An Integrated Operating System Is The Key to Unlocking Co-Equipment Management

Brian Giamo is co-founder of Activate, a B2B SaaS company enabling co-equipment management for OEMs, dealers, rental companies, and their customers. He was previously the CEO of Channel Economics, a consulting firm that designs, develops and implements go-to-market strategies and solutions. Brian played college football at William & Mary.

By Brian Giamo

I’ve repeated a similar line throughout my 20+ years in the equipment management industry: it takes a village to manage a piece of equipment. 

Maintaining and optimizing heavy equipment or other construction assets should be a collaborative process. 

OEMs, dealers, renters, service providers and fleet owners should be working together to maximize the usage of every piece of equipment, from the moment it finds itself in the dirt on a job site to the moment that it’s decommissioned. 

But this isn’t the reality – yet. And software is partially to blame. Status-quo equipment management platforms aren’t enabling collaboration and visibility between all of the players in the equipment ecosystem.

The answer isn’t more platforms; it’s a different type of solution entirely. The equipment world needs a true operating system: a control panel that allows equipment providers and fleet owners to communicate the needs of their equipment and – crucially – take action to address those needs.

Such an operating system can unlock the concept of co-equipment management: where fleet owners, dealers, rental companies and OEMs can come together to maximize the uptime, performance and productivity of each piece of equipment on a jobsite.

The results will help everyone be more productive and profitable. Fleet owners will enjoy job sites with fewer equipment breakdowns and stoppages. Dealers and renters will deliver an embedded customer experience that helps them realize more opportunities for service and parts. OEMs will sell more equipment and grow trust in their brands. Here’s how it can work:

Co-equipment management must transcend “closed loop” systems.

Both equipment purveyors and users are often overwhelmed with SaaS platforms. 

Dealers and renters have CRMs, dealer business systems, their own websites, eCommerce platforms to sell parts, etc. Fleet owners are juggling platforms for each brand of equipment they use, time carding apps, inspection apps and so on.

The biggest problem with all these systems: they’re a closed loop. They stay within the four walls of the provider or fleet owner. There’s very little that connects the parties or embeds their workflows into each other.

How do we fix the status quo? Three major improvements could go a long way:

We need more collaboration and visibility between equipment providers and their customers.

Current equipment management platforms create a natural disconnect between provider and end user. Let’s discuss a common scenario: 

You have an operator on a job site. He or she hears a strange coming from a piece of equipment. The operator shuts down the machine and contacts their equipment manager or job site super. You’ve now got three people using walkie-talkies. But it doesn’t stop there.

The equipment manager or super has to use traditional methods – call, email, text – to contact their service provider or dealer. That dealer has very little context into what’s going on; they’re caught flat-footed. The dealer then needs to gather information manually (serial number, nature of the issue, etc) to fill in the blanks. If there’s any lag in response time, the whole site could be held up. For fleet owners working with different dealers and rental companies, this process repeats itself over and over with different reps.

Shouldn’t there be a better way to get everyone on the same page about equipment needs?

Fleet owners need a one-stop shop for everything on their job site.

Many large OEMs and equipment purveyors offer systems to help their end customers access telematics data, parts catalogs, etc. However, many fleet owners are using equipment from several different brands and rental companies.

Those company-specific systems are a lot like online banking portals. If you have a Bank of America account, the app is fantastic to track all of your BOA activity. But what if you also have money in an account with Chase? What about your Bitcoin? Your investments? The BOA account doesn’t give you full visibility into your entire financial portfolio.

The same is true for many fleet owners. A true operating system would help them view all of the information they need — for all of their equipment — in one, centralized hub. 

Thinking from the “job site-out” will create cleaner equipment workflows.

I don’t mean to come at those large OEMs and rental companies They’re equipment companies, not software providers. There’s no incentive for them to build a holistic co-equipment management operating system.

A dedicated co-equipment management operating system could cater more specifically to the needs of the fleet owner — and thus help dealers and renters provide a more embedded customer experience. Unlike a dealer-specific solution, the operating system could be built from the “job site-out”; prioritizing the aspects of equipment management that occupy a fleet owner’s time on a daily basis.

For example: instead of just housing inspection forms, the operating system could trigger those inspection forms the moment an operator begins their shift. Every job site is different, and a single control panel could help customers customize their workflows based on the nuances of their job site.

A co-equipment management operating system unlocks greater potential for everyone.

A true operating system for co-equipment management would unlock more transparency, cohesion and efficiency. Everyone benefits from this:

Fleet owners: Better workflows and more productive job sites

The ripple effect of a single asset going down could be devastating to a fleet owner. When every platform, person and process is connected within a single control panel, the risk of debilitating issues decreases significantly.

Let’s say an operator is experiencing a leaking hose on their excavator. Traditionally, there’d be tons of manual outreach and lag time to get that fixed. 

With an operating system, the process is streamlined. The service provider is notified immediately of the issue and can schedule their site visit immediately. The O-ring supplier is ready to provide replacement parts. Once the excavator is up and running, everyone on the job site — operator, super, equipment manager — is in the loop.

The full life-cycle needs of equipment are handled with much less friction.

Equipment and service providers: A better customer experience and unrealized revenue opportunities

Dealers, renters and service providers would benefit in two ways. In the short term, they gain visibility into the service and parts needs of their customers. If something breaks or wears down, they can immediately be ready to provide the needed service or part. That means they’re capturing the revenue themselves, rather than gambling that their customer will run down the street to NAPA to try to fix it on their own.

Long term, providers will be delivering an embedded customer experience. This gives them the opportunity to build a lasting business relationship with their operators.

The next step: AI and automation make equipment workflows even smoother.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the “operating system” philosophy: it’s only going to get better. 

It can be easy to roll your eyes at the promise of “revolutionary” artificial intelligence. But including AI within an operating system could be hugely beneficial. It could greatly reduce the number of manual approvals or manual contacts required to fix an issue. The moment an equipment issue occurs, AI could help automate the next steps: relaying information to dealers and rental companies, dynamically suggesting the right parts or service, etc.

Equipment management can easily become more efficient, collaborative and mutually beneficial. A true co-equipment management operating system — boosted by AI — could help this reality come true.