Australia, C&L, Cranes & Lifting, Features, Technology

Visual Dispatch: Streamlining Universal Cranes For 20 Years

Smithbridge Group has been using Visual Dispatch's crane scheduling software for the past 20 years.

Smithbridge Group CEO Oliver Martin discusses how the Visual Dispatch crane scheduling software helps streamline and centralise the Group’s quoting, scheduling, invoicing, and utilisation for its resources. 

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Across its subsidiary companies Universal Cranes, Universal Cranes NZ & Smithbridge Guam, Smithbridge Group possesses an abundance of resources.  

In its Australian operations alone, the company possesses 10 branches playing host to 309 employees and 170 cranes. Looking across the Tasman Sea to its New Zealand division, Universal Cranes NZ contains two  branches possessing over 100 employees and 39 cranes situated in Auckland and Hamilton. 

Head into the Pacific region to the Smithbridge Guam division of the business, and one finds 343 employees as well as 21 cranes operating across two depots to help  deliver full-service construction operations. In all, the Group employs over 750 people and operates over 500 units of equipment in its crane hire and transport solutions divisions. 

For the family business that was started in 1964 by John Smith and is today run by his son, Albert, this means a colossal number of moving parts in its endeavours to deliver on the Smithbridge Group promise of lifting, moving, constructing, and building. With resources being utilised on a daily basis, keeping track of what resource needs to be allocated where and who possesses what license or induction to get the job done as well as preparing the right equipment for the right job can become a messy, paper-filled, administratively intensive task. Fortunately for Smithbridge Group, and Group CEO Oliver Martin, that entire process is automated and streamlined through the scheduling and allocation software, Visual Dispatch.

“Throughout the entire process of quoting our clients to invoicing them,” says Oliver, “we are constantly using Visual Dispatch software to streamline our administration processes.”

Smithbridge Group has been using Visual Dispatch's crane scheduling software for the past 20 years.
Oliver Martin, Smithbridge Group CEO. Image: Smithbridge Group.

Visual Dispatch’s software details a symbiotic story with the crane and rental industry. Founded in the mid-1990’s, Visual Dispatch sought to address the floods of paperwork that crane hire companies would be drowning in to ensure they could quote, schedule, invoice, track timesheets and monitor utilisation effectively, by developing a computer software to centralise the entire process. Since 2002, Visual Dispatch has been servicing Australian and New Zealand customers, growing based off customer feedback and internal innovation to become a software that focuses on optimising consistent workflows, improving productivity, reducing costs and increasing customer service. For Oliver an accountant by trade who has worked at Smithbridge Group for 14 years, and been Group CEO for four, Visual Dispatch has been ever-present at the company, helping to adequately quote for jobs, schedule and dispatch the right resources to the right locations at the right times, before finalising the process with an invoice that seamlessly integrates with Visual Dispatch’s cloud based ERP software solution. 

“Visual Dispatch provides a lot of visibility for Smithbridge Group’s operations, whether that be through availability of equipment or being able to forecast our revenue,” he says. “Furthermore, we’re able to bundle our resources so that – regardless of if we’re completing a project such as the equipment-intensive Northern Corridor Improvements Project in New Zealand or mobilising a 25-tonne Franna in Brisbane – everyone is always appropriately certified and perfectly clear on what resources needs to be dispatched to what site.”

Visual Dispatch’s benefits are three-pronged: developed specifically for the crane hire industry, the software optimises the quoting process, the crane and support equipment scheduling and dispatching process and the invoicing process. During the quoting process, equipment packages can be standardised within the software to easily quote for projects – both large and small – with the ability to customise quotes to certain orders also contained within. As mentioned above, Visual Dispatch was created for the crane hire industry; and so, the software was designed to ensure resource allocation and scheduling is as efficient as possible. In the software, companies can add new jobs to equipment and employee schedules, share resources between branches, instantly communicate job additions and changes with field and office personnel through email and text, manage resources from a single screen with drag and drop functionality and track employee certifications to make sure the right people are in the right spot to operate the right machinery. 

Using Visual Dispatch is exceptionally practical and intuitive, says Oliver, especially when considering the complexity and scale of some of the crane hire projects Smithbridge Group deploys its machinery on. To get the process going, one simply needs to start a docket within the software; from that point onwards, the docket’s information is permanently maintained online until someone closes it, meaning information is never lost. All job hours are able to be captured and maintained by raising a ticket within the portal, meaning  information on all machinery, equipment, and personnel is available in real time, which is something that Oliver says comes in clutch for monitoring the utilisation of resources.

“Through the electronic ticketing process our crews can access their job and all information required on mobile devices, we can tell exactly what crane is doing what job at what time, and the information is always provided to us in real time,” says Oliver. “This proves itself useful for a range of reasons, such as helping to schedule for future jobs and seeing if an asset could potentially be used elsewhere to optimise its  efficiency.”

A key driver of Visual Dispatch’s innovation is its disposition to working as closely as possible with its customers to improve the functionality and practicality of the software. In Australia and New Zealand, the crane scheduling software company is led by National Manager, Daniel McBride. Having worked in the crane industry since 2010, Daniel brings a wealth of industry experience in day-to-day operations, accounts management and sales. Daniel’s position at the company is reflective of Visual Dispatch’s desire to place industry professionals within the team, enhancing its ability to support customers with implementation, integration and training. For Daniel, fostering such a long, productive relationship with Smithbridge Group underlines the importance of working with a team that understands customers’ objectives and drives the success of both customer and software. 

At the core of Daniel’s role is to ensure that customer needs are met efficiently and effectively. For Oliver and the Smithbridge Group team, this is something they have witnessed firsthand when the company experienced a cyber-attack. According to Oliver, the whole team at Visual Dispatch was extremely responsive, doing their utmost to help bring the relevant systems back online for Smithbridge Group.

“The Visual Dispatch team has always been very responsive to us,” he says. “Dealing with the team is easy, and it’s because of their customer-centric attitude that they’ve created a software rich in functionality that’s aligned with our cloud-first IT strategy.”

Smithbridge Group possesses a huge fleet, containing large machinery such as its 600-tonne capacity Terex Demag CC2800 through to its array of pick and carry cranes. The company hires out its machinery to major projects and recently won awards such as CICA’s Photo of the Year and People’s Lift of the Year (Over 20 tonnes). Behind the cranes, people, and photos, however, is the digitised software solution, Visual Dispatch, ensuring everything is adequately quoted, scheduled, dispatched and invoiced, so city-defining infrastructure projects are able to go ahead. 

“From quoting through to invoicing,” says Oliver, “Visual Dispatch is a holistic, enterprise-wide solution for Smithbridge  Group.” 

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