GPS: What Is It Good For? - IE3: Business Tools for HVAC & Plumbing Contractors  

GPS: What Is It Good For?

Every year or two our industry is introduced to a tool that allows us to do our jobs more efficiently, or allows us to service our clients better than before. One of those tools is GPS. This is one tool that can really have an impact on the bottom line, but it has also been shown to have a negative impact on company morale and employee satisfaction. So, the question comes to mind, “Why would I purchase a GPS for my vehicles?”

GPS offers many advantages to the dispatcher, the client, the employee, and the owners of the company. Yes, it can show you who is speeding, and where someone was at 10:30 Saturday night, but if that’s the reason that you want to get GPS, you might want to reconsider who you are employing in your company. GPS is a productivity tool, and while it does offer some “Big Brother” reporting, it’s primarily a tool meant to allow your team to work smarter than the competition.

For us here at Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, it’s helpful to know who is exceeding the posted speed limit, because maybe they have a habit of speeding and they need some occasional reminders. There is a daily report that I receive from our system, and it shows me any time a vehicle exceeds a posted speed limit by a certain number of miles per hour.

But I’m not looking for someone doing 56 in a 55. The reports are set for any time one of our company-owned vehicles is moving more than 6mph over the posted speed limit. Excessive speed is unsafe, it uses more fuel, creates more repairs, creates a negative image of your company, and, oh yeah, it’s illegal. Every day there are vehicles that exceed the speed limit (and I would be foolish to think that they wouldn’t ever do so), but what I look for is a pattern, not a one-time-occurrence.

Our dispatches might distribute 200 service calls a day, and they need to know who is the closest person to a given address. The GPS shows us on a map where a vehicle is located – and there are no town or zip code boundaries, it’s just based on which vehicle is the closest.

Just today I had our dispatcher question how long it took a technician to get somewhere, not because he thought the tech was wasting time, but he was worried that the tech might not be familiar with the rural town that he was sent to. I went to our GPS system, entered the vehicle number and the date, and it created a breadcrumb trail with time stamps every few minutes, following the technician’s exact route.

Come to find out, the technician did go the most efficient way possible, and he did get there on time – it was our dispatcher who had the inaccurate records!

One feature that we find very useful is being able to find out which vehicle is the closest to a home when a technician at that address needs a part, or help lifting something. With GPS we input in the address, an icon shows up at that location, and instantly we can see all of the vehicles and which one is the closest. If we are lucky, we have a van with a green arrow (traveling) right in the area and we can quickly reroute that them to help the other technician.

This feature is also very helpful when we get an urgent call, such as a CO detector going off or a water leak, and the client is very concerned about when we can be there. A few strokes of the keys and we have all of the information that we need.

So, as you can see there are many uses for GPS, and while some of them can provide information that may lead to someone being terminated, most of the features allow you and your organization to be the best and most efficient company out there. GPS is not intended to provide reports to determine who should be fired … that is why you have a Service Manager. GPS can be a helpful tool when it comes time to make those decisions, and to support what you were already thinking, but it should not be the reason behind installing a system in your vehicles.

Eric Knaak

Vice President of Operation at Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning
Eric Knaak is Vice President of Operation for Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning in Rochester, NY. He also currently serves on ACCA’s Board of Directors as senior vice chair.

Latest posts by Eric Knaak (see all)

Eric Knaak

Vice President of Operation at Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning
Eric Knaak is Vice President of Operation for Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning in Rochester, NY. He also currently serves on ACCA’s Board of Directors as senior vice chair.

Latest posts by Eric Knaak (see all)

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1 Comment

  1. eron iler

    Nice article. It means more since it does not appear tied to a GPS vendor. You certainly realize the benefits and I hope your ROI is all it can be.

    Reply

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