Asphalt Contractor Magazine, October 2015, by John Kane, product manager, B2W Software
The use of telematics to track fuel use, engine hours, GPS location, fault codes and numerous other metrics is nothing new. What is new is the opportunity to optimize that data by adopting industry standards and a software-based Maintenance Management Program.
In recent years, construction enterprises have been moving away from managing and maintaining their fleets solely by e-mail, paper forms and spreadsheets. For many companies, this task has grown too large to be continued in a manual process. Telematics have helped, but managing data from multiple manufacturers in multiple formats has also created new challenges. In many cases, it takes too long and too much manual intervention to extract and decipher this information in order to use it.
Construction companies’ cries for help are being heard, and a new streamlined process is taking shape. Equipment manufacturers are moving to standardized telematics data, and maintenance management software is delivering powerful opportunities to use the data to optimize maintenance operations.
Telematics standards are vital
Telematics are changing the construction industry and when properly used can have a dramatic impact on a company’s bottom line. There is a high value of telematics for the automation of the service process and for identifying when an asset should be brought in for maintenance. However, a stumbling block remains in the Tower of Babel — the proprietary means by which manufacturers communicate their data.
Because each manufacturer historically delivered telematics information differently, most construction companies have been forced to use a variety of means to access, understand and correlate it all. Companies may need to log into web portals of multiple manufacturers to pull this telematics data. First it’s a visit to the John Deere site, then it’s a completely different site to pull similar information for the Volvo fleet, then it’s onto Caterpillar, and so on.
Using an intermediary source to aggregate and reconcile data from multiple equipment suppliers is another option, but that can add another layer of complexity and expenses.
An industry-wide standard for telematics data makes obvious sense. The Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) have led the charge in this area and made great progress.
Their current standard – version 1.2 – includes 19 data fields. In addition to this expanded number of data fields, the new standard also changes how this information is accessed in an effort to make it easier to integrate with other systems and processes. This includes standardized communication protocols for transferring telematics information across equipment fleets to end user Maintenance Management Programs.
By working closely with manufacturers to develop their own Application Programming Interface (API), the AEMP is helping to ensure that all telematics information is formatted with the same language and style.
Maintenance management programs optimize telematics
Expanded industry standards and APIs make it easier to export more telematics data, and software-based Maintenance Management Programs are the key to maximizing the obvious potential of that data. It’s a powerful combination that can increase real-time visibility and awareness, automate maintenance processes and improve reporting.
Let’s look at work orders for preventive maintenance as an example. Without a Maintenance Management Program, a mechanic or manager must review telematics data manually, identify when a piece of equipment is due for routine maintenance and then generate a work order. In contrast, a Maintenance Management Program can pull in telematics data for each piece of equipment, analyze it and generate the work order for routine maintenance at the appropriate time – all automatically.
Similarly, reports and dashboards used to manage maintenance processes can be automatically populated with telematics data.
Combining telematics and a Maintenance Management Program provides powerful benefits when it comes to cutting maintenance costs and optimizing fleet performance, uptime and safety.
But don’t be fooled, it’s not the younger generation who grew up attached to PlayStation, that is leading the charge to advanced technology. In many construction companies, it’s the seasoned pros who are realizing the ROI advantages.
Many construction companies are understandably apprehensive about introducing a Maintenance Management Program, fearing resistance from maintenance teams with limited software experience. Most, however, are pleasantly surprised by how fast those teams embrace the technology. There are two primary reasons. These employees want to be successful and they recognize quickly that maintenance software makes it easier for them to be successful. Secondly, the best maintenance software programs are now extremely intuitive and easy to use.
We are only scratching the surface
Combining telematics and Maintenance Management Programs allows an entire new world to open up. One of the most impressive aspects of this is its Global Positioning System (GPS) ability. Using GPS with fleet telematics enables the monitoring of location, movements and the general status of a vehicle. This is made possible by a combination of a GPS receiver and an electronic GSM device installed within each vehicle. Collected data provides complete and up-to-the-minute status of any vehicle in the fleet – potentially valuable data for the maintenance team.
Perhaps even more impressive than GPS abilities are geofencing abilities. A recent report from ABI Research forecast that the provision of geofencing tools will be a market in its own right and will reach almost $300 million in 2017. The research company points to low-cost tools becoming available, and the fact that geofencing is moving beyond traditional location-based applications
For construction companies, geofencing provides geographic boundaries around vehicles that reside on the construction site or that are stored elsewhere. The system sends out automated alerts when a vehicle enters or leaves these specific boundaries. This is extremely valuable information for executives, foremen and other construction workers. In addition it provides an added protection for vehicles that should not be operated due to safety, based on maintenance schedules.
The biggest benefit of telematics for many companies, from a financial perspective, may lie in the potential to improve preventive maintenance. As explained earlier, merging telematics data with a Maintenance Management Program can automate processes. That increases adherence to preventive programs, leading to lower maintenance and repair costs, increased uptime, fewer breakdowns and a safer fleet.
The construction industry has taken notice of these powerful advances telematics. Telogis underscores this by recently issuing its five big construction industry trends for 2015 and specifically noted telematics. According to their blog, the trends are:
- Assets with built-in telematics will become a lot more common.
- Managers will be accessing more real-time data on the go.
- Focus on improving the asset safety and security.
- Fuel use and potential savings will continue to be critical.
- Strong growth in OHV telematics adoption.
Construction companies are embracing new technologies to combat margin pressure and drive profitability. With telematics, growing pains of dealing with data from multiple manufacturers in multiple formats are giving way to industry standards that make it easier to access a growing range of data. Vehicle manufactures can do their part by embracing new AEMP Telematics Standards and providing simple APIs for companies to easily pull data into their Maintenance Management Programs.
Access, however, is only one part of the equation. With a wealth of data and no way to process it efficiently and make it actionable, companies can be left at a competitive disadvantage.
A Maintenance Management Program is the logical companion to telematics and a way to turn that disadvantage into and advantage. The specialized software gives companies a way to optimize telematics data to streamline and automate maintenance processes and manage their fleets from one, unified platform that interfaces across many disciplines – such as estimating, scheduling and field tracking.