Fleet Software Drops Labor Cost 15 Percent

Sept. 28, 2010

Lance Tancraitor grabbed an opportunity to cut fleet-support costs when his employer, G.A. & F.C. Wagman began to use the J.D. Edwards software system for construction management. Wagman had been tracking equipment information without the aid of a computer system, and the Pennsylvania contractor's equipment manager decided to use the J.D. Edwards equipment module to extend oil-drain intervals safely.

"The company was bringing in the computer program, and at about the same time I was doing a lot of reading about the capabilities of new oils," Tancraitor says. "I was thinking we could probably save some money by going longer between oil changes. And I figured if we were going to be implementing something new [using a computer to track preventive maintenance], why not change the PM program all in one clip?"

The crucial link between software and stretching oil life is the confidence instilled by the electronic PM scheduler.

"When you've been in this business for 23 years, you get kind of cautious — apprehensive about doing things to PM programs like extending service intervals," Tancraitor says. "If someone misses an oil change or forgets to do oil analysis, you could have an engine failure on your hands."

The software has kept Wagman's service crew on schedule for two years. With the basic A service — what is normally a 250-hour engine-oil and filter change — pushed back to 300 hours, the company is recording not only reductions in maintenance cost but improved machine reliability.

Tancraitor tested a couple of oil companies' premium lubricants and oil-analysis programs. They took the service interval on some test machines out to 275 hours. With adequate experience, he decided to step up from Mobil's 1200 Series, 15W40 heavy-duty engine oil to the Mobil 1300 Series. The extended-life oil was applied throughout the fleet, and the basic service interval moved out to 300 hours.

"It's performing very well and we've reduced our materials costs slightly — the oil's a little more expensive, but we're not changing it as often," Tancraitor says. "The big advantage is that it has taken the pressure off our manpower. The 300-hour service gives us about an extra week and a half to get each oil change done."

Wagman has operations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and Tancraitor is managing maintenance on the growing fleet from the home base in York, Pa.

"We've added 50 units to the fleet since increasing the service interval, but our number of mechanics has dropped from seven to four, plus two lube guys," Tancraitor says. "We're saving about 15 percent on labor costs."

Changing the PM program forced the oil-analysis habit on the Wagman operation, and it has been a profitable addition.

"We've cut downtime considerably," Tancraitor says. They've experienced no serious engine problems in two years, and he estimates that overall downtime has been reduced by 15 percent.

The steady rhythm of the software's maintenance scheduler can probably claim more credit for improving uptime than lubricants, filters or oil analysis, though.

"We've been able to maintain equipment a lot more consistently," Tancraitor says. "When we were tracking maintenance manually, a piece could get missed. But the computer system will flag when something is due, and it will keep flagging you until you get it done."

Of course, the equipment module tracks all of scheduled maintenance on a machine — the B and C services, in addition to the basic A oil change. And Tancraitor's crew is using the system to schedule less common service demands as well.

"We're taking it in gradual steps," he says. "As long as we're satisfied that we're getting accurate hours-of-use data and that the service work is getting done on time, we're adding things to the computer system like crane inspections and vehicle inspections. Eventually, it will be able to spit out a schedule for everything that we need to do with this fleet.

"It's been working out better than we thought it would, overall," Tancraitor adds. "Our mechanics and lube guys report machine hours once a week. It would be better to have it more often, but once a week is OK for the amount of manpower we have."

Tancraitor says he would like to adapt the system to scheduling PM by the amount of fuel machines burn rather than hour-meter readings, but he recognizes that his company is still just realizing some easier-to-achieve benefits of its equipment-management software.

"It has allowed us to use our purchasing power better with our dealers," he says. "If we paid $160 for a part a while ago and somebody wants to charge us $240 this time, our parts and service manager, Dan Posey, can easily pull up the records and will show them the old invoice. Most times they will realize their mistake and say, 'Oh yeah, that's your price.'

"The key is, we're reducing our costs and our manpower needs by going with extended oil-drain intervals," Tancraitor says. "We have a problem with quality manpower in the industry, and being able to track everything with the J.D. Edwards system helps us reduce our labor demand without having to worry that we might miss something important and blow a component."

Lance Tancraitor, Field Service Manager.
Lance Tancraitor, Field Service Manager
Dan Posey (left), Wagman's parts and service manager, goes to the field to check on oil-analysis sampling with serviceman Marty Boyer. Sample qualities are crucial to keeping the fleet reliable with 300-hour oil changes.
Russ Blevins, a Wagman mechanic, repairs a hydraulic line on a crane at the Susquehanna River Bridge project. Computerized equipment records help identify and prevent recurring failures.

Headquarters: York, Pa.

Specialties: Public-sector division specializes in bridges and heavy structures; private-sector division focuses on industrial and institutional buildings

Fleet Value: $20 million

Fleet Makeup: 506 pieces from a 185-cfm compressor and larger, including 21 cranes, 71 light and medium-duty trucks, 32 heavy trucks

Facilities: One shop, five mechanics' trucks, two service trucks

Equipment-Support Staff: Eight support personnel, including four mechanics and two lube men

Market Range: Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware

Warranty Works Out

"Warranty management works out real well using J.D. Edwards' equipment-management module," says Lance Tancraitor. "We enter the date when we purchase a machine in the machine's record and what type of warranty it has. If we're having any trouble with a unit, the system automatically tells us if the component is under warranty.

"In one case our parts and service manager, Dan Posey, noticed that we had replaced several track rollers on a particular model dozer. We showed the information to the OEM and they gave us a credit on what we'd spent on the rollers, and then came out and changed the rest of the rollers on those two dozers.

"We wouldn't have picked that up without the tracking system."