We Need a Common Machine-Management Language

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief | September 28, 2010

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The Construction Equipment Top 100 selection process reviews all the year's new equipment. A glance through the Ancillary Products section reveals a trend specific to one of our four judging criteria: advances in technology. Machine-control technology has proven itself among earthmovers, but 2007 is the year these technologies moved into other machines and applications, most notably paving, compaction and trenching. You can read about these on pages 64–70 in this month's report.

What leads us to believe that machine-control technology has broken out, though, are two related events. One was the recent announcement by an equipment manufacturer, the other was a move by equipment managers.

In early November, Caterpillar appointed a vice president to head a new group, the Electronics & Connected Worksite Division, to address "the fast-developing areas of machine control and guidance, product health and asset management." It expands beyond machine control and incorporates the electronic reporting of component health and machine data.

This is good news for Caterpillar fleets, as these technologies bring tremendous tools to the equipment manager in terms of monitoring not only component and machine health, but also in terms of making important decisions regarding acquisition, repair and disposal.

But few fleets are homogenous, and equipment managers are frustrated because none of the branded machine technology speaks the same language. The Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) recently formed a task force of end-users to address the issue. Executive director Stan Orr says the task force will identify key machine information that needs to be commonly expressed. AEMP will then turn to its OEM associates to begin discussing how to bring commonality to asset-management communication.

We think AEMP is taking the right tack to achieve this goal. We appreciate the proprietary nature of OEM machine-management technology, but end-users need a common language. It's time to open communications so fleets can collect data in a manner as efficient as the technology itself.