Tracking trucks & techs

Telcomm contractor optimizes field ops with GPS-based solution

AC Square has found a very useful tool in Xora's wireless software application technology. The contractor, which provides installation and repair services to large telecommunications companies like Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, RCN, and Century Cable, is using the GPS-based software from Xora to keep track of its 180 technicians in the field.

Andrew Bahmanyar, managing director of AC Square, says the company began using the mobile phone-based workforce management solution in 2003 to help dispatchers and operations managers optimize the use of its field techs by better understanding where and how they were spending their time.

“We do everything from simple repairs all the way up to digging trenches and laying cable in the ground during construction of large apartment complexes,” he reports.

The truck fleet is comprised of a variety of equipment, including a combination of pickup trucks, as well as bucket trucks and vans outfitted with a boom so the service personnel can access higher elevations safely and securely. There are also heavy trucks used for trenching, digging up streets and other big jobs. Pickups, however, are the primary vehicle, Bahmanyar notes, making up approximately two-thirds of the fleet.

“We own 45 trucks. In addition, some of the field technicians provide their own vehicles. We have installed GPS transmitters in all our own equipment, and through Xora's web-based program we are able to see at any time, from any Internet-capable computer, where the trucks are located. We can also determine what time the techs got to a job site, as well as what speed they were traveling at to get there,” Bahmanyar elaborates.

He says the company also uses the GPS system on its heavier equipment, like compressors and generators. This equipment is needed at sites where there is no electricity to perform functions such as breaking up concrete, etc.

“Since we leave these pieces of equipment at the site,” he explains, “having tracking capability enables us to locate them remotely to verify those assets are where they're supposed to be. Another benefit has been safety. The Xora GPS system is an excellent tool for tracking technicians who may be out of cellphone range. We can pinpoint their location and send a supervisor out to make sure he/she is okay; in most instances it's just a case of cell service being poor — but the GPS always works.”

All technicians are required to carry Nextel phones, which are also GPS-enabled. So even when they are away from the GPS-equipped trucks or not using one of the company's trucks, their whereabouts can still be determined.

Based in Burlingame, CA, AC Square has three sub-offices — the West Bay system, which includes the peninsula area of San Francisco down to Palo Alto; the North Bay, including Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties; and South Bay, which covers Palo Alto to Gilroy, including San Jose. Each sub-division has its own offices, warehouse, field technicians and trucks.

The majority of pickups in the fleet are Ford Rangers and Chevy S-10s. Larger trucks include everything from Ford F-150s to Ford 600 and 800-Series models. The pickups are spec'd with ladder racks and a toolbox. Most also have a full shell since the crews carry a lot of electronic equipment that needs to be kept clean and dry.

“We were one of Xora's first customers,” Bahmanyar relates. Now he says his company is also looking at integrating maintenance capabilities into the Xora system. “We've asked the developers to add mileage modules so we can start tracking maintenance intervals on our trucks using the same software.”

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