Technology Today: Plan for Solutions at Conexpo-Con/Agg

By Pat Crail, CEM, Contributing Editor | March 4, 2011

More than 100,000 industry professionals will converge this month on the Las Vegas Convention Center for Conexpo-Con/Agg 2011. The mammoth displays at this triennial show make me feel like a kid in a candy store. There are literally too many displays to see everything. A great many of these exhibits showcase innovations in technology, some of which are unveiled to the industry for the first time at the expo.

Although the show certainly provides the opportunity to learn a great deal about new products, services and technologies available today, you have to narrow your focus by identifying problems that you need to solve.  Your existing fleet-management reporting systems and key performance indicators are a good place to start. Assuming you have well-defined metrics for measuring fleet performance, ask yourself if your current reporting systems help easily identify areas where you are falling short in achieving those metrics.

Is the data that drives these reports timely and accurate? If not, perhaps you should focus your time at the expo looking for solutions that will improve the timeliness and accuracy of the data needed for these reports. If you are still using pen-and-paper reporting combined with manual entry to transfer hour-meter or location information from the field into your database, you may want to look for technologies or products that can help you automate the data-gather process.

Telematics is a hot topic, and Conexpo-Con/Agg will likely have dozens of vendors offering telematics solutions. Now that the AEMP Telematics Data Standard allows end-users to retrieve data from supporting telematics providers using a common file format, you need not be limited to one provider for your entire fleet. You may opt to use factory-installed systems on new machines from multiple suppliers and add third-party solutions for legacy machines, yet use one application to retrieve critical data elements from all of these different providers. If you are thinking about taking the telematics plunge, the expo provides you with a unique opportunity to talk with multiple telematics providers and decide which solutions might be appropriate for your particular needs. The Association of Equipment Management Professionals will also host educational sessions that address the use of telematics systems and the role the AEMP Telematics Data Standard can play in integrating data from multiple providers into one database.

Although telematics is admittedly one of the sexier technologies, there are other technological solutions to the problems of data lag and data corruption that often accompany manual data retrieval and entry. Perhaps you have realized that you are not tracking fuel usage as well as you could. You may also be looking for a solution for tracking the fuel that your iron burns. If this is the case, you may want to consider looking for a fuel-tracking solution that also allows you to collect machine location and hour-meter readings each time a machine is fueled. Our organization adopted such a system, and our location and meter accuracy has increased markedly with little additional expense by piggybacking onto the fuel-tracking system. It’s not as glamorous as a fleet-wide telematics implementation, but we increased our reporting accuracy for a marginal increase in cost.

Perhaps a review of your existing reporting system reveals that you are not receiving the reports you need to measure actual performance against your established metrics. In that case, you may be in the market for new fleet-management software. There will likely be a number of software vendors showcasing fleet-management systems, providing a perfect opportunity to ask detailed questions and learn more about which system might be appropriate for you.

Rather than wandering around the show like a kid in a candy store, spend a little time defining your needs in advance. This will allow you to develop a plan that makes your time at the show as productive and educational as possible. You will be able to spend your time finding technological solutions for your problems, rather than looking at all of the cool gadgets available and wondering how you might use them.