Plant and Construction Tracking Devices and Tracking Systems Buyers Guide

Tracking Systems – Plant and Machinery. What you need to know.

It is an inescapable fact that plant theft is a major and increasingly serious problem for the plant industry, and it causes major disruptions. The threat of loss is greatest for smaller plant hire companies where theft can result in bankruptcy, but even for larger companies the result can be a debilitating loss of earnings, and a loss of goodwill with contractors.

In common with many emerging markets, the tracking industry is cluttered with offers from newly-formed suppliers seeking to cash-in on new opportunities. But robust tracking systems are not to be found in do-it-yourself cartons. It is essential, particularly where high-value plant or shipments are involved, to spend time researching the most appropriate system devices, and its essential back-up. The differences between entry level equipment and state-of-the-art bespoke systems are, to say the very least of it, dramatic. To ensure that the selected tracking system will actually be capable of fulfilling its purpose, vital questions must be answered.

Most essentially, the company you intend to deal with must be able to demonstrate a strong record of tracking success, and show itself to have been durable enough to thrive in the current economic climate. A large investment in tracking hardware can be lost if the selected tracking partner does not survive as a company. Under such circumstances the potential exposure is even greater than the immediate loss of equipment, because the tracking facility will also have been lost, and protection will be compromised. The writer suggests a minimum proven tracking industry record of five years. References should be insisted upon, and a list of clients made available. Top tracking companies supply and service tracking requirements for governments, major international brand names, and NGOs. Their experience allows them to provide robust solutions anywhere in the world, and in the most demanding of climatic and terrain situations.

Until quite recently tracking has been considered to be the stuff of James Bond films, and quite beyond the scope of everyday life. But it has now evolved into an accessible business tool that in one of its many forms suits a huge number of applications. At its best it has the potential to make the theft of plant and machinery (and even car theft) a rare occurrence. Because tracking is a rapidly expanding market it has attracted many new companies with very little experience. It is therefore essential to be able to recognise the established professionals.

At its simplest tracking is incorporated into a Smart Phone. In its most sophisticated forms custom-made tracking hardware and software really is as James Bond films might suggest. Every tracking requirement should be assessed on its merits, and each solution should be custom specified. The right supplier will be able to supply that solution. In the long term the right supplier will also offer the most economical solution, because it will work.

So what makes your plant equipment safe? What should you and shouldn’t you be looking for when buying a tracking device or considering your next tracking tender?

Checking the company is the first step, you have to be sure that the tracking devise you are considering is up to scratch. There are countless products which promise to “change the tracking market as we know it”, but all too often this ‘new’ technology is just cleverly rebranded, low quality Chinese tech. Look out for products which advertise an “extra long life battery pack” or “optional hardwire kits”, for those who understand tracking, these phrases mean one thing – turn and run away. For continued security you need a tracker with an integrated battery to ensure that it can be positioned covertly and can do all of this without compromising on longevity. Sending men into the field to change battery packs is expensive, long life lower the need for this costly requirement. A lot of these issues can be avoided by an easy acid test, was the product made in the UK. UK equipment is far more likely to be high quality; it’s a good place to start.

Pay as you go SIM cards – this is probably the ultimate example of how to get things wrong. Imagine a scenario where your £50,000 piece of plant goes missing just at the point you run out of credit. No problem, just top up and you are ready to go. WRONG, despite what you may have been told there have been numerous reports of credit taking up to 3 days to filter down to the device. Statistics show that 85% of stolen plant leaves the UK through one of the 8 major ports in the UK within 8 hours. By the time the device has recognised your credit, chances are your plant will already be on the continent. Not a risk we would want to take yet we hear reports like this all too often about other products.

Pay as you go SIM’s are not designed for M2M – fact. Sometimes companies are drawn in by the idea of cheaper costs and the possibility to control monthly outgoings, in reality the only reason these SIM cards are cheaper is because they are simply not designed for the M2M market. Lower price is due to lower demand. Tracks360 recommends suppliers like STEAM communications (credit) for a service that you can rely at all times. When the worst becomes a reality, you will be very glad that you chose the right product after all.

Credit failures are not the only reason that a tracker can fail in the field. Many products rely solely on GPS location, good for smart phones but the signal can be blocked easily by an experienced thief. The best products don’t rely on one system of communication; make sure that your product has a variety of positioning technologies. If you do this then you will have gone a long way to giving yourself peace of mind but just to be safe, its important that you are using good quality management software. This will allow you to check whether your tracker is working as planned and alerts you if anything seems amiss. If the equipment isn’t working in the field it won’t track, the right software ensures that down time is brought to an absolute minimum.

Awards and accreditations. It is always advisable to ask if the tracking device and company has been awarded any awards accreditations, look out for Thatcham approval as this is a cast iron guarantee that the tracking device does what’s it designed to do and not just hyped up marking.

In short, if you are serious about recovering you plant you will need to choose not only the correct tracking device but also the right SIM and the right software to go with it.

What makes us the experts? The Tracks360 consortium is made up of several market leading tracking and logistics based companies. We include international powerhouses such as PLC’s, boasting turnover of nearly £50 million a year and over 50 years of experience, as well as smaller niche companies that provide the expertise to truly excel in their chosen specialisation. Moreover, we have serviced and are currently supplying tracking contracts and tracking systems in almost every conceivable market, working with household company names to extend our influence globally. Tacking is a rapidly expanding market, because of this the industry includes many companies that are all marketing and little knowledge, we aim to help you make this vital distinction.

Construction Software Selection and Internal Input and Feedback

Any company that is beginning the process of selecting and implementing new construction software hopefully understands the need to have adequate leadership throughout the process. An individual or team must be selected to lead the process of evaluating, selecting, implementing, customizing, and training end users to use the new software. These people need to have a large amount of knowledge about how the company operates as a whole, including intimate knowledge of all processes, as well as a good understanding of construction management software functionality. As such, I have compiled the following lists of individuals that should be included in this team, or should at the very least be consulted with if they cannot dedicate the proper time to the entire process. Additionally, I have listed several factors that should be a part of any software evaluation.

Input and Software Selection Team Members that are Good to Have

While larger companies will have the advantage of being able to assign one individual to oversee the entire software selection process, all companies will need to get input from multiple areas of the company. The following segments of the entire organization should be included, to some extent, in the new software identification and evaluation team. Some of these members will need to be permanent members of the team while others can be consulted on an “as needed” basis. To what extent members are “as needed” or permanent will very depending on the company.

- End-users

- Management (all levels in large companies)

- Accounting (they need to provide input on how the new software will impact their operations)

- Payroll – Regardless of if your company has an internal payroll department or uses an external payroll service, they will need to provide valuable input in terms of selecting new construction accounting software.

- IT (Information Technology) – Your IT department will play an integral role in installing the new software while allowing the company to not miss a beat. Thus, they will need to know what is required from them for any potential software solution to identify areas where current hardware may not mesh with the new software.

- Other interfacing departments

- Sub-contractors

- Suppliers

- Vendors (once selected)

- Other members that are deemed necessary, which will vary depending on each unique company

Factors that All Companies Need to Consider and Evaluate

While smaller companies will likely not benefit from having a full team dedicated to selecting new software, there are still things that all companies much consider when evaluating new construction software.

At a minimum, even smaller construction companies need to give their best effort to performing the necessary in-depth research into the various facets of construction software, including:

- The number of varieties of each product and what makes each version unique

- The number of available vendors

- Product history – look for testimonials from trusted sources or check construction software reviews

- Vendor history – testimonials

- Product functionality

- Product protocols

- The necessary steps require to integrate the new system with current processes

- Product interface – this will come down to personal preferences more than anything, but is important that you choose software that is the most user friendly for your set of users. Again, this will vary based on your unique company.

- Other factors that are unique to your company

Barn Door Hardware – Increase Your Home’s Real Estate Market Value

Home improvements and remodels are quite popular right now. With the economic struggles America has had recently, the housing market took a turn for the worse. Though things are starting to turn back around, any expert will tell you that recovery is not instant, and that even a swift turn-around in the housing market may take several years. This is why homeowners have engaged in home improvements and remodels, to increase the market value of their homes.

There are a few things to consider when deciding what types of remodeling are more important than others. One of those is whether or not the project would boost the appraisal value of the home. Certain elements of a house are more important than others when appraising the home’s worth.

The following is a list of a few things that may affect the appraised worth of your home: number of bedrooms, whether or not there is a fireplace, number of bathrooms, whether or not there is a formal dining room and type of house construction material. A few things that don’t matter quite as much are wall color, the brand of appliances, and surprisingly whether or not the basement has been finished off.

An easy and economic way to add value to your home is by using barn door hardware, also known as flat track hardware, to close off an open doorway to a room such as a home office, study, or dining room. Barn door hardware is simple, rustic, and aesthetically pleasing. It allows doors to add to the decor of a room. The hardware itself also adds to the overall aesthetics of a room.

Implementing barn door hardware, or flat track hardware, is a great way to quickly and economically add value to your home. It is neat, attractive, reliable, and strong.

Simple Residential Construction Schedule – Work Items

The construction schedule is the heart of a housing business. The success of the home and ultimately the business that builds the home is dependent on planning and implementing the schedule. Financing, billing, construction draws, closing, move in, warranty and even quality all flow from a successful schedule. In a series of articles we will try and take you from start to finish on designing a repeatable process of scheduling a home. We will assume that the reader knows little about the construction process so those of you who have some level of expertise may jump around.

In these articles we will be concerned with the physical onsite construction of a 2,500 to 3000 sf semi-custom home. In this particular article we will discuss making a list of work items to be included in the schedule. In latter articles we will add preplanning and the closing process.

The first step in preparing a construction schedule is determining the work items to be included. Start with your list of trades (subcontractors.) Make sure you include any items you do with your own employees to the list. The following is the list we used in our estimates and invoices, Your may vary depending on your area and how you contract your work.

501 Excavation

502 Concrete

502A sidewalk

503 Asphalt

504 Masonry

505 Steel

506 Stairs

507 Carpentry Labor

507 Trim Carp

510 Millwork and doors

511 Windows

512 Siding

514 Insulation

515 Roofing

516 Gutters

517 Drywall

518 Hardware

520 Flooring

521 Paint

522 Mirror

522 Shelving

523 Garage door

524 Cabinets

525 Kitchen top

525 Marble top

526 Appliance

527 Heating

528 Plumbing

529 Electric

530 Lights

532 Sewer Water

533 Other

534 Landscaping

Next look at each trade and divide the trade into trips to the project. For example; in our case our Excavation contractor would clear the site and dig the basement foundation in one trip. He would make a second to backfill the foundation and rough grade the site and a third to final grad the site for landscaping. Try and keep the divisions of work to no less than a day and no more than a week. For example, if you let all the carpentry as on contract and you only break it down into rough and finish the rough may take more than a week. You can breakdown the rough carpentry into frame first floor and walls, second floor and wall and roof framing and sheeting. Breaking down the longer items helps you better manage the project and understand where you are on any given date.

You should also look at how your trade contractors perform their work. We used several different concrete contractors. One would install the footings, the stone for the basement and draintile with one crew and then the walls with a second. Another concrete contractor installed the footing and foundation walls with one crew then come back with a conveyor he owned to install the stone and draintile. The total time was the same but the sequence was different.

Now that you have identified the work items you need to identify activities that also require time that are not actual work items. Make a list of required inspections. These will vary from municipality to municipality. Typical in our area was footing inspection after form but before pour, backfill inspection, completed foundation survey, rough framing, rough plumbing, rough electrical, occupancy and final grading, final plumbing and final electrical. The final inspection often required a final survey from a licensed surveyor certifying the location of the house was as planned and that the drainage was properly completed. Each of these items should be treated as a work item.

You now have a complete list of work items which is the first step in creating a simple schedule. In the next article Creating a Flow Chart we will discuss using the work items list into a flow chart to plan your work.

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