Spring into fleet management profitability
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By Steve Cubbage, VP Farmobile Services & CEO Record Harvest
March is here and the clock is ticking in preparation for spring field work.
What if you could do just one thing different this season to increase margins and add dollars to your fleet’s bottom line?
You can — there’s time before the season hits.
Ag retailers, through ARA’s Fleet Optimization Program, can experience the value of real-time agronomic and machine data collection on applicators and tender trucks. The program, available through March 31, 2021, is focused on helping ag retailers free data from their mixed fleet of equipment and turn it into actionable insights.
“Idle time is the lowest hanging fruit to pick when trying to improve overall fleet efficiency… The point is, if you don’t know the real cause; you’re operating blind.” – Steve Cubbage, Farmobile VP of Service
Why care about real-time data?
Every ag retailer I’ve met wants one thing — better tools to help them optimize fleet efficiency and ROI. Despite the technological advances of the past two decades, maximizing the return-on-investment of an application fleet has been a herculean task. The biggest problem was that limited available data didn’t paint a full picture of an individual machine compared against full-fleet performance to drive faster decision making.
Until now. Real-time agronomic and machine data has come of age.
Farmobile, a data-centric company, has actually perfected the incredibly complex process of collecting agronomic and machine data across a mixed fleet of precision ag retail and farm equipment, organizing it into a standardized data set for real-time viewing and 24/7 data access and export.
It’s a big deal, and a huge change for the industry.
Real-time data gives ag retailers (and their farmer customers) an edge. It provides instant insights about what’s happening on the ground with machines, field activities and operators allowing fleet managers to make faster adjustments which, long-term, could save thousands of dollars in operational efficiencies and streamlined dispatch.
That may not sound glamorous, but it’s a game-changer.
If dollars matter, then details matter, When you know exactly what makes up a fleet’s operational costs, you can make bold decisions much more strategically and confidently.
Whether used to identify the impact of idle time and fuel on ROI or better management of tachometer hours for leases, real-time data gives retailers as-it-happens value to make operational decisions that matter in the moment, instead of looking back in hindsight.
- One customer discovered machine idle time ranging from 30 percent to 54 percent.
- Another proactively monitored machine efficiencies in real-time on a daily basis and compared it to data from the previous year. The result was a 5 percent reduction in overall fleet idle time, year-over-year with a real data-to-dollar pay-off representing nearly $46,000 in direct savings in fleet operations.
- One commercial fleet removed five machines after realizing they were a cost center. They improved fleet productivity and still served more acres.
Real-time can solve idle time!
Beyond the obvious benefits of LIVE logistics, idle time is the lowest hanging fruit to pick to overall fleet efficiency and ROI.
With idle time percentages ranging in the 30 to 40 percent range on most commercial machines (and some even higher), this is certainly the easiest place to start changing behavior across a fleet with the help of real-time fleet data. By monitoring LIVE fleet data, better efficiency could be as simple as being more conscious about simply turning off the ignition key when refueling or realizing that additional tender trucks are needed to keep machines working in a field.
The point is, if you can’t see machine and fleet behaviors in real-time, you’re operating blind.
Being able to convert idle time into more worked acres per hour by 25 percent, for instance, is a huge profit and loss difference. Translated, this means avoiding keeping on the books expensive, under-performing machines and doing more acres with fewer pieces of equipment. Eliminating a few hours of idle time each day, from each machine can start in motion a snowball that can ultimately grow into a positive shift in revenue that is measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions in some cases. That’s the power of knowing.
Use data as a system of record
What’s interesting is that ag retailers, who actively collect and use real-time data, are using it to open doors to new opportunities and services. With new and emerging markets, real-time agronomic and machine information serves as a detailed, science-worthy system of record for as-applied and farming practices. So, ag retailers are using it to expand 4-R and Variable Rate Application services and to qualify for conservation, water quality, carbon and sustainability initiatives.
There are endless uses, but the true starting point is optimizing ROI. It all boils down to dollars. This spring, it’s the right time for real-time. You can’t afford to wait another season.
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VP of Farmobile Services and president and owner of Record Harvest. Passionate about precision agriculture and data collection.