9 August 2019, 10:57
Many contractors and fleet owners have traded gut instinct for data as they use telematic technology to track machine hours, location, idling and more. Telematics is used to collect, record, and transmit vehicle operational data on a web-based platform from which further analysis can be completed. “’I think so’ isn’t good enough anymore,” says Mike Vorster, owner of C.E.M.P. Central, a training and consulting firm focused on improving equipment return on investment.
“When we want to know where a dozer is, we go into the telematics position report and find it. We don’t travel to the jobsite where we think the machine is located,” adds Vorster.
Benefits for fleet owners of any size
“If it saves you an engine, a final drive or transmission, to me the cost of telematics is cheap,” says Keith R. Barrett, CEM, director of Equipment Operations at employee-owned PC Construction Company in South Burlington, Vt. The company obtains telematic data on 50 to 60 machines and feeds information from various OEM platforms to a third-party software provider. He believes fleet owners of any size should take advantage of telematics on their critical assets. “If you don’t adapt, you’re destined for failure,” advises Barrett.
Data collection problems that occurred before the AEM/AEMP telematics standard was adopted by manufacturers are for the most part resolved. “We are 80 percent through the data collection problem, but we are babes unborn when it comes to creating value from that data,” says Vorster.
Despite most construction equipment OEMs including a free subscription for telematics with a machine purchase, not all equipment owners appear to be taking full advantage of the technology. In Teletrac Navman’s 2018 Telematics Benchmark Report, 75 percent of respondents reported using telematics, yet 45 percent reported no reduction in fuel costs since implementation. Reduced fuel usage is one of the key benefits of telematics as it helps fleet managers identify excess idle time and take steps to resolve the problems. Only 17 percent reported time or cost savings.
These statistics are a reminder that data in and of itself provides no value unless managers take action on the data. “It’s the analytics and decision-making based on that data, that adds value,” says Vorster.
Barrett believes there are many fleet owners who are not taking full advantage of the data. “Information is powerful but it can be overwhelming,” he says.
Both Vorster and Barrett recommend that if managers or business are overwhelmed by data, they reduce the amount of data collected and focus on key information such as:
“They need to pick and choose what their hot buttons are,” says Barrett. Owners of small fleets who juggle many tasks may want to stick to an OEM plan and purchase fleet monitoring services from their dealer. “Align yourself with a major manufacturer that provides enough bells and whistles and rely on them,” says Barrett. He thinks larger mixed fleets such as the one he manages for PC Construction (with hundreds of assets) are probably best served by third party software programs.
See the future with telematics
Vorster believes that while we are getting better and better at using data to determine where we have been and where we are at, we have failed to use data to determine where we are going. For example, do six overheating alerts in a month mean a machine is more expensive or less reliable? Or, does it mean we should sell right way? “Everybody has been fussing about getting feeds into software, but how are these feeds going to affect our future? Our ability to draw inferences is still very much in its infancy,” says Vorster.
Improving the way we make decisions into the future will increase the value of telematics data.
“Cost is an obstacle if there is no value,” says Vorster. “If there is value there is no obstacle.”
Both Vorster and Barrett believe the next step in telematics software will be getting data scientists focused on exploring the inferences that will improve the firm’s bottom line through fleet management. Using artificial intelligence, the next generation of fleet management software will likely be capable of using telematics data to anticipate future problems, recognize risky situations, maximize productivity, and assist in making fleet decisions that maximize value over the long term.
CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020: Where big iron and technology share the stage
If you are looking for what’s new and what’s next in telematics save the date for CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020, March 10-14 in Las Vegas. It is North America's largest construction trade show with more than 2,800 exhibitors and 150 education sessions. Sign up for Show Alerts.