Industrial IoT Integration: The Difference Between Failure and Success

When it comes to integrating industrial IoT systems, a good upfront planning process can make all the difference. According to ZTR Control Systems Strategic Planning Manager, Len Auer, construction companies need to clearly define what they want to accomplish, the information they need, and who should have quick access to that information.

As a provider of intelligent remote monitoring technology, ZTR has been a global player in the industrial IoT industry since the 1990s. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), connects equipment, business systems and suppliers to a network of digital information. Having direct access to that information helps businesses reduce costs and capitalize on opportunities.

Progressive equipment dealers and rental companies are looking for efficiency gains. They want a single, 24/7 view of all the equipment they manage, with integration into their own business systems. This constant connection opens the door to the potential for new services including:

  • Targeted fuel contracting – using available fuel and mapping data to enable proactive refueling runs instead of topping off fuel tanks regardless of level
  • Remote control – putting equipment into creep mode if customer tries to use equipment outside of rental agreement timeframe, (e.g. on weekends)
  • OSHA user authorization – requiring scans of user ID cards before equipment can be turned on and verifying users have appropriate safety certifications
  • Remote diagnostics and remote equipment configuration with software updates
  • Site productivity analysis – implementing web-based tools to allow end customers to analyze construction sites for utilization and other key telematics data

“More equipment operators are also demanding an integrated solution,” Auer says. “They want data that will help them drive productivity and reduce operating costs. And they really like the idea of being integrated with the dealer because many operators are looking for help.”

Speaking of help, Auer says it’s important for a construction company to partner with a good technology provider with a proven track record of success in the industry. Once the right IoT partner is selected, companies can focus on four key areas to ensure successful implementation.

1. Equipment integration

One misconception is that any off-the-shelf telematics device will simply plug and play without issue. The reality is that many devices are primarily designed to only provide GPS location tracking. “Some have vibration sensors that attempt to measure when a machine is running, but they’re not usually very accurate,” Auer says.

The problem is that most construction companies want much more than just GPS location data. In order to get the desired telematics data, some integration is required between the telematics device and the machine itself. Companies shouldn’t expect to simply be able to slap and track.

“We often do some tweaking, like creating a wire harness so our device can connect to certain equipment,” Auer says. “We also work on integration with that machine’s controller to get the rich information our customer desires.”

Construction companies should look for an IoT partner that can work with almost any machine out there across equipment types, makes and models. This is especially important for those companies operating mixed fleets. Rich telematics data is needed throughout the fleet to help improve utilization, operator behavior, government reporting, preventive maintenance and more.

2. Wireless communications

A lot of people think they’ll just get the telematics hardware and a SIM card and figure out the wireless piece themselves. “Our experience shows that most users will come back in a couple of years because there’s a lot more to it than what they’d thought.”

Some overlooked items that often fall on the construction company’s shoulders include:

  • The need to build a secure gateway with the wireless carrier, and then remain current with the necessary certifications and approvals
  • How to manage data plans as the fleet changes to ensure biggest bang for buck
  • Troubleshooting why certain devices aren’t connected
  • Dealing with non- and/or over-communicating devices within the fleet, which is often the result of poor installation

3. Business system integration

If telematics data remains separate from the business system most employees work with, that’s a problem. Data needs to be pushed to the right people, right where they need it. “The user still gets all the value from the telematics web application,” Auer points out. “But we’ve seen that the benefits go up dramatically when companies think through this system integration.”

The first thing to do is define your digital strategy because that will tell you where you need the integration to happen. What are your business priorities? Do you want to reduce repair costs or fuel costs, improve bid accuracy or increase productivity?

“When evaluating different IoT providers, ask for examples of success stories related to the specific things you are looking to do,” Auer says. “It’s also important to find a supplier that will work with you to customize your APIs. Anybody who says an API is just off the shelf isn’t telling the truth. Every API must be tailored to align with the two business systems.”

Users must also consider how the data will be validated so they don’t have to worry about it being flawed. Good examples are engine temperature and hydraulic line pressure. If a number comes in and it’s outside of a set range, you should be able to filter it out so it doesn’t skew the overall data. “You first have to look at each data point and establish what a reasonable range would be, and then program it in the software so any outliers are filtered out,” Auer explains.

Finally, ensure there’s a process in place for troubleshooting the connections when integrating IoT data into your business system. “It’s very easy for these hand-offs to get broken and for people to not jump on issues because they think it’s the other party’s fault,” Auer says.

4. Business intelligence

If a construction company wants to make use of the telematics data, it often has to make changes to its processes. This requires good planning prior to implementation and ties back to the defined digital strategy. What information is needed and for what benefit? What’s the workflow of those who need it? How can this information be delivered most effectively?

A good example is that telematics data provides machine run-hours. However, a construction company likely uses a work order system that is separate from the telematics platform. When a fleet manager or technician can see that run-hour data flowing across the two systems, they can better schedule the machine for maintenance—especially if they’re also getting GPS location data on the machine.

To maximize ROI on an IoT system, you can’t forget the training component. “You’d be amazed at how many people start providing reports but don’t talk about the process or the training that helps people know what to do with the data,” Auer says. “Find a telematics supplier that can help define the whole program and how to make it thrive over the long-run.”

Want More Information?

Len Auer was a speaker at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017. CONEXPO-CON/AGG’s comprehensive Education Program is the leading source for contractors, business owners, construction material producers and end users to obtain cutting-edge information for today’s challenging economy and business model.

For those unable to attend the education sessions or who would like a copy of what was presented, recordings are available for purchase on a USB drive. There are more than 130 unique sessions from all 10 education tracks: Aggregates, Asphalt, Concrete, Earthmoving & Site Development, Cranes, Rigging & Aerial Lift, Safety & Regulation, Technology, Equipment Management & Maintenance, Management: Business Best Practices and Management: Workforce Development.

For more information and to purchase education program recordings, visit http://www.conexpoconagg.com/visit/education/.




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