Five years ago, Branch Civil’s version of fleet management was still manual entry. They had spreadsheets to locate spreadsheets were, and information traveled from person to person before it was ever entered into a computer. But at that same time, Equipment Operations Manager Tim Morgan had an idea that would ultimately change Branch Civil’s future and impact the fleet management industry.
It all started when Tim and his team began a process improvement program in 2015. They looked at what they were doing and what they needed to do to become the equipment operations department that Branch Civil needed. Inspired by General Stanley McChrystal’s book “Team of Teams,” Morgan wondered how they could employ the General’s concept of centralizing information, decentralizing command control, and empowering people in the field to make decisions. One in-depth mind map process later, the Situational Awareness Room (SAR) was born.
The mind map listed hundreds of items that the equipment operations team needed to be situationally aware of, including their mission, logistics, equipment, people, technology, communication, and safety compliance. Now, Morgan needed someone who could take those components and create a software program to meet their needs, so he enlisted the help of Chris Seelan, President & CEO of GenesisCircle, an equipment and asset management company.
“I worked with him in the past on a Telematics Futures Committee. I brought him the map and asked if he could build us a program capable of doing all these things,” Morgan explained. “Chris looked at it and got pretty excited because he had a very basic program at the time that only had five modules. He said he’d been looking for somebody to tell him how to make it better.”
GenesisCircle and Branch Civil spent four years creating Quantium Connect – an equipment management program explicitly designed for Morgan and his team. It differs from off-the-shelf programs because it manages the company’s people, processes, and equipment.
While Quantium Connect is accessible anywhere, it’s mainly monitored from the SAR in Roanoke, Virginia, by Equipment Field Maintenance & Logistics Superintendent Chris Caldwell and Telematics & Communications Specialists Zeus Altis. Every two minutes, they know the exact location of 791 pieces of equipment (trucks, cars, heavy machinery) and nearly 1,460 assets (smaller tools) that are being used across Virginia and North Carolina.
“For a corporation as large as Branch Civil, it’s essential that you know where your equipment and assets are. You need to know how much fuel you’re putting into each machine, how much you’re utilizing, and your machine health,” Caldwell said. “We’re also able to track our drivers’ hours of service and department of transportation compliance, machine repairs, and work orders. Essentially, we are managing the whole equipment fleet from a centralized area.”
Caldwell is responsible for dispatching equipment for all company projects. Once he receives an equipment request, he can see if they have anything available, if there’s a piece of equipment that’s being underutilized at another job site, or if they must rent a machine. However, having access to real-time utilization data has helped Branch Civil decrease their rental spending from roughly $300,000 a month to $19,000 a month, and they had the best utilization year on record in 2019.
“Sometimes, we find out that something has come up last minute or a machine went down and needs to be replaced. So, if we have a driver coming back to Raleigh but have a machine that’s not being used in nearby Kinston that’s needed for a job in Virginia Beach, I can redirect the driver,” Caldwell explained. “I can call him and say I need you to stop by here, pick up the machine, and bring it to Virginia Beach, eliminating another full day of hauling by rerouting.”
The time savings have trickled down to people in the field, which was the whole goal of creating Quantium Connect. Morgan believes they’ve probably eliminated about 50 percent of their data entry labor, increasing wrench time. In addition, every piece of equipment has a QR code, and once it’s scanned, anyone in the field can learn everything about that machine, including current hours, fuel usage, and work orders. Before Quantium Connect, they’d have to call three or four different people to get that information.
While it’s been a learning process, Morgan and Caldwell agree that the people in the field are more engaged now and feel empowered. They no longer have to wait for someone to tell them what to do because all of the information is available to them around the clock.
Now that Morgan has employed General McChrystal’s concept of centralizing information, decentralizing command control, and empowering his people, his next goal is to simplify their timecard process using Quantium Connect. The equipment operations payroll process is more complicated because they charge time for work orders, jobs, equipment, and phase codes, and they have yet to find a single platform that meets their needs.
“The payroll process for us right now is still done manually, and it’s unbelievably cumbersome. We intentionally left the payroll process for last because we knew it would require a lot of focus, and we wanted everything to be right,” Morgan said. “The most important thing we do is take care of our people and get them paid.”
While Morgan says they’re still polishing what they’re doing in the SAR, the room and Quantium Connect have already received a lot of well-deserved attention. Branch Civil was the small-fleet winner of the 2019 Fleet Masters Award for their people, processes, and equipment management. Other companies come to the SAR to learn how they can recreate what Branch Civil has, and in March, Morgan, Caldwell, and Equipment Operations Data Analyst Natalie Kerschner are heading to Las Vegas to host a presentation at the ConExpo-Con/Agg.
“We were ahead of the curve, and now we want to educate our fellow industry members. This is not a trade secret,” Caldwell said. “We’re sharing our journey so others can manage their equipment better.”
Published by Starr Anderson, Marketing Communications Specialist, Branch Group