How AC Environnement is improving operational performance using asset tracking

"Right from the beginning, the objective was to support our teams in better supervising the fleet, both daily (local agency) and for the maintenance cycles (dedicated service), all the while minimising each stakeholder’s actions"
Pierre-Maxime Fortin
Operations & internal audit manager at AC Environnement

AC Environnement is the French leader for real estate & environmental surveys: lead, asbestos… The group’s teams operate across France to measure pollutants levels on construction sites and private housing.

This activity relies on sophisticated and costly equipment (thousands of euros per unit). All in all, AC Environnement exploits a fleet of more than 1 000 mobile assets spread across 25 agencies in France.

By nature, this fleet is highly mobile, constantly traveling between agencies, measuring sites and maintenance workshop, which makes its management complex (inventory, planification, sizing, security…). Reliable and real-time data are not enough to convey the reality of the field – so teams are forced to resort to manual and time-consuming admin tasks, while fleet sizing mostly relies on local teams’ appreciation.

"It is tough to define a standard fleet size when local challenges vary widely. The lack of reliable and real-time data probably brought us to oversize our assets fleets while having no vision of our real needs. Some teams probably own too many assets, while others are facing shortages."
Pierre-Maxime Fortin
Operations & internal audit manager at AC Environnement

In September 2020 AC Environnement launched a Proof of Value for asset tracking, supported by Argon & Co and Sensolus, aiming at:

  • Improving the efficiency in daily fleet management
  • Securing assets
  • Optimising the fleet to its adequate size

Beyond these objectives, the visibility provided by asset tracking enables AC Environnement to engage in a major transformation of its fleet management model: from a purely local towards a partially centralised model, to better respond to demand while reducing the total number of required assets.

This textbook case properly illustrates the value of asset tracking: beyond its technological aspect, it relies on processes digitalisation, up to organisational transformations that were, so far, out of reach. Such transformation can only be envisioned if operations and business teams are placed at the centre of all discussions.

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Welcome to turnkey, low-cost asset tracking

The Internet of Things still carries an experimental image from the beginnings of Supply Chain 4.0: sensors, connectivity, data processing, integration… multiple complexities which discourage companies and frequently relegate good ideas to the Proof of Concept or technical tests stages – with the technical debate often taking precedence over digital transformation and business value.

Yet the market has greatly evolved since those beginnings: solutions are turning more mature, field-proven and reliable, changing the rules by proposing approaches across three dimensions:

  • All inclusive: industrial grade sensors (with an autonomy ranging from 3 to 5 years), connectivity through low-cost IoT dedicated networks (Sigfox, LoRaWan, NB-IoT…), data processing, robust platforms and APIs
  • Plug and Play: deployment of web solutions does not necessitate prior works. Sensors are attached, turned on, and are ready to go. Subsequent integrations are facilitated thanks to APIs.
  • Pay per use: rather than a licence model, costs are directly linked to fleet size – deployment can therefore be performed gradually

For this project we relied on Sensolus – a Belgian forerunner and leader on the IoT asset tracking market (relying on the Sigfox LPWAN network): 100,000 connected assets globally, on a solution that has been in production for many years, time-tested at large scale by heavyweights from multiple industries (Airbus, Suez Belgium, AB InBev…)

Alleviated from technological considerations, the project could turn toward what is most important: demonstrate IoT’s value for business and operations transformation.

Operational efficiency: real-time, instant inventory on a platform dedicated to collaboration

"Asset monitoring is complex in our business, since they’re stored both in agencies and on construction sites, while circulating continuously. Inventory is time-consuming and unreliable."
Pierre-Maxime Fortin
Operations & internal audit manager at AC Environnement

Emails, phone calls, Whatsapp, Excel files more or less up to date… knowing the location and current availability of a fleet of mobile tools to plan your activity is time consuming and imprecise. This operation takes an average of 30 minutes per day, per agency.

By combining real-time accurate geolocation (GPS + Wifi-sniffing + BLE) with geozones, IoT reduces the inventory task to a click. Rather than points on a map (also available of course), it is above all an aggregated and functional vision that is useful.

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IoT data benefits from being generated and processed automatically: rather than transactional data manually entered by operators, giving way to errors or delays, it reflects an instantaneous physical and operational reality.

The platform also serves another purpose: facilitating collaboration. By providing all employees with access to a single, up-to-date, version of the truth, the solution eliminates the need for email exchanges or phone calls.

© Argon&Co

Asset usage rate: a rich and reliable data at the service of your business

"The asset usage rate will allow us to better anticipate our needs, or even to make some predictive purchasing, and to give visibility on the real needs to management."
Pierre-Maxime Fortin
Operations & internal audit manager at AC Environnement

The value of the IoT data does not stop at the instantaneous: as the weeks go by, a detailed view of the field emerges. Dormant assets, storage locations, implementation of guidelines, duration of maintenance cycles… the data records from sensors provides an in-depth understanding of operations.

To process this aggregated data, we chose to connect Sensolus with PowerBI, by implementing custom business KPIs designed together with AC Environnement teams, such as:

  • Fleet daily status (on site, dormant, maintenance, transfer…)
  • Weekly assets rotation
  • Transfer rates between agencies

These analyses allow us to measure the actual assets use rate, beyond the intuitions of the field, and to understand and compare the behaviours of different agencies. Updated automatically, accessible to all of the company’s management, they allow teams to control their activity on a factual and quantitative basis.

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Example of business KPIs: fleet daily status and dormant assets

Random data for illustration purposes

Digitalisation of processes and new organisational models

Relying on the visibility provided by asset tracking, AC Environnement is evolving its fleet’s steering model. From purely local, the company is moving into a partially centralised model – where a central stock absorbs demand spikes and maintenance related immobilisations. The outcome: a potential 15% reduction of the fleet and better assets’ turnover.

Relying on IoT data, tools for transfer monitoring are currently being developed for a pilot stating early 2021. API’s connections to AC Environnement’s information systems are also planned (CRM, CMMS…).

© Argon&Co

Convenience, confidence… IoT also brings a number of non-quantifiable benefits

By avoiding repetitive hours spent looking for equipment, IoT contributes to making everyone’s life easier. On construction sites, equipment left at night is found faster using a mobile application, by combining sensors’ GPS and BLE capabilities.

Finally, having assets under control is a token of confidence for AC Environnement’s partners: customers have confirmation that a measure is indeed in progress, regulatory bodies are reassured about the management of sensitive equipment, and communication with repairers is simplified.

"The real estate and environmental surveys sector is no exception to the digital transition. At AC Environnement, we have chosen to be a driving force on the subject. The IoT project conducted with Argon & Co is a demonstration of this ambition. We continue to innovate around digital building management: BIM, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality… Providing reliable and instantaneous data to our customers is the challenge of tomorrow and we are ready for it."
Jean-Baptiste Sebag
Operations and Transformation Director at AC Environnement

Have a look at your Supply Chain: supports, trailers, crates, tools, vehicles… a significant part of your business is surely based on these mobile assets. Are you ready to for IoT?

For more details on AC Environnement, click here

About Sensolus

Sensolus is an established asset tracking player whose expertise is based on many years of experience in low-speed networks, mobile sensor design and cloud services.

As an expert in tracking solutions design, we are improving the logistics and supply chain processes for companies such as Airbus, Atlas Corpo and MHI Vestas.

For more information, click here

About Argon & Co

Argon & Co is a global management consultancy that specialises in operations strategy and transformation. Its expertise spans the supply chain, procurement, finance and shared services, working together with clients to transform their businesses and generate real change. Its people are engaging to work with and trusted by clients to get the job done.

Argon & Co has offices in Paris, London, Abu Dhabi, Atlanta, Auckland, Chicago, Melbourne, Mumbai and Singapore.

More information on Argon&Co’s Digital & IT and Supply Chain Planning services.

Article written by:

  • Clovis Ravion, Manager Digital Factory at Argon&Co
  • Benjamin Grise, Senior Manager at Argon&Co

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