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By John Biggs
February 5, 2018
Properly tracking and maintaining a fleet of heavy machinery and other construction vehicles is essential for running a smooth operation. Gaining a more holistic view of equipment performance, maintenance schedules, and even the location of the machinery at any given time facilitates a host of safety, efficiency and cost improvements. Telematics technology enables construction companies to get ahead on all of this critical asset utilization data, from the largest earth mover to the smallest screwdriver.
Initially conceived using GPS locating systems predominantly to prevent equipment theft, telematics has evolved to encompass a whole range of Internet of Things uses. Every aspect of equipment can now be actively monitored, from location, fuel efficiency and fluid consumption, engine stress, strain and temperatures, run and idle times and more. Using a combination of GPS, on-board diagnostics and monitoring sensors, telematics systems collect and log data about the operation of construction equipment, letting owners increase the usable life of the machinery by staying ahead of the curve on maintenance issues, logging usage hours and detecting problems when they first emerge rather than waiting on scheduled maintenance to discover them.
Telematics improves productivity and reduces operating costs fleet-wide by making it easier to plan where equipment is deployed and view in near real-time how it’s being used. This adds efficiencies to job site workflow, allowing managers to make data-driven decisions about sites where equipment is over- or under-deployed, redirecting it to where it can be of better use. The collected data can also help identify operator misuse of equipment, such as excessive idling, unsafe operating speeds or overloading machinery. Operators who know their behavior is being tracked are less prone to engaging in activities that could compromise the safety of a job site.
Fuel waste from machines idling while not in use represents a big expense for most construction companies. Using telematics tracking can pinpoint instances where fuel is being wasted, which not only saves on fuel costs, but also saves wear and tear on engines running while no actual work is being done, which saves on maintenance costs and prolongs the life of the machinery. The data generated by telematics systems on everything from machine hours to labor costs to fuel consumption can be used to offer more accurate estimates on future projects, allowing companies to be more competitive in the contract bidding process.
Of course, theft prevention is still a key function of telematics tracking. The National Equipment Register estimates between $300 million to $1 billion worth of construction equipment is stolen each year. Much of that equipment, over 75%, is never recovered. Chasing down stolen machinery or replacing it is a costly and time-consuming endeavor, which has a devastating impact on job efficiency. Telematics can alert owners anytime the tracked equipment’s engine starts. If such an alert is received outside of normal working hours, it’s a big red flag that an attempted theft may be in progress. Geofencing and GPS technology can also show when a piece of equipment departs the boundaries of a job site, making it easier to recover stolen equipment, and some systems allow owners to remotely disable the engine in the event of unauthorized use, or prevent it from being started at all outside scheduled work hours.
Scannable QR codes can even be slapped on every hand tool to prevent them from walking off the job site. The telematics tracking technology tracks the location of even these small tools, which though individually may not be as expensive as heavy machinery, in total can add up to many thousands of dollars.
A construction company can only operate as efficiently as its poorest-functioning piece of equipment. By harnessing the power of telematics technology, site operators can gain greater insight into the operation of every piece of equipment on every job site, ensure maintenance happens early, reduce theft, increase safety and reduce inefficiencies.
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