North Dakota-based industrial general contractor Bilfinger Westcon’s motto is “Pride Through Performance.” At just 30 years old, equipment coordinator Savanah Cantleberry more than lives up to the statement.
“I’m one of the few people in the building who can step into many of the roles here, and I’m not scared to do that,” Cantleberry says. “Yes, I’m the equipment coordinator, but just this morning I was filling in for the receptionist answering phones. I’m willing to do other things. I’m not scared to go out into the yard and get dirty.”
Cantleberry also helps the company’s marketing director with various projects, assists the safety department with gas monitors, and helps out procurement when needed.
This is another in a series of profiles highlighting some of our Under 40 in Construction Equipment Award winners. These young people, all under the age of 40 at the end of the year in which they were nominated, represent exciting potential for the industry.
“I take my job very seriously, making sure that I’m being a team player and that I’m not holding anybody up on my end of things,” she says.
Her main job involves keeping tabs on Bilfinger Westcon’s fleet, which is deployed nationwide and includes some 450 pickups, 35 cranes (including 90-ton models and two crawler cranes), 30 forklifts, 20 skid steers, 140 trailers ranging in size from 16-foot tandem axle trailers all the way up to reefer semi-trailers, 50 tractor-trailers, buses, dump trucks, and flatbed winch trucks. The fleet has an estimated replacement value of just over $20 million.
“I take care of tracking our equipment so we know where it’s at on a day-to-day basis, licensing and renewals, and making sure everything has its annual and DOT inspections,” Cantleberry says. “I take care of any insurance claims on our auto and property policies, and rental equipment.”
She’s also in charge of DOT logging, permits, IFTA reporting, and coding of invoices for accounts payable. “I code all of our equipment invoices by system so that we know how much we’re spending on tires, and how much we’re spending on oil changes,” Cantleberry says. “I break everything out system by system, and then we can see how much in labor we’re paying and how much for parts. I also make sure our projects get charged for the equipment that they’re using on a monthly basis.”
The need to accurately track costs is the catalyst for the company’s telematics efforts. Cantleberry has led the way, first installing GPS units on Bilfinger Westcon’s trucks, then expanding the program to include trailers and other heavy equipment.
“In 2012, we started putting GPS units in our pickups; and once we got the bugs worked out, we decided to switch companies,” she says. “We’re now working with Pedigree Technologies, out of Fargo, N.D. We’re doing heavy equipment, our reefer trailers, and our semi-trailers we use for tool vans and material vans. The last three months, we’ve been working with them to get everything installed and going through training on how to use their system. They’ve upped our game a little bit.”
Real-time costs, maintenance management and expense projection have been among the early benefits.
“You always want to try to keep your costs down,” Cantleberry says. “That’s the main thing I’m looking for. One example would be tracking actual usage. We’ll be able to see what the hour readings were when it was sent out on the job, and then monitor it during the job. If it’s barely used, it might be moved to another site. We’ll be able to have a little more insight into our equipment usage at each site and be able to make the changes that make our equipment more profitable.
“Not only can we track location, but we’re also moving toward using the GPS units to track hours usage so we can get a better idea of how much it’s costing us per hour to use our equipment,” Cantleberry says. “Now that I’ve been working with the equipment for several years, we’ve started getting really good data on where we’re spending money for repairs in each category of equipment, or on a specific piece of equipment. We’re right on the brink of knowing what the hourly rate is to run each piece of equipment.”
Cantleberry notes that the ongoing GPS project is also helping during the budgeting and purchasing of equipment. On the pickup fleet, the company has been trading in pickups when they reach 150,000 miles and then buying new ones. It used to be anyone’s guess when that magic number would come up.
“Now I can look at odometer readings to create a quarterly report for decision makers, and say, ‘Okay, these are the pickups that are coming due for replacement based on our projections on how the miles have been running,’” she says. “I’ll know what’s coming up in quarter one and quarter two so we can better project when those expenses are going to hit. We can plan a little better.”
Every quarter, Bilfinger Westcon becomes smarter about its costs. “We’re learning as we go and figuring out what we need to do on a daily basis, and in two more years, we will have good information to look back on.”
Some 50 to 60 percent of the fleet has new GPS units installed. It hasn’t always been easy.
“I’ve had to deal with a lot of criticism about installing GPS units in our fleet,” Cantleberry says. “We had to overcome the idea that our field employees had—that Big Brother was watching—and convince them that there is a greater purpose to telematics than just knowing where everyone is at all times.
“There was a lot of push back at first; people would avoid having them installed in their trucks,” she says. “In the long run, the field employees have come to understand that the GPS units are helpful when it comes to accident reporting and safety.”
Cantleberry points to several key features that have helped overcome “Big Brotherism.” The company can see what happened in real time during an accident, perhaps proving a driver isn’t at fault. It can have notifiers sent to the safety director when a driver has been speeding for a specified amount of time. There’s also the advantage of project managers knowing exactly where their trucks are.
“Project managers use the fleet tracking software to verify what equipment is on their sites and when,” Cantleberry says. “Now that everyone is seeing the value in telematics, the field has been much more receptive.”
There is also the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room: the fact she is a young woman in a field traditionally dominated by men.
“I definitely think it is harder to prove yourself [being a woman], but it just makes it that much more of a challenge, and I don’t have a problem taking on challenges,” she says.
“I think that, as a whole, the industry thinks that maybe you don’t know as much because you’re a woman. But I think I’ve definitely proven myself, at least here to the people in our company. I believe this because anytime anybody has a question, my phone is the first one they call.”
A steadily ringing phone stands as proof of her performance.