Harmonize your data for off-road fleets

Big data is exploding, and it’s impacting fleets around the world.

International Data Corporation estimates that by 2020, the world will be generating 44 times more data than we were in 2009. Experts are using the word zettabyte (yes, it’s a real word) more often to describe this exponential uptick in data storage.

Storing this rapidly growing cyber-mountain doesn’t seem to be an issue, but the cracks are beginning to show for those who make data-driven decisions. They often are unsure of how to best use this digital torrent.

One critical piece of the problem is disconnected data, which is actually costing equipment owners and operators millions of dollars every year in lost productivity, reduced efficiency and overlapping systems.

One Common Platform Where Data Can Meet on Level Footing

The best way to understand disconnected data is to think of it in terms of communication. For example, when different teams within a business fail to communicate, the result is a host of problems that affect the bottom line, including jobsite mistakes, lost productivity and clients kept in the dark.

Part of the problem is that many businesses still struggle with collecting and implementing different tools that don’t talk to each other. This creates a variety of pain points:

  • The mother of all reports: This report can take days to assemble. It generally involves logging in to several different systems to create a collection of smaller reports, often with overlapping data. Then the laborious task of merging this disparate data begins. Time-consuming and often out-of-date by the time it’s finished, this report strikes fear into even the hardiest analyst.
  • Contradicting charts: Guaranteed to confuse most managers, these mash-ups are often found in office presentations, consisting of charts pulled from separate systems and different source data that tell different stories. The axiom “the numbers never lie” has never met one of these brain-bending messes.
  • He said/she said: The customer has been told one thing by a mobile field worker, but those at the back office know nothing about it. This is an embarrassing situation for any company that prides itself on efficiency and good customer service.

So, what’s the answer? The solution to disconnected data might appear to be to talk more, but it’s not that simple. Talking more is analogous to creating more data. But that doesn’t solve the issues caused by disconnected data. It just creates more noise. Companies need a common platform where different data can meet on level footing. One place to monitor all equipment for accurate and timely data on fuel use, idle time and machine hours use for daily job cost analysis. A platform that ensures maximum machine utilization between jobs for all equipment and accurate and timely maintenance information to reduce downtime and maintenance.

To illustrate, think about the World Wide Web. Agreed-upon standards are the reason millions of computers can connect and enjoy different types of content delivered across thousands of different networks using a common browser. Without those standards, no one could leverage the amazing power that a global library offers.

Common Barriers to Telematics Adoption

Today’s fleets are facing a similar challenge. For construction businesses, simplicity and mixed fleet compatibility have been two of the most common barriers to telematics adoption—even when their equipment comes straight from the manufacturer enabled with telematics.

When employing telematics, these companies can have significantly different needs and interests than their peers. Thankfully, modern third-party software providers are now meeting these needs through intuitive and easily adaptable user interfaces and broad cross-manufacturer support.

One barrier to the widespread adoption of any new technology, including telematics, is to understand how a particular piece of software or hardware will benefit a business and whether it will actually produce a return on investment.

Many newer pieces of construction equipment come enabled by the manufacturer (OEM) for telematics use. However, OEMs typically install proprietary hardware and software that are incompatible with that of other manufacturers.

In the past, this forced companies with mixed fleets to learn and interpret each OEM software system—which often presented different machine data in different ways—and then spend time checking all the different displays on each OEM machine.

Despite these obstacles, third-party telematics providers have taken the power of telematics from an overwhelming jumble of data and refined it so that it simply works the way a fleet or equipment manager expects it to. No more switching from one manufacturer’s interface to another to track different makes of vehicles or assets. No more trying to decipher how to make fleet decisions based on disconnected data. Third-party telematics is now capable of integrating all vehicles in a fleet and presenting the data in a uniform and actionable format. These telematics systems also can incorporate vehicle data from a company’s on- or off-highway fleets that are already part of a vehicular telematics program.

In addition to offering software that can centralize and easily communicate data from OEM telematics hardware, third-party providers also can retrofit older equipment with telematics-capable hardware (in an aftermarket scenario), enabling a company to track the use, productivity and location of its entire fleet—vehicles, heavy equipment, assets and people. This allows companies to better understand equipment utilization for their entire fleet, old and new, all from one solution.

In many cases, telematics is offered in a software-as-a-service model, to which a user subscribes. Benefits of this approach include cost-saving updates, software improvements and contracts that are scalable to a company’s specific needs and changes in equipment. This model doesn’t require an extensive IT investment in new computers, servers or other technology.

One Screen – One View

A telematics system can provide nearly any piece of measurable information about a machine, including location, hourly usage and idling, fluid levels, engine conditions and more. The potential cost savings that timely and efficient use of this information can provide is significant.

Some third-party telematics providers, like Telogis, can offer systems that are often referred to as hardware agnostic. This can provide a unified picture on the use of any mixed fleet equipment, as well as offer the required flexibility to customize the data they provide to the needs and interests of the user.

As a true enterprise tool, a telematics system should extend well beyond just construction or compact equipment as well. Most compact equipment is small enough to be delivered on site by a Ford F-550 or smaller type vehicle. And many operators and site foremen will arrive in a company truck. While the physical assets compose the biggest portion of the balance sheet, human resources are the largest part of the P & L.

Managers need to know where their trucks and people are too. Liability for trucks and employees does not end when the quitting time bell rings. If just one employee gets into an accident even after hours, employers are liable. And, these accidents are costly: $74,000 on average according to OSHA. Some telematics solutions allow seamless integration of truck fleet monitoring, asset monitoring and back office ERP. Any business can now reduce after-hour’s usage and fuel consumption by monitoring truck idling while ensuring that customers are billed according to usage.

The potential for telematics doesn’t end with heavy equipment. Virtually any equipment that uses electronics or a motor—welders, generators, portable lighting, etc.—can benefit from telematics data. Beyond that, GPS functionality can allow companies to track nearly anything else a company values, including on-site work trailers, attachments and more.