Plumbing Medic uses the solution to prevent unauthorized usage of company vehicles by receiving odd-hours alerts.
“We were able to identify one of our technicians using a company vehicle to cross state lines for personal use when we received an odd-hours alert in the middle of the night stating that one of our vehicles was moving in another state,” Gurka said. By using GPS tracking to identify and correct this behavior, plumbing fleets are able to hold employees accountable and ensure company vehicles are only used for business purposes.
Along with solving their original business challenges, Plumbing Medic administrators also use GPS Insight to make dispatching simple by eliminating time that would have been spent on the phone trying to figure out technicians’ current locations.
“On average, I would make 150 calls per day, and now I make virtually no calls because most communication is done through GPS Insight,” Gurka said. “I highly recommend this product to any company with a fleet.”
Publication date: 11/7/2016