Synovia Solutions Blog

WINTER CONSTRUCTION DEMANDS VIGILANCE FOR SAFETY AND QUALITY

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 @ 09:01 AM

SYN Winter Construction Demands 290x226It’s nearly wintertime in the United States, and across much of the country that means a seasonal shift in approach for construction companies. Cold weather sets in as the seasons change, and plummeting temperatures change the game for everyone who works outdoors. As you might expect – and U.S. Census Bureau data backs up this statement – business tends to drop for construction companies. However, with changes in the economy and construction technology in the past couple decades, there is no off-season.

Your business is expected to remain active even after the first snow. Here’s how you can accomplish that, maintain quality standards – and keep your crews safe. 

EVERY DETAIL IS CRITICAL 

You’re always careful about making sure every part of every job is done right, but in cold winter weather the margins are slimmer. Any minor mistake can snowball into a major problem, and the normal ways of doing things may not cut it when the temperature dips below freezing. Because of that, it’s critical to get all the details right when you’re building in winter.

Cold weather causes many typical construction materials to act differently than they do when it’s warm out. Water in concrete will freeze, resulting in crystals forming in the mix and the dried concrete failing to reach its full strength. Masonry has the same issues, as water expands while freezing which can cause strength issues in a finished masonry project. Digging foundations is made more difficult by frost in the ground – once the frost level goes below 8-12 inches, special machinery may be needed to penetrate it. When snow or freezing rain covers building frames, it becomes impossible to apply sealants. These are just a few of the problems that winter construction can bring, and any one of them can deal a heavy blow to your efforts. 

Winter is especially taxing for vehicles and equipment, making maintenance more an issue than ever. First of all, you must prepare your own equipment for cold weather. Preventative maintenance and checks of heat and defrosting systems are a good start. It’s also important to continually monitor your equipment all season long – don’t just give each vehicle a once-over and assume it’s good to go. This is one place where Synovia can help. Our Silverlining™ suite includes real-time engine diagnostics that give fleet managers the ability to know when repairs are needed before a breakdown. Unexpected repairs are a thing of the past, and the maintenance that’s done is far cheaper.

Fuel economy also becomes a bigger issue than normal during winter. Cold weather affects efficiency in a number of ways – cold engine oil increases friction, icy roads decrease grip and waste energy, even heaters waste energy. Synovia engine diagnostics allow fleet managers to monitor efficiency and take necessary steps to save fuel. Location tracking also helps, by giving insight into whether drivers are operating vehicles efficiently and whether they’re driving optimal routes.

Additional equipment is required past your usual arsenal as well. Heavy-duty equipment may be needed to properly dig through the frost layer to lay a foundation. If inclement weather strikes at the wrong time, the frame needs to be covered for sealant application. Masonry and concrete must be kept warm throughout the whole process, and anything from heating the components to simply heating the whole work site could be called for. If wind chill is a factor, wind breaks may need to be built as well. 

PROTECTING YOUR TEAM 

Job site safety is top of mind for every project, but again, the unique conditions of winter mean extra effort must be exerted to make your team safe. Ice, snow, and cold all make the job site a bit more dangerous than it would be in the pleasant weather of spring or fall, or even the heat of summer.

Driving in winter is an issue, whether it’s a truck going from site to site or a piece of equipment moving around on an individual site. Ensuring drivers are properly trained and licensed to operate the vehicles they drive in winter weather is critical. Simply reminding workers of the dangers of icy roads and frozen job sites is important as well. 

Workers being struck by vehicles on site is a major concern, since it’s far easier to skid or lose control of a vehicle in the ice or snow. Because of this, traffic controls are just as important on a work site as they are on the road. Signs, cones, barrels, and barriers can all be used to protect drivers and pedestrian workers alike. It’s also advisable to have workers wear reflective vests when on a site with active vehicles and other equipment. Every little bit you can do to keep workers visible and protected from the equipment they work around will help

Getting stranded in a vehicle is not only more likely in icy and snowy conditions, but the cold makes it more dangerous than it would be in more pleasant weather. It’s important to train your drivers to know what to do in such situations. It’s instinct to want to seek out help, but that’s one of the worst things you can do. Drivers need to know how to stay warm, signal for help, and prevent maladies like frostbite and carbon monoxide poisoning. This way a stranded vehicle will be a temporary inconvenience, rather than something much more frightening. 

It’s also a good idea to track vehicles as closely as possible, so you know where vehicles are and can direct help to the right location without delay. A Synovia GPS tracking system gives fleet managers constant visibility into vehicle locations in real time, 24/7. Not only does this allow a manager to locate vehicles, but alerts and reports monitoring driver behavior can also help crack down on unsafe driving. This data is useful for route-building and other reporting year-round, but in winter when safety is at a premium it’s absolutely critical. 

Slick surfaces are dangerous for workers on foot as well as ones operating vehicles. Whether on the ground or on the framework of a building or on a scaffold, slips and falls are an issue in the cold. Again, training for your workers is important. Walking more carefully and wearing the proper footwear will protect against a lot of issues. Make it clear to your team that rushing will do more harm than good, and that safety is a priority over speed. It’s also important to clear snow and ice from walkways as much as possible.

PREPARATION WILL MAKE WINTER WONDERFUL

No matter what, careful planning is important before any winter construction job starts. You can’t get caught off-guard by a blizzard, with no contingencies in place. Your needs will differ based on the unique project you’re working on, but the principle – preparation – is universal.

Your business can’t afford to take the winter off. You also can’t afford to sacrifice safety or quality. With this advice and a telematics partner like Synovia, your construction company will thrive in the cold.

 

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Tags: safety, fleet maintenance, route efficiency, construction, fleet managers, GPS, fuel efficiency

LEADING THE WAY: Jon King takes Synovia Solutions forward

Posted by Bill Westerman on Wed, Oct 07, 2015 @ 11:25 AM

Jon King doesn’t stop. You wouldn’t know it to talk to him – the CEO of Synovia Solutions is aSYN Leading The Way 290x226 calm and considered man, speaking only after taking a beat to think and choose just the right thing to say. But in his work, King is constantly moving, and that’s just the way he likes it.

“If I’m going to work, I want to do something where you can impact change quickly,” King said. “I’m an action-oriented person, I like to look at things and analyze things, make a decision and get on with it.” 

That active style is something that he’s brought to Synovia since his arrival in 2011. He’s the kind of executive who’s not only participating in the actual business of his company, but who you’re excited to see involved in new projects. That’s not just because of his years of experience. It’s because the things Jon King gets involved in tend to be successful. 

ACTIVE LEADERSHIP, INSIDE AND OUT

King’s somewhat of an expert in management, both of a business as a whole and of people who work there. Part of that comes from a career that’s spanned a number of industries, businesses from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, and a tour of military service. He’s experienced all kinds of different styles, and he’s worked in management at all levels since early in his career with Xerox. 

“The first management job I had, I was no more ready to lead ten people than I was to land a man on the moon,” King said. “I learned lessons that have stayed with me throughout my whole career, and I’m thankful every day for the time I spent there.” It’s easy to see why. Today in addition to his work at Synovia, King is a guest lecturer at Butler University, IUPUI, and the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

King also learned about the importance of direct involvement in a team or a company you run, and along with his natural tendency toward action, it leads not only to an active internal role, but also to hands-on interactions with customers. “If you buy a piece of software and you don’t know how to use it, it’s worthless, a waste of money,” King says. And that’s why training users is a critical part of Synovia’s sales and service process. “It’s pretty obvious, but it’s not as widespread in its application as you might think. At the end of the day, if we don’t make it happen, they won’t get all the value that they’re paying for.” 

That training isn’t something that gets handed off to an outside firm, or an online walkthrough. Synovia senior management – including Jon King himself – meet with top clients face-to-face twice yearly to review in-house training, software usage, and any other training and functionality issues a client may have. Clients know that Synovia buys into their success because the executive team buys into them. 

GROWTH THROUGH INNOVATION

That emphasis on openness means that Synovia has an ability to change and a flexibility that you just don’t often see in a corporate setting. King has the experience to know what works, know what doesn’t work, and build on that. In just a few years under King’s guidance, the pricing model Synovia Solutions – and now the industry as a whole – offers to school districts has been totally revolutionized. King has also helped to build partnerships with companies to get software to market faster, and he shepherded the debut of the game-changing Here Comes the BusTM website and app for parents, students, and schools. All major changes, and all have fueled the growth that Synovia has seen in recent years. 

The major source of that growth has been in school bus fleet management, in large part because of those innovative changes. The now-abandoned previous pricing model put a significant burden on the client, with large up-front charges that increased with the size of the fleet. Schools simply couldn’t afford it. Business wasn’t growing. So a change, spearheaded by King, was made. “You’re buying a service from us,” King said. “At the end of the day you’re buying information from us. We’re not a hardware provider, we’re an information provider.” So having clients pay for hardware didn’t really make sense.

Now rather than a large up-front fee, there’s no up-front costs at all. Schools pay only a monthly subscription per vehicle. Synovia changed how the product went to market, and also added partnerships with Verizon for data transmission and Blue Bird Corporation, who wanted to associate their new GPS accessory with a trusted brand. “It was a perfect marriage,” King said. “That model was embraced by the market, and it changed the whole paradigm.” 

Synovia’s growth in the K-12 market has been powered not only by those changes, but also by purely new innovation. The Here Comes the Bus app is part of the crest of that wave. “It’s another differentiator for us in that space,” King said.

Here Comes the Bus is a totally different thing from what other competitors are offering to schools, and that makes it a massive difference-maker for Synovia. But it’s not just the app itself that is making a difference – it’s the app’s audience.

NEW MARKETS, NEW CUSTOMERS

Until Here Comes the Bus, all of Synovia’s services have been aimed at businesses, not at individual consumers. But since Here Comes the Bus is an app for parents, rather than for school administrators, it’s a new audience for Synovia’s products. “It’s educational, we’re learning, but at end of the day we think it’s going to be a game changer on several fronts,” King said. It’s just another reason for schools to want to work with Synovia, and for the schools that work with us to continue to do so for years and years. “In the world we live in today, where security and safety are even more important to parents, it’s big,” King says, as it acts as part of a holistic set of tools for schools and parents to make sure kids get to and from school safely every day. 

That new experience for Synovia is part of what Jon thinks will help the company as it expands its role in other fleet management verticals. “The biggest opportunity [for Synovia] is in the private sector, in the specific verticals that don’t require changes to our technology,” King said.

King envisions identifying the private fleets that can use GPS technology and software to the greatest level of effectiveness and developing game-changing products and services for them to mirror the success of Synovia’s K-12 vertical. 

Sectors like construction fleet management are the next big targets for Synovia Solutions, and specifically King thinks that concrete and cement transportation are specific disciplines where Synovia can do a lot of good. It’s critical for vehicles to be able to make it from the mixing site to the construction site before the material sets, and GPS tracking allows fleet managers to plot the most efficient routes to guarantee that material isn’t lost needlessly. “That’s a big opportunity and we’d like to think we can provide a solution,” King said.

New growth has to be managed intelligently, though. When pushing Synovia forward, scalability was top of mind for King. That’s part of what prompted his search for partnerships in the K-12 sphere. “We were never going to have a sales organization big enough to get to the market quick enough,” King said.

Balancing growth against smart investments in infrastructure, and building partnerships to cover gaps rather than spending big to fill them, all fit together as part of an intentional strategy. “To [manage growth carefully] with a small business is extremely critical because you don’t have an unlimited checkbook,” said King.

When a company enters into a partnership with Synovia, whether as a client or as a service provider, you’re working with a company that reflects its chief. Expect action, expect innovation, and expect success. Expect that, like Jon King, Synovia Solutions will not stop.

 

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Tags: here comes the bus, construction, fleet managers, GPS

How GPS Can Help You Make the Most of Growth in the Construction Industry

Posted by Bill Westerman on Thu, Apr 02, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

GPS for construction crewThe economic downturn that began in 2008 affected practically every industry, but the related problems in the housing market were an especially big blow to the construction sector. But this is 2015. Things are improving, especially when it comes to the housing market. And that’s good news for construction companies.

According to USA Today, contractors added 290,000 jobs in 2014, a nine-year high. Construction spending rose 9%, 6%, and 5.7% respectively in each of the last three years. Being able to hire is always a positive thing. But how can you take full advantage of the opportunities that an industry upswing presents? GPS fleet tracking is one important way to make sure you get the most out today’s economic recovery.

Reduce unnecessary fuel consumption and large equipment repairs

Saving money is a really good way to make money – the less you’re wasting, the better. But with a large fleet of vehicles and equipment, many construction companies see costs start to spiral out of control.

The data you obtain via GPS tracking will help you monitor and optimize equipment usage, leading to significant cost savings. You’ll lower costs by managing vehicle misuse and excessive idling. You’ll know when drivers aren’t operating vehicles safely and whether they’re risking costly damage. And when maintenance is needed, engine diagnostics will tell you before a minor problem turns into a major issue.

Manage larger teams with ease

A growing client list means more jobs for your team, and more jobs in different locations make growing your fleet a necessity. The logistics of managing a fleet are difficult no matter what, but as your fleet grows, the list of issues you must face increases exponentially. Managing fuel costs, regular maintenance and the location of your vehicles and equipment all become a massive chore.

The solution is data – the kind of data you get from a GPS tracking system. You’ll always know where every vehicle and every piece of equipment is located, no matter how large and ungainly your fleet may seem. A built-in battery means Synovia Solutions GPS tracking can be used on all equipment – even if that equipment isn’t powered by an engine.

The ability to manage your team and your fleet with ease, especially as it grows, will put you in great position to make the most of today’s massive construction boom. Fortunately, Synovia Solutions can help you increase cost savings, worker safety and customer service – all at the same time.

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Tags: safety, fleet maintenance, construction, GPS, fuel efficiency