Items big and small are now visible in a single dashboard view, enhancing productivity and customer service for this multinational equipment supplier.
The Porter Group is one of Australasia’s largest privately owned industry entities, with eight business units and 50 retail locations in New Zealand, Australia, and California. From equipment sales and rentals to parts, servicing, and financing, Porter provides the heavy machinery needed for construction, roading, forestry, mining, and agricultural and industrial applications.
As group asset manager, Ken Reilly maximises value for the company and its client base: “I look at equipment, how long to keep it, how we track it, and what sort of maintenance plan we should have in place.” Ken’s role involves optimising their rental fleet, ensuring customers have the right machine solution at the right time.
As you might imagine, that’s a lot of equipment to stay on top of – far more than Arthur Porter could ever have envisioned when he founded the family business in 1945. Today, the company’s portfolio includes Porter Equipment, Porter Hire, Porter Parts, Porter Mechanical, Porter Haulage, Porter Access, Porter Cranes, and Porter Finance.
“We’ve been wanting to know where our assets are pretty much since we started hiring out equipment about 35 years ago,” says Reilly. “When you’ve got a 30-acre yard like we do here, you can lose time like there’s no tomorrow if someone puts something in the wrong place. There are hundreds and hundreds of pieces of machinery here.”
Until implementing EROAD Where two years ago, the Porter Group had relied on manual stocktakes to track their assets, a time-consuming process at times prone to human error. A change in process was needed to help improve stock management accuracy and efficiency.
Machines worth hundreds and thousands of dollars are normally “big, bold, and bright” and many have OEM remote-management systems. Not the case with small yet critical items like trailers, lighting towers, and attachments, which can bring operations to a grinding halt if they cannot be readily located. Such attachments start at $1000 and go up from there, depending on the machine and what’s being attached. Their biggest rock breaker is worth about $80,000!
EROAD Where also helps the Porter Group team locate machinery for servicing. “We’ve got equipment spread throughout 20-plus depots in New Zealand,” he explains. It’s not uncommon for messages to be relayed from a field service person to onsite reception to Porter Group’s reception and then to the workshop. “Sometimes, by the time that’s all happened, the machines actually moved on.”
Knowing where everything is benefits Porter customers as well. On one large, multi-layered job site where they had about 100 machines, the access manager had proposed hiring two full-time technicians. “Not because we needed two technicians, but because it was taking half a day to find the machines. But we said, ‘No, no, we’ll put EROAD Where in all of them.’”
EROAD Where eliminated the need for full-time techs and saved the client $2000 to $3000 a day – a huge savings considering the project lasted 12 months.
EROAD Where combines low-energy Bluetooth tags with a mesh network that includes geofencing capabilities, enabling uninterrupted use even in remote locations without network coverage. A small black tag attaches to the item you want to track, and a scannable QR code allows you to follow its real-time movements on an easy-to-use phone app.
“EROAD Where tags are perfect for all our non-motorised, non-powered items and attachments,” Reilly says. “It’s hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars to install something when you might not want to know anything more than where it is.”
Clients who hire equipment for several months at a time have found using the Where app beneficial too: “They’ve got the same issue: lots of different tools and different places they need to access. So, you’re not just benefiting your own housekeeping; it’s helping customers be more productive too.”
He appreciates that the product is compact, long life, and simple to fit, with no hard wiring. “It’s like all your dreams have come true at once! And it’s easy to shift to another machine if you change your mind.”
The Porter Group was of course aware of emerging asset-tracking technology but found initial price points prohibitive, given the sheer number of assets they needed to track.
“At 30 dollars a month, which some of the early tech was, we figured we could do it ourselves” – or simply eat the cost of lost assets and potentially still come out ahead. Now, at $5 a month, EROAD Where offers them the price and functionality they’re looking for. “For the money invested, it’s a very valuable tool.”
Porter Haulage already uses EROAD’s GPS telematics to track its drivers and vehicles, so tracking other assets using EROAD technology was a logical next step. They could be confident in the product’s engineering and how it integrated with their existing EROAD ecosystem.
“We’ve got people from a wide range of security levels, so we needed something quite robust and easy for us to layer people in. Where is relatively easy for us since we’ve got multiple businesses that use EROAD.” The alternative would have been multiple platforms and redundant or irrelevant information. “With EROAD, we’re able to single out who needs to see what, and very simply.”
To ease adoption while allowing management to make in-flight adjustments, the rollout of EROAD Where began at the Hamilton branch, 50 units a time. “EROAD offered support if we needed it, but we found it was pretty easy to follow and easy to implement on our own.”
While getting everyone on board was a bit more challenging at first, the tagging initiative gained traction as teams saw its value: “It’s to the point where people now say, ‘Hey, I’ve got something here you’ve missed putting a tag on.’”
The group is excited about where EROAD’s asset-tracking technology could take them next. “We want to be seen as market leaders, not followers, and the products EROAD has in the pipeline are very exciting. We see the value of their progression and how being part of that journey will help the Porter Group grow.”