How contractors are using GPS and mobile technology to route and service more efficiently.
Go Green Lawn and Tree Care is a burgeoning three and a half-year-old company with 2,700 accounts. Gary Kott, owner of the Walled Lake, Mich., company, says GPS-enabled mobile devices have played a vital role in his company’s quick growth and healthy bottom line.
“They have eliminated driver frustrations with safer alternatives,” he says. “They continue to keep our company as cost efficient and productive as possible.
In the field. Go Green, which provides lawn fertilization, tree and shrub care, aerations, and other services specific to lawn insect and disease control, employs seven Real Green Systems mobile devices in conjunction with the Real Green Service Assistant, since its start up.
Routes are created from the office for each technician for the next day’s calls so technicians can complete their call-aheads and load trucks and products accordingly. The software tells techs the number of days since each customer’s last service, as well as how long they have been a client.
“Mobile devices do away with maps and provide technicians with turn-by-turn directions … creating a safe alternative for each driver,” Kott says. “The technology also allows us to keep each technician in the same service area for the season, which allows the technician to see progression, or regression, of each property.”
When arriving to a job, the technician enters information based on observations and the work completed.
Each stop is date and time stamped with current lawn conditions, weather conditions, lawn rating, products used, product rate, and the technician’s name, as well as any notes he or she may have for the customer. This allows up-selling of additional services related to conditions a technician may recognize on the property.
Craig Lillis, owner of New Jersey-based Groundscare Landscape, says the value of having GPS mobile devices goes beyond creating more efficient routes. “The driving force to utilize GPS units in all of our trucks and equipment was theft and vehicle tracking. Theft can be prevented because all equipment can be isolated to an assigned grid and if a unit is moved, email and text message alerts are sent,” he says. “And fuel purchases account are linked to vehicles and can track miss-use of company fuel cards.”
Buying guide. When selecting a GPS fleet tracking solution companies should look at how easy the software is to use. Adoption with an organization is going to be heavily dependent on an easy training process. Look for a complete package that reduces overhead – including maintenance, labor, fuel and insurance costs – as well as increases productivity and revenue.
And, seek out GPS fleet tracking technology that includes a complete driver safety solution, whether it be a distracted driving solution that prevents a driver from using a cell phone while the vehicle is moving, or proactive online driver education.
GPS fleet tracking solutions vary in benefits and costs. “If it’s a simple track-and-trace solution that is cell phone-based you are probably looking at a lower entry point, but you aren’t going to receive the benefits a comprehensive solution can provide,” says Mike Scarborough, CEO of NexTraq.
Chris Ransom, director of sales engineering for Networkfleet, says a good telematics company should have an easy to use preventive maintenance module, which notifies the shop when vehicles are due for service and records maintenance reports.
The system should also be able to report vehicle trouble codes and applicable recalls immediately, Ransom says.
Alle Rorie, marketing manager for GIS Dynamics, says mapping software helps build tighter routes, which helps save time and fuel costs. “Crews will spend fewer hours behind the windshield and more hours performing work and collecting invoices,” she says.
Tighter schedules results in fewer miles being driven by work crews, says Steve Katz, vice president of software development for Real Green Systems.
“This lowers fuel, vehicle maintenance and labor costs. It also means more stops can be done each day,” he says.
The author is a freelance writer based in Hartford, Conn.