Why You Shouldn't Wait Any Longer to Use Telematics

Three Construction Equipment Telematics Experts State their Case

If you own relatively few construction equipment assets, you might ask yourself why you should bother with telematics. After all, it’s not too difficult to keep track of just a few pieces in a small geographic area.  Or maybe you just prefer doing things the way you’ve always done them. We asked three experts why you might want to rethink what telematics can do for your business.

Chad McKee, Kwest GroupChad McKee, equipment operations manager, Kwest Group

Chad McKee’s first-hand experience with telematics sold him on the value. “The value is still there, no matter what the size of your fleet.” McKee is equipment operations manager for Kwest Group, which was honored with the Association of Equipment Manager Professionals Fleetmaster Award for small fleets (<100 million) in 2020.

In early 2019, Kwest monitored 20 percent of its assets with telematics and by the end of 2019 it was close to 100 percent. The civil engineering contractor works in 40 states and owns approximately 125 earthmoving machines, 15 dump trucks and 70 pickups, so a big goal was to have real time location data on all of its assets.

“We analyze the cost of our equipment per class we can see that there is definitely a return on time and effort with telematics,” said McKee. “Operating costs are down and we feel telematics is a significant reason for the decrease.”

McKee recognizes that telematics is an investment and commitment, but there is research to prove it’s worth. He relied on relationships at AEMP and with dealers to help him use telematic data effectively.

The initial goal was to get consistent reports on hours and location. To do this they needed some upgrades to the fleet and worked with dealers to address the difficulty of accessing data in remote areas. “The next steps are fuel burn and idle time,” said McKee.

Before telematics, Kwest relied on data entered in the field. Now the human error factor is eliminated. Now the system sends alerts when PM are due, and maintenance items don’t slip through the cracks. Superintendents, truck drivers and foreman all have visibility into location data, and that has resulted in increased utilization. “We have also recovered a couple of stolen machines, so the return on investment with that is pretty quick.”

Rizwan Mirza, Komatsu AmericaRizwan Mirza, manager, Komtrax, Product & Services Division, Komatsu America

The majority of Komatsu’s active fleet is equipped with telematics, according to Rizwan Mirza, Manager of Komtrax for Komatsu. For non-adopters, Mirza believes it’s a matter of understanding the potential cost savings via remote monitoring, as well as keeping a finger on the overall health of their fleet.

“As information from telematics reported helps equipment owners lower their overall owning and operating costs, usage will continue to increase,” said Mirza. “The key drivers are monitoring equipment utilization metrics.”

Issues that frustrated early adopters have been resolved. “A telematics standard has simplified the life of our equipment owners by standardizing the information provided by telematics,” said Mirza. “The winner in the realm of telematics is the one who can consolidate the information provided across different OEMs within their daily business.” In his experience, the companies that are most successful with telematics are integrating telematics data into their daily business and overall business model.

Komatsu offers telematics free for the life of equipment ownership while Komatsu distributors provide consultations to customers with the use of telematics data.

“Advanced analytics and decision-making is the future of telematics,” said Mirza.  He envisions equipment managers getting a message that parts and service were ordered automatically after an alert that maintenance is due.  The equipment would be capable of evaluating itself and its conditions to make decisions about parts and service with the consent of the owner. 

Marc Lee, OrbcommMarc Lee, sales director for Heavy Equipment, North America, Orbcomm

Appealing to contractors that want all their data in one place, Orbcomm provides software, hardware and connectivity (cellular and satellite) to capture telematic data from not only construction equipment, but tools, air compressors, light towers, vehicles and even materials. They are also a satellite provider, providing connectivity solutions for the internet of things (iOT) around the globe. According to Lee, industry estimates show that just 30 percent of the US equipment fleet is connected. “That leaves a lot of equipment with no solution,” said Lee.

For smaller fleets, Lee says it comes down to growing pains. “At what point do you invest the money to equip the fleet so you can evolve?,” said Lee. Flexible payment options help customers get started, but the information on fleet operational management has value.

“Maintenance intervals and fuel usage are at the top of everyone’s list of what needs to be analyzed,” said Lee. “The key to being successful is to integrate it with current systems, across OEM types” said Lee. “If only one or two people are using it, it has limited value. “You want to integrate it so that everyone uses it all the time.” Lee has seen customers isolate machine hours on a jobsite, provide time stamps for delivery or departure from a location. “With geofencing, data can be used to justify a lien or account for change orders,” said Lee “They can show how much dirt was moved, and how many trips were made.”

How to Get Started

Figuring out what the right solution is for your business requires researching options. Data can be imported into an existing system, you can work with a third-party provider, or you can manage your data through OEM platforms. AEMP has published a free Telematic Support Guide that provides a high-level overview of the telematics industry standard and answers some frequently asked questions.

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