An encouraging trend emerging in fleet asset management is the new generation of equipment owners and managers, such as Dan Weinkauf, emerging and adopting a more laid-back and pragmatic attitude towards new technologies such as the GPS-enabled equipment.
Weinkauf, president of Integrity Grading and Excavating in Schofield, Wisconsin, is a member of the construction equipment under-40 class of 2022. He uses technologies such as machine control without thinking twice, and as its peers in the under-40 demographic, it doesn’t see computer technology through a “gee-whiz” lens.
GPS, drones and digital imaging tools available to earthmoving contractors and fleet managers are all just part of the day-to-day work of managers like Weinkauf.
Fleet managers of this generation are often supported by more experienced members of their company who fully understand the value and benefits of digital equipment data. However, their own leadership roles often leave them little time to devote to the process of gathering and applying the torrent of information from their fleet’s telematics equipment.
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Dan and his father, Allen, started Integrity Grading and Excavating in 2006 with 10 employees. Their first year brought in $4 million in business. Revenues continued to grow even during recessions, in part because the company diversified with site development, public works, airport and road construction projects. Today, Integrity has over 100 employees and an equipment fleet of 75 units valued at $30 million. The annual turnover exceeds 50 million dollars.
Weinkauf says that although his father was somewhat anti-computer, he was willing to make a significant investment in machine control systems for the company, one vehicle at a time. In fact, senior Weinkauf was the first in Wisconsin to use Trimble technology for landfills, much to the relief of Dan, whose summer job at the time was helping with the projects. The younger Weinkauf took over the presidency in 2018.
The 37-year-old chose to go straight into business after attending the University of Wausau, Wisconsin. As a member of the generation that grew up with computer technology, Weinkauf quickly understood the connection between digital GPS data and equipment operations. His first responsibility at Integrity was working on GPS models.
“GPS and digital technology has grown so much that we now use it for vehicle tracking, machine control, and it helps keep our operators informed about what to build,” he says.
Technology fuels expansion
Kyle Beid, CFO of Integrity, says Weinkauf’s focus on technology has resulted in better equipment utilization and enabled the company to open a second office in the booming southern region. of Wisconsin, near Madison.
“There is a large amount of private sector work there to build housing estates and large building excavations,” Beid says. “Madison attracts a lot of young talent.”
Integrity is pursuing underground utility, sewer and stormwater projects in the area, all of which are part of Wisconsin’s infrastructure plans for the next five years. “We want a piece of that pie,” Beid said.
Weinkauf says the owners of the project are not yet requiring contractors to use machine control as part of their bids, but they are aware of the economic improvement of using the technology.
“Tenders don’t require GPS capability, but it gives owners a better product with less surveying on the project,” he says.
Drone hover technology also offers huge cost savings. “We can hover over the project to see daily progress and get a better idea of how much material we can move that day,” Weinkauf says. “It also makes data entry much faster.”
Dealer as partner
Integrity initially used in-house support for their GPS, but Weinkauf says it now makes more sense for them to use their dealer’s support.
“They help us troubleshoot and work with the software,” he says. “Since GPS can measure up to a tenth of an inch and our vehicles drive over rocks, it’s easy to get something out of alignment. Our dealer has technicians who will come when we need them. Sometimes the solution is as simple as adding more damper sensors.
Weinkauf currently uses Topcon GPS systems and prefers to buy their equipment with factory-installed technology.
Like many entrepreneurs, Weinkauf faces a shortage of skilled labor. He understands that the people who work with him may or may not be comfortable with technology, which is why the company provides intensive training for its union operators.
“We are very clear about our goals and objectives,” he says. “It’s a daily challenge, and we believe in providing our operators with the training they need.” Having the Madison office also allows Integrity’s talents to work in multiple areas.
“Innovation is the core value of our company,” says Weinkauf. “We are always looking for ways to be more efficient, both in our business and on our clients’ projects. When we see new systems and products, my team and I research and decide as a team if it’s something that will benefit us. »
Weinkauf’s advice to contractors considering adding GPS capabilities to their fleets is to be open-minded.
“You’re going to spend money and expect to go through some growing pains,” he says. “It’s not like you’re going to buy new software and immediately become a better company. It takes time to learn the software and the technology.
Admittedly, Weinkauf says his own company’s experience hasn’t always been smooth. But, he says, “Once we saw what we could do with GPS, we didn’t want to be without it.”