We’ve all seen it – sprinklers running in the rain, erratic spray patterns, sprinklers pooling in a low spot on a lawn. Since irrigation technicians can’t be everywhere at once, monitoring software is giving them eyes on the ground, even when they can’t be.
With so many options on the market, we spoke to two irrigation contractors to see how they chose the right software for their businesses, and how they use it to streamline their operations.
Beau Drumst, owner of Green Grass Lawn Care in Alabama, says software has helped him put together systems for his customers that he and his crews can monitor without even visiting a site.
Green Grass’ clients are 80 percent apartment complex, condominiums and HOAs. He says the large footprint of the properties made them time-consuming to inspect in the past.
“Now we can spend more time making installs and doing repairs instead of spending weeks on end going out and figuring out where problems might be,” he says, noting that he has been able to take one of his irrigation technicians part-time on a lawn maintenance crew since there hasn’t been as much work for him on the irrigation side.
Drumst says that has helped him keep maintenance crews on track, especially when dealing with situations like callbacks or new clients.
The company uses a software platform that allows them not only to manage its irrigation systems from the office, but it also includes a mobile application for crews to refer to when they’re out making service calls. The app will even send out real-time notifications to let Drumst know if there’s an issue with water flow.
John Bolan, owner of Aquatech Irrigation in Maryland, just started to use monitoring software two years ago, but says even just the drive time he’s saved has made his purchase worthwhile. Because traffic is slow in his area, it makes it hard for technicians to get out to sites in a timely manner.
“Now we don’t have to go out just to check on a system and see that nothing is wrong,” he says. “And if something is wrong, we know we’re not making the trip for no reason.”
Aquatech’s software lets technicians look at water flow remotely, using Wi-Fi to communicate. The software also alerts the company when there’s a problem that needs attention.
Plus, the software has saved both companies’ customers some money on their water bills. “It’s not much, but we certainly aren’t getting complaints,” Bolan says. “And now we can use that as a selling point as well – we’ll only be using the amount of water the lawn really needs.”
The back end.
Drumst says the consumption analysis he can get, among other kinds of reports like flow sensing, have helped him communicate with both current and potential customers as well. He can sit down with property managers at the end of the year and show them how much water they’ve saved compared to years past.
“It’s a huge selling point,” he says. “Plus, I can show those comparisons to folks who are on the fence and it really helps get them on board. They can actually get a sense of how much money they could save and take a look at the numbers themselves.”
Bolan uses his reports to learn more about how the site works and recommend improvements and tweaks to his customers over the years. He says it not only saves his customers money, but it also gives him more interaction.
“It’s a good reason to sit down with property managers face to face and remind them how important what we’re doing is. I feel like it reminds them that they do need us and that they’re getting good service for what they pay us for.”
“They can actually get a sense of how much money they could save and take a look at the numbers themselves.” Beau Drumst, owner, Green Grass Lawn Care
Pick a package.
When searching for the right software for his team, Bolan wanted something streamlined and easy to use, without needing a lot of time to set up and learn. His small team of four was already stretched thin and he says he wasn’t looking for something that would be “more trouble than it’s worth.”
“I know a lot of people want all the bells and whistles, but I was really looking for the opposite,” he says. “I wanted the bare minimum to get started and see what this stuff can really do.”
Drumst was looking for a package that not only had the capabilities he needed, but also the right support.
“We demoed a couple of different plans and we ultimately decided to go with the company that we felt gave us the right training opportunities and support,” he says. “I’m not a real tech-savvy guy, and neither is my staff, so I kind of needed someone to hold my hand and show me everything.”
He’s now looking to integrate his design software into the monitoring software to streamline the process. While he may need to buy a whole new package, he thinks now is the time to invest the money into it.
“Where we are, and I think all across the country, people are really looking at the more eco-friendly stuff,” he says. “I don’t want to be the guy who’s falling behind the curve. I want to get ahead of it.”