Quick Tips for Preventative Maintenance Planning Using Telematics

Telematics is no longer just a nice feature to have on construction equipment; it is quickly becoming a central component of business for many machine operators today. The use of telematics demands having a solid strategy and recognizing the new technologies that are quickly emerging.

“Construction is all about production and output, so companies must keep heavy equipment up and running,” explains Mika Majapuro, director of project management for Teletrac Navman’s Construction, Mining, and Oil and Gas practices. “The better companies can manage inspections and schedule preventive maintenance, the less likely they are to have unexpected failures that put production on hold. In other words, it’s about catching little things before they become big thing.”

This is where telematics comes into the equation. The word comes from the combination of the words telecommunications and informatics, and today it is most commonly tied to data gathered from vehicles and equipment. Some uses for construction include monitoring an asset, tracking speed and idling, and better managing maintenance, among other things.

The Benefits of Telematics

The benefits of the technology can be substantial too. According to Majapuro, the data collected by telematics is helping construction fleets save on maintenance costs and extend asset lifecycle through real-time monitoring of equipment. This includes automatically tracking fault codes, fuel usage, or tire pressure.

 

 “A single malfunction has the potential to derail an entire project’s productivity and budget, resulting in weeks of delays and unnecessary overtime pay, which is why staying on top of preventative maintenance is critical,” he emphasizes. “It’s also the reason why construction companies are increasingly adopting telematics and other software solutions, rather than relying on inefficient manual methods.”

He says, data systems keep tabs on how the equipment is running and alert managers when it’s time for service, giving businesses the insights necessary to detect problems in advance and reduce unplanned downtime with proactive planning and scheduling maintenance time.

Another key aspect is optimizing a mechanic’s time better, as technology enables managers to assign the mechanic with the right skill level to match the task at hand. With a direct line of sight into workload, managers can minimize tasks to avoid paying for overtime. With pen and paper, this would be nearly impossible, according to Majapuro.

Telematics and data analytics has also had a significant impact on protecting equipment from severe weather by providing fleet managers with greater insights as well.

 

Ryne DeBoer, vice president, Morey, says, “Using predictive maintenance can alert feet managers of potential failures, meaning they’ll have a better understanding of their fleet’s ability to weather rough storms, including engine and battery performance.”

 

As a side note, many tech firms are advising fleet managers to protect the telematics device itself, as well as the equipment. If the technology has a durable enclosure, it can continue to store all the necessary data, avoiding damage and corrosion.

While there are a number of benefits to telematics—and many manufacturers are beginning to offer it as a standard feature on equipment—there are still a number of hurdles standing in the way from widespread implementation of the technology.

In order to take telematics to the next level in a construction operation, fleet managers need to create a solid strategy for how to best leverage the technology out on the jobsite.

A Game Plan for Telematics Implementation

One of the biggest challenges to implementing new technology is creating a strategy for how it will be executed and ultimately maintained on a construction project. Industry experts point to four key steps to realize technology in any construction operation.

  1.        First, start small, according to Majapuro. He says a construction professional doesn’t need to tackle everything at once. In this phase, make sure to clearly define the goals for a program before even diving in.
  2.        Next, find technology companies to partner with and that are willing to either customize the tool, or allow for customization.
  3.        As implementation begins, remember that it is not only about the technology, but also about change management. “Employees will have to learn new systems and this will change their way of working as well. For some, this may be harder than it is for others to adopt. Having internal sponsors—in addition to your technical vendor—who champions technology and the opportunities it provides can ease the transition,” says Majapuro.
  4.        Finally, make sure to train the workers, insists Kevin Forestell, cofounder and CEO, DOZR.

For any new implementation, training is a key essential to ensure successful adoption of the technology.

“Technology in its various forms have evolved in the industry and make it necessary to train and educate operators on new equipment types and new control systems within machinery,” says Forestell. “As equipment becomes more sophisticated, more training is needed for technicians to diagnose and respond to maintenance needs.”

He adds that there will be more demand for people to be trained to both operate and maintain newer, more sophisticated equipment, so education is very important.

“Standardizing records-keeping practices, moving to more electronic recording of maintenance needs, and completed maintenance and data about equipment utilization will be important for maximizing uptime,” he says.

Evolving Equipment and Jobsite Needs

As construction professionals begin implementing new technology systems at construction jobsites, it is also important to keep in mind that technology is evolving at a very rapid pace, and what is being used today might not be the great innovation of tomorrow.

Forestell of DOZR explains that telematics are used more commonly to anticipate and respond to maintenance needs, but telematics can’t help outfit fleet equipment for different types of work or source equipment to stand in for machines being serviced or repaired.

DOZR and other peer-to-peer sharing networks can help contractors find attachments or entire machines by searching all available equipment across a region or even a continent, helping to expedite gaps in fleet capabilities or fill in for a machine undergoing repairs.

He adds that online equipment networks are eliminating the “off-season” for many types of equipment, as sharing equipment can rise equipment utilization rates, making preventative maintenance increasingly important to the goal of maximizing annual, per-machine revenue.

“Telematics can certainly help businesses track maintenance needs, but as equipment is moved around more often, it is also important to streamline inspection reports,” he suggests.

Technology is constantly evolving, and so too will how the systems are used in the future. For example, predictive analytics, which can be powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), will likely be more pervasive in construction in the future, according to Majapuro.

This will help further reduce downtime, eventually eliminating unplanned downtime due to equipment failure.

“Algorithms that track data over time will be able to accurately predict breakdowns, allowing companies to do preventative maintenance and inspections at opportune times, instead of having to service broken equipment when they’re in the middle of an important project,” he says. “Data is all about planning and visibility, and analytics will be used to optimize and streamline maintenance operations.”

Looking even further to the future, Forestell predicts that autonomous equipment is coming and will increase the demand for highly skilled fleet maintenance professionals who can diagnose and address maintenance needs, while anticipating demand for different types of equipment and planning their maintenance and deployment schedules accordingly.

“As autonomous equipment edges toward mainstream use over the next few years, AI may also come to assist in fleet maintenance professionals’ plans,” he says.




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