Executive Q&A Spring 2018

Executive Q&A Spring 2018

Austin Conti
Austin ContiCEO and founder, Tenna

All about Jobsite Asset Tracking

Peggy Smedley, editorial director of Constructech magazine, sits down with Austin Conti, CEO and founder, Tenna, www.tenna.com, Edison, N.J., to discuss asset management in construction. They dive into the needs, pain points, and technology solutions that are available for the construction industry today.

Peggy Smedley:
So let’s talk a little bit about what your background is and what led you to want to do what you’re doing right now at Tenna.

Austin Conti:
My background’s in the heavy civil construction industry. I’ve grown up in a family company called The Conti Group, and it’s over 110 years old. So the fifth generation in the business. I’ve grown up working on different construction projects in different roles—estimating, project operations, procurement, and working on project sites in the U.S., in West Africa, and in the country of Georgia. So my experience has really kind of taken me globally, working on different infrastructure projects.

From my experience in our own company, we saw an improvement that can happen with asset management. And not just on a single type of asset, but across the board. Conti’s motto has long been: ‘Done Once, Done Right.’ And that’s an approach to doing construction projects is the pre-planning and making sure you execute in the right way. So the idea for Tenna is, if you’re going to do an asset-management system, it should be done once and done correctly. And to do that you have to encompass all the assets from small tools, to midsize pieces of equipment, to large yellow iron, so that’s really where the idea came from.

Smedley:
With that in mind, looking at all the assets—as you say—all the way to yellow iron, which I think that’s a great idea—did you find that there were a lot of problems that you felt you had to solve that the industry currently wasn’t doing right or that you thought it was lacking right now?

Conti:
The idea for Tenna actually came up on a bridge project I was working out of in North Carolina. The idea stemmed from buying extra trestle material, which we wanted to do. And we were trying to source around the country all different types of steel. And eventually it was, “There should be an eCommerce site for extra construction material.” And when I started looking at that and talking to other contractors, I found out the real opportunity was to know exactly where everything in your company is so you can easily buy or sell to the contractors or better manage what you have internally. We’ve put in some different asset-management systems that I’ve seen in the past, and they missed the mark on not being able to encompass all the assets as well as the durability of the actual trackers themselves. Construction environments are tough, and you need tough hardware that can last in rough environments.

Smedley:
When you say what makes Tenna different from some of the other companies is Tenna’s asset tracking capabilities or what we call the Internet of Things?

Conti:
We’re different because we can manage all the assets on one platform. We’re different in the way that we either sourced or built custom hardware to cover every asset, regardless of size and value. The second place we’re different is just the software interface, and the usability of the system. We’re really designed with the field in mind, so this has to be an intuitive system somebody in the office can look at and see where those assets are, but also from the field perspective, and everybody using a smartphone out on a construction job can easily get the information they need quickly and then perform their work more efficiently. So I would say there are a few key differentiators of Tenna; we are sourcing and building our own custom hardware, our robust backend system and functionality, the beautiful UI/UX design, and that this is a single platform to manage all assets. Additionally, we are leveraging the IoT networks. So with the entrance of Cat-M1, NB-IoT, and LoRaWAN (Low Power Wide Area) networks and the IoT that enables the IoT devices to have longer battery life, to not drain the batteries of the equipment, and to offer a better service.

Smedley:
So let’s talk about the technology that you’re using here to make this work right now. What are we talking about in technology?

Conti:
So we’ll start from the bottom and go to the top. We’re starting first with durable QR (quick response) tags, which is a simple technology utilizing with your smartphone. That’s the most simple way to execute our system.

Then there is RFID tags. We use them for asset monitoring with a handheld scanner or also we have custom RFID gate systems. So you can put them up in a job yard, and as a truck goes through just like an E-ZPass system, a gate sensor will monitor the truck.

We also have Bluetooth beacons. We’ve encased the Bluetooth beacons in a durable outer casing for the construction environment and those enable, when they’re around the jobsite, to be picked up by workers’ smartphones, so it’s realtime automated tracking.

Then we have our equipment trackers that tie in to the equipment and get us preventative maintenance data such as engine hours, idle time, oil pressure, or specialty fault codes. We offer the equipment tracker with or without a battery. A pure battery tracker can last five years and gets three pings a day on assets that can’t tie in to power, like a trailer or a pressure washer. We offer those equipment trackers in different network capabilities as well, so they’re either on a Cat-M1 or NVIOT (Network Vendors Interoperability Testing) cellular network, or they also can be on a LoRaWAN, which is unique. It can be a site wide solution for a company to own their own private network and track within that.

So, I think the key of our product line is that everything is connected, so you can truly have a connected jobsite by deploying each of these different tracking technologies for the application they’re most relevant to.

Smedley:
And thinking about that, that everything’s relevant that you talk about because you’re not necessarily saying, “It has to be RFID,” or it has to be a Bluetooth beacon, or you’re talking about cellular versus LoRa. You’re looking at the different kinds of things here, and that enables a jobsite to really custom fit based on their specific needs is what you’re saying.

Conti:
Exactly. I think we’re not letting the technology drive the end solution. We’re listening to our customers, listening to market, and pairing the correct technology for the need. That’s the key essence of our company. And then, of course, all of that hardware technology has to tie in to a single software platform.

Smedley:
So when you look at all of what’s happening with the Internet of Things right now, how is this all, from a service perspective, because it’s not only just the technology, it’s the service that you have to offer behind all this technology, how is that playing into what your customers’ need?

Conti:
From the software service standpoint, it has to be a very user-friendly, easy system to get the information that either an equipment manager needs, or a CFO needs, or owner needs. So, that’s what we built into our design from a product standpoint, but from a customer server standpoint, that’s where it’s really important that something our company does very well is hold the hand of the corporate manager that’s learning the system beyond site and help install these trackers.

Smedley:
And do you find that companies are really understanding the importance of when they’re getting this ROI? Because that’s the big thing of buying trackers right now is immediately getting productivity, getting that ROI, getting it so that they’re seeing the value the moment they put a tracking system on any kind of device, an asset.

Conti:
Yes. Between man hours saved on inventory, between fuel savings on idle time, between general efficiency of your projects, we’ve really seen ROI within the first year of putting these systems out.

Smedley:
What kind of numbers are we talking about? Are there percentage savings? Are there just overall improved efficiency? Are we seeing quantifiable results that you’re seeing on these jobsites that you’re able to share?

Conti:
The ROI definitely is qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative people know that they’re wasting time looking for things, and maintenance can be more of an efficient process. But from a quantitative standpoint, it all builds up on the numbers of assets you’re tracking on the system, and the buckets that we quantify ROI on are idle time fuel savings. You can save, if you’re doing 200 pieces of yellow iron, usually $70,000 to $150,000 a year on that alone. If you look at the price of diesel, the number of idle gallons burned per day, so you can quickly just get an ROI on fuel savings.

There’s also a theft savings. We hear a lot of stories that skid steers and excavators are sometimes stolen. So, being able to locate those assets and bring them back is very important.

We save on excess rentals, so by knowing where everything is companies don’t have to do extra rentals on jobsites.

And then there’s savings on the instant equipment hour reporting. A lot of companies right now take the equipment hours by a field engineer going on site and collecting them on a piece of paper, and all those hours of basically manually collecting information is now automated. So there’s a whole list of different types of ROI you’re going to get from this system. That can quickly be 200-300% in the first year.

Smedley:
Austin, is the biggest hurdle for adoption right now the fact that companies don’t understand the technology? Or is it other competitors right now? Right now, they just need to understand that there’s lot of great technology out there that they need to adopt? Or they just haven’t really gone out there and realized that if they went out there, they could see some real benefits and real cost savings here by looking at what asset tracking can do for them?

Conti:
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it’s an interesting time in the market. I feel that contractors know that tracking preventative maintenance, telematics, and general IoT solutions are good for their businesses just because it mathematically makes sense. So they know that. I would say competitors in the market, what’s really lacking is that all-encompassing one platform. There’s a lot of point product solutions on the market such as small tool tracking, or a fleet management system, or a telematics system coming from a manufacturer. But the ability to integrate them all into one is where we feel we’re unique, and we feel where the market should be going because to solve the problem holistically is to track everything, not just one type of asset.

Smedley:
When you talk to companies, and you start saying to them, “Look, look at what we can do for you,” what’s the response once you start really showing them what they can do? I mean, are they really starting to say, “Wow, where were you a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, five years ago?”

Conti:
That’s the exciting thing. At the World of Concrete (in January), we had a couple companies come up and say, “I’ve been coming to this show for five years and finally you have the solution that can track everything.” So we definitely think that our solution is resonating in the market to its full potential, and we’re excited to bring on more clients and then make sure they get the service they deserve.

By |2018-03-05T20:54:23+00:003/5/2018|

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