The Speed and Impact of Telematics

$1.2 trillion. That is the amount of money that companies spend annually on business travel. Imagine if that number could be reduced. Well, it can.

Technology can help address some of the inherent challenges with travel in any business—but especially in the construction industry. Basic information such as knowing where a fleet is located, how a fleet is being used, metrics and so much more can help reduce that $1.2 trillion number.

This is according to a report that is providing analysis into the global fleet management market. The research shows that one in every 20 companies employs a specialized mobility manager, while 25 percent are of the opinion that their fleet and travel management department can actually merge to make mobility processes more efficient.

Also, the role of a fleet manager has changed to include new technologies and transport methods. At the same time, suppliers are increasingly offering new products to win a share of the mobility market.

This is translating into growth of the telematics market—particularly in off-highway vehicles.

The Future Market Insights report examines the trends of the off-highway vehicle telematics market for the forecast period 2016-2026. It says telematics is the sending, receiving and storing of information through the use of telecommunication devices. The technology provides critical data that can ultimately improve fleet utilization in any industry—but particularly in construction.

Kurt Nantkes, senior vice president, Zonar, says telematics can have a significant impact on entire fleets. “Accurate utilization of telematics drives every function of their business—repair costs, rental dependency, liquidation, job costing, cost per hour metrics. When properly using telematics, fleets can implement smart-fleet management solutions."

Data, Data, Data

Nantkes points to seven key ways telematics can improve fleet utilization. These top seven ways include:

• Protect against theft: Telematics-enabled asset tracking locates assets in realtime, which can notify of a piece of equipment’s location immediately.

  1. Effective utilization of assets within a fleet - Project managers can maximize the usage of all assets to avoid unnecessary sourcing of equipment.
  2. Missing meter data - Many construction fleets rely on meter data to maintain vehicles daily. Often, this is manual. Telematics can collect this data automatically.
  3. Visibility into preventative maintenance - Remote diagnostics, shop resources, uptime and scheduled preventative maintenance are all possible with telematics.
  4. Maximize cycle times and uptime - Telematics can identify the most effective routes and use of equipment.
  5. Fuel efficiency - Use data to monitor idle times, speed, acceleration, hard braking and more to improve fuel usage.
  6. Electronic verified inspection reporting - Ensure federally required daily vehicle inspections occur.

These are just a few of the ways telematics can improve fleet utilization in the construction industry. Sue Rutherford, vice president of marketing, ORBCOMM, adds that big data is coming, and being able to compile all this data and then translate it into something meaningful is key.

“The industry has already started this with the varying levels of preventative maintenance being offered,” she explains. “Some solutions are tying this deterministic maintenance scheduling into the supply chain, integrating the knowledge of a particular part that will need to be ordered in time for that part to be replaced.”

She adds that some telematics devices with high-precision GPS are also being incorporated within autonomous vehicles to replace drivers and enable around-the-clock servicing and control of vehicles.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. She suggests there is a lot more to come in the future with integration of virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

Telematics Challenges

The opportunities and benefits of telematics are evident. However, so too are the challenges.

Nantkes says that many companies are wary of the cost of hardware and implementation. However, as more and more companies of all sizes are realizing the benefits, telematics solutions can pay for themselves with fuel savings alone in less than a year.

Rutherford adds other challenges are lack of standards and lots of hardware providers and application providers.

“As well, there is the option of manufacturer solution versus an aftermarket solution,” she continues. “Manufacturers can offer more value in diagnosing/pulling the right data from the machines, but for a construction site with a mixed fleet, these same devices won’t work across all the equipment. Aftermarket devices have the opposite problem. Generation of data is easy, but you need to be able to interpret the data for it to make sense from a business case point-of-view.”

The lack of standards is something the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) are addressing with a mixed-fleet telematics standard, which received ISO (International Organization for Standardization) approval to be accepted as a global standard.

The standard enables equipment users to gather telematics data into their preferred business or fleet management software. This will ultimately provide easier access to data across an entire fleet of vehicles.

Another challenge is connectivity. In order to leverage telematics, connectivity is needed.

Rutherford says, “Connectivity used to be an issue, but with newer and cheaper satellite connectivity offerings, this problem has been addressed by covering remote regions as well as being able to offer a global, single SKU telematics platform.”

Going forward, telematics will be one way to improve fleet utilization, but it will become critical to educate construction professionals on the ROI (return on investment) and investment of the technology.

“Knowing where your fleet is, is an easy story,” she explains. “Being able to offer a faster refueling strategy, shorten down-time due to a maintenance schedule based on measured parameters—and not just time—are some additional ROI possibilities that they should think about.”

She concludes by suggesting that contractors need to “think big, ask questions, ask for a demo, ask about coverage, ask about interoperability, ask about support.”

These will all be big factors for construction companies that are looking to get the most out of a telematics investment.

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