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By John Biggs
August 6, 2018
The acquisition and maintenance of heavy machinery is a major expense for any size company, so it stands to reason that equipment is worth taking steps to protect. Whether you’re a large company investing in a whole fleet of construction vehicles or a smaller firm buying its first few bulldozers, the importance of ensuring these assets a nice, long life simply can’t be understated.
There are several technological options when it comes to safeguarding your heavy machinery, that can be used separately or in tandem, to prevent everything from breakdowns to premature failure to theft and unauthorized use, all of which can result in downtime and cost overruns in the event machinery needs to be unexpectedly repaired or replaced.
Nearly $1 Billion in Equipment Stolen Annually
The National Equipment Register estimates between $300 million and $1 billion worth of construction equipment is stolen every year. That’s just equipment, their figures don’t even include items like stolen tools or building materials, which are also tempting targets for thieves. And theft is just the start of it. Unauthorized use of machinery (workers “borrowing” a vehicle for side jobs after hours, joyriders, etc.) can result in damaged equipment or property, serious injuries or even death, which could subject the company owner to lawsuits, legal jeopardy, and skyrocketing insurance premiums.
Internet of Things technology has brought construction equipment online using telematics, which combines GPS with monitoring sensors to allow managers to communicate with their entire fleet of equipment using data collected from the integrated telematics solution. With this technology, alerts can be received if the equipment is turned on after normal operating hours, for instance. Virtual boundaries can be established which restricts the equipment’s usage to a specific area, which not only can prevent theft, but prevents workers from driving equipment into unsafe areas.
Between RFID tags, GPS tracking and geofencing, there are many ways companies can control their equipment. By setting up a geofenced boundary around a construction site, a sensor inside the vehicle can be programmed to automatically kill the engine if it wanders outside of the set parameters or outside of certain designated times. It’s a lot harder to steal a 20,000-pound truck if you have to push it. A GPS tracking system can provide real-time location awareness of machinery that’s been stolen, or show a log of everywhere it’s been to further monitor its use.
Another big strain on heavy machinery is failing to do routine maintenance. That equipment takes a serious beating on a daily basis, so keeping everything in tip-top shape isn’t something you want to get behind on. A telematics system continually collects data from the equipment, such as readings for oil pressure, engine temperature and hydraulics, and measures it against acceptable thresholds. If the system detects an anomaly, the alarm is sounded, and the repair can be made early on before a costly major repair resulting in downtime becomes necessary.
The system can also keep track of preventative maintenance schedules to notify the equipment manager when it’s time for a fluid change or electronic system checkup, which also reduces the chance of unforeseen breakdowns and extends the life of the equipment. Telematics also monitors things like odometer or speedometer readings, which can reveal if a construction vehicle is being operated in an unsafe manner. Being aware of recurring safety issues gives supervisors the chance to deal with them before someone damages a vehicle or hurts themselves.
With today’s labor shortages, budget crunches and tight project deadlines, having essential equipment sitting on the sidelines for repairs just isn’t an option. Thanks to data technology, getting a handle on what your machinery’s internal components are trying to say is readily available in ways that would have been unthinkable 10-15 years ago. It’s allowing companies to cut down on maintenance costs, lengthen their buying cycle with new equipment and even deter the theft of expensive heavy machinery.
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