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Keep Construction Equipment from Walking off the Job Site with Non-Powered Asset Tracking

by | Nov 18, 2021

GPS tracking has transformed the way vehicle and equipment owners manage their assets. If a company vehicle goes missing from the parking lot overnight, the owner can track down its location and retrieve it. Construction firms can monitor the location of all their heavy equipment from a centralized location. If a lessee keeps an item longer than they should or skips payments, the equipment rental company can quickly locate it so they can recover it. 

Using GPS technology for heavy construction equipment tracking is a no-brainer since the assets have engines and batteries that can power the tracker. But not every piece of valuable equipment has its own power source. Trailers, tools, generators, and other high-value assets are common targets of theft, and construction companies could benefit from GPS tracking of these assets. That’s why non-powered asset tracking is essential to ensuring such equipment doesn’t simply walk off the job site without your knowledge. 

The Most Commonly Stolen Construction Assets 

According to a study of 15,000 construction theft incidents from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the most commonly stolen items are as follows.

Tools

Nearly 40% of reported incidents are for the theft of tools. Items like circular saws, jackhammers, and drills are common targets for thieves because they’re easy to grab and resell for a high price. Unsecured tools, especially those without labels, set the foundation for opportunistic crimes. It’s easy for employees, subcontractors, or just a passerby to walk off with a tool at the end of shift. And since there can be dozens of high-value tools on a job site at any given time, it’s challenging to keep track of every item. 

Heavy Construction Equipment

Following tools, heavy construction equipment is the second most common target for equipment thieves. Theft of assets like excavators, oil-drilling rigs, and backhoes account for twelve percent of incidents. While it’s harder to steal heavy equipment from a job site, many criminals believe the resale value (whether sold as-is or broken down for parts) is worth the effort. 

Plus, it’s not uncommon for heavy equipment to be left out overnight, with unlocked cabs and keys in the ignition. If there’s no fencing on the job site and the lighting is poor, conditions are ideal for enterprising criminals. 

Building Materials

After heavy equipment, building materials are the third most stolen items from construction sites. Materials such as lumber and copper are in high demand, especially in the wake of pandemic-induced supply chain shortages. Contractors report difficulty finding framing lumber, plywood, and materials made from steel, causing prices to continue to rise and making such materials stored on-site more appealing to thieves. 

Household Goods

Household goods are the fourth most stolen items from construction sites. Furniture, appliances, utensils, and air conditioning/heating equipment fall under the NIBRS’ definition of household goods. Thieves often target residential construction projects to steal refrigerators, stoves, washer/dryers, and other large appliances that they can easily resell. These items are easy to steal in volume from multi-family projects or new developments. With no nearby residents at home to notice something is amiss, appliance thieves can go unnoticed after hours. 

Vehicle Parts and Accessories

Finally, vehicle parts and accessories round out the list of commonly stolen items on construction sites. Thieves may not want to bother with stealing an entire vehicle, but its catalytic converter may be worth taking. Just as supply chain challenges are impacting building materials, they’re also reducing the availability of vehicle parts and driving higher rates of theft. 

Car parts like catalytic converters contain precious metals that are worth more than gold––literally. All thieves need to do is slide under an unattended vehicle to quickly remove it, toss it in the back of their truck, and go about their business without attracting any attention. 

To Protect These Assets, Cameras Aren’t Enough

For many construction firms, the first step to protecting valuable assets is to invest in surveillance equipment. Cameras play an essential role in job site security, but they have limitations that criminals can easily exploit. Many of these shortcomings aren’t identified until after an incident, leaving owners in a passive position when they need to investigate a crime. 

They Require Constant Power and Bandwidth

The value of surveillance cameras is that they’re always on—but that’s also what makes them so vulnerable to electricity or internet issues. Insufficient power can cause cameras to flicker on and off or lose their signal. Large job sites require a wide Wi-Fi network to capture a steady signal from all cameras. Even wired cameras can experience data loss due to faulty cabling. 

They Don’t Tell You Where Your Asset Is

When equipment theft occurs, recovery is the primary goal. However, the NIBRS study found that owners recover only 7% of stolen items. Sure, insurance may cover the costs of your losses, but in the meantime, you’re down one piece of equipment. Then you still have to deal with the headaches of a lengthy claims process. It’s better to retrieve the asset quickly, assess it for damage, and put it back in commission as soon as possible. Surveillance footage doesn’t help accelerate that process. It shows you that your asset left the property. It may even show you who took it, but not where it went. 

It’s Too Little, Too Late  

Camera footage comes into play after an asset is stolen. It’s an excellent tool for discovering how a crime was committed and identifying the perpetrators, but it doesn’t protect you from incurring a loss. Often an asset is long gone by the time someone is held accountable. Cameras are inherently passive––they can’t alert you when an item has left a designated area. And if your goal is to retrieve an asset after it’s stolen, that can be too little, too late. 

Non-powered Asset Tracking Prevents Loss

Stolen equipment doesn’t just translate to lost dollars. It also translates to lost productivity. The pressure is on to keep projects on time and budget. That means contractors need to do everything they can to protect all on-site equipment, not just vehicles and heavy machinery. 

That’s where non-powered asset tracking comes in. Trackers for non-powered assets rely on their own long-life batteries to operate, so they can be used for a wide variety of applications, whether the equipment they track has its own power source or not. Non-powered asset trackers can be discreetly placed on equipment to monitor its location and other metrics such as the asset’s usage and condition. 

See Equipment Data in Real Time

Fleet operators have used GPS tracking to keep up with the location of trucks and heavy equipment for more than four decades. Battery-powered asset trackers allow you to bring these same capabilities to high-value tools and equipment that don’t generate their own power. They let you know where assets like lighting towers, specialized tools, and generators are at any given time, even when they’re not in use. 

These items are typically being moved from location to location or may go long periods without being used at all. Monitoring them in real time allows you to identify their location and use that information to reduce the volume of equipment that goes unused. 

Track Assets Without Onsite Power or Internet Connectivity

Non-powered asset trackers use batteries—some even use solar power—to maintain operations. Batteries last for years and can easily be replaced with off-the-shelf items. In addition, they don’t demand much bandwidth on the network—unlike video cameras which require constant access to enough bandwidth to transmit and store video data.

You can configure trackers to collect and send data at any interval you choose, giving you a reliable, consistent method of tracking your assets. For this reason, construction firms often outfit even powered assets with battery-operated trackers. Equipment owners can keep up with all their assets, regardless of whether they’re in use or if the equipment’s power source has failed for some reason.

Trackers Go Where the Assets Go

Unlike a camera, unpowered asset trackers go wherever your equipment goes. They give you an idea of where to look for your asset so you can recover it, not just find out who took it. Geofencing––setting geographic parameters for tracking––allows you to program the tracker to send alerts when an item isn’t where it should be or if it’s running during off-hours. With this capability, you can take action immediately after the unauthorized removal of an item. This is especially valuable for lesser-used equipment you might not immediately notice missing.  

You can configure trackers to collect and send data at any interval you choose, giving you a reliable, consistent method of tracking your assets. For this reason, construction firms often outfit even powered assets with battery-operated trackers. Equipment owners can keep up with all their assets, regardless of whether they’re in use or if the equipment’s power source has failed for some reason.

Unlock New Opportunities with Non-powered Asset Tracking

In addition to theft protection, unpowered asset trackers can also integrate with other sensors to monitor tire pressure, door openings, run time, and other critical asset data. You can also monitor safety risks such as unsafe driving operating practices to provide employees with proactive, corrective training to prevent accidents. 

Non-powered asset tracking enables you to enhance the security of valuable equipment and optimize its use. Implementing the right strategy for your business requires a partner experienced in configuring reliable, secure, easy-to-use solutions. 

HoloTrak can help. Get in touch with us to learn more about using non-powered asset tracking to protect valuable equipment and improve your operations.

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