Fleet Data Drives Decisions

Sept. 9, 2011


Reprinted with the permission of Equipment Manager magazine, the magazine of AEMP.

The construction world is changing…changing for the better.

Reprinted with the permission of Equipment Manager magazine, the magazine of AEMP.

The construction world is changing…changing for the better.

Heavy equipment has become easier to operate, more ergonomic and much safer. With machine control and jobsite communication technologies, contractors are experiencing dramatic improvements in project productivity, accuracy and timeliness, as well as real-time access to critical fleet and asset information. Some heavy equipment manufacturers are offering both machine control and telematics solutions built into their machines from the factory floor.

Contractors can now track vehicles, schedule equipment maintenance, manage vehicle operator behavior, track tools and other portable assets, and manage jobsite assignments. Contractor management understands that with any piece of equipment down for repair or unscheduled maintenance, revenue is lost.

Fortunately, more robust machine-control technology combined with telematics is ensuring even better machine maintenance, less unscheduled downtime and greater management control over valuable machine and human assets. Sophisticated software-driven systems are available that weave machine control together with the ability to track assets and communicate machine health.

Contractors have been seeing the benefit in the field of controlling the earthworks operations using machine control. Machines automatically follow an up-to-date 3D site plan for the cut and fill required to match the site-prep plan. This information has been invaluable to the machine operator and the site superintendent. It has made for better finish grading, virtually halted rework and eliminated costly staking. The benefits on the site have been reported to be huge.

Separately, there have been numerous fleet management, equipment tracking and employee monitoring systems that offer defined niche solutions. Many of these programs operate through wi-fi-connected laptops and smartphone alerts.

As grade control and fleet asset management solutions continue to develop, the integration of technology is the natural evolution. New software and hardware that truly connect the worksite to contractor management located in a home office or remote office has become real.

The idea of real-time, interactive communication between the work site and management has been on the wish list for some time now. The potential benefit of syncing data between the field and the office is enormous.

Recognize that advanced telematics solutions can now enable the contractor to empirically quantify the productivity, efficiency, savings and return on investment of machine control systems, which is one of the true powers of having an integrated machine control and telematics platform.

Consider the diverse needs found in a construction organization. There’s the machine health and maintenance interests of the fleet manager, equipment utilization and productivity information for the site manager, machine tracking and site-plan file information for the grade checkers and surveyors, and the project progress updates for senior management. All of this information and more is now available in one system for smarter decision making.

Highly sophisticated, robust software makes it possible for management to have easy access to real-time details and diagnostic information. Options for managing projects and improving the efficiency of maintenance operations, including overall fleet availability, are here.

Web-based solutions combine GPS-based positioning and communications technology hardware to provide real-time equipment and site productivity information such as the following:

•            Project tracking—knowing if it’s on track
and on budget

•            Machine health and maintenance

•            Location and hours

•            Events

•            User-defined alerts

•            Production volume calculations

The efficiency of maintenance operations improves when critical diagnostic information can be sent directly from the machine to the fleet manager and/or service manager. For example, if machine diagnostics triggers an internal fault code, the notification can initiate both predictive and preventive maintenance. The fault code may be “overheating,” which alerts the operator or maintenance manager to check if the radiator is closed or is low on coolant before it creates more problems.

The system can also alert the fleet manager to the manufacturer-recommended service intervals to help prolong the life of the machine.

With this solution, fleet managers, rental equipment managers, as well as managers of all levels across the organization, have access to a range of real-time, valuable information. They have access to asset management as well as an overview of machine health, fuel management and working utilization. By centralizing and simplifying the management of onsite operations, contractors can maximize efficiency, raise productivity and lower owning and operating costs for the entire fleet.

Managers can use a web-based solution, such as VisionLink, to see map-based equipment views and run on-demand reports or charts. Additionally, alert functions can automatically notify users via e-mail or SMS messaging.

A web-based application can provide managers with freedom and control. Using an office computer, laptop, computer tablet or smartphone, one can view equipment, regardless of make, in a secure, web-based application. Contractors can know when and where equipment is working, which in turn could help improve logistics for fuel, transportation or service dispatch. With high-
frequency updates as often as one minute, a software-based solution can help managers:

•            Control costs by monitoring fuel usage

•            Monitor production and make informed changes to the process with cycle times and load count data

•            Manage repair and maintenance timing and costs

•            Ensure maximum machine productivity without driving to the site

Information can be archived, too, enabling asset managers to improve machine-cost accuracy by profiling machines. With the information being web-based, managers have 24/7 access anytime they want it.

As the construction market continues to evolve, construction managers will be looking to site-office connections for access to both telematics and production information. Gaining access to a wealth of real-time data will clearly help managers make better big-picture decisions on everything from project bidding, equipment utilization, production and the health and maintenance of their heavy equipment assets. EM

John Biondo is market manager, fleet and asset
management, Trimble Heavy and Highway Division.