Delivering Data

July 1, 2011
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Equipment data transmitting and tracking has been a popular subject in recent years. Especially as fuel costs continue to skyrocket and crews are tasked with operating as efficiently as possible, fleet managers are looking for a better, more efficient way to collect, manage, and utilize equipment data.

The challenges these professionals and their crews face tracking data through traditional methods are numerous, but primarily affect efficiency, productivity, and cost. First, there is a large time investment, as each piece of equipment must be tracked individually. In a fleet with dozens, even hundreds, of machines, the process can be incredibly time consuming, not to mention inaccurate. For example, a fleet manager wanting to capture and track operating hours on machines must read each machine’s hour meter, then manually record the info on a tracking log or spreadsheet. While this practice is commonly done at the end of each workweek, it may be required every day, depending on the individual company’s methods. Next, before this data can be used to generate any type of business report, it must be given to the office staff, who will then enter it into the company’s unique system. Inefficient, certainly, but perhaps the greatest problem with this practice is it leaves the door open for major errors.

But when looking at the big picture, the largest obstacle comes for those who managed mixed fleets of equipment-again, time and efficiency become the key issues. Each equipment manufacturer has a separate system for accessing info on its equipment. Fleets as a general rule operate dozens of different makes of equipment, and utilizing a separate set of guidelines and website for each is time consuming, to say the least.

The need for a standardized data collection and transmission system has been recognized, and companies are attempting to find a solution. Such systems are emerging to help address these challenges faced by fleet managers. One example is AEMP’s (Association of Equipment Management Professionals’) recently launched schema. Created in cooperation with partner equipment manufacturers, the AEMP-led Telematics Standard offers a way for fleet managers to receive crucial equipment data in a standardized format. Items such as equipment cumulative operating hours, total miles traveled, fuel consumption, and current location can all be accessed using the schema allowing fleet managers the ability to accurately and efficiently track and analyze data.

A standardized system certainly offers a major timesaving benefit, but the accuracy it provides is perhaps the biggest advantage. For example, let’s say a company requires machines to be serviced every 500 hours. By knowing a machine’s exact operating hours, a fleet manager can identify the precise time a machine is due for maintenance, and schedule in advance. Not only does this increase efficiency, it ensures timely maintenance for optimal equipment performance and longevity.

The ability to accurately track fuel consumption is incredibly valuable from a time and productivity standpoint. Precise fuel tracking allows fleet managers and their crews to properly schedule fuel refills and delivery trucks. Equipment with an empty tank won’t be left idle, waiting for a fuel refill. And on the other end, a productive machine with half a tank won’t need to stop and refuel just because a fuel track is onsite.

In addition, managers are able to analyze multiple data factors for more advanced tracking. Exact fuel usage data and total hours accumulated on a machine can be used to accurately calculate consumption rates. This in turn helps a fleet manager better understand a machine’s utilization, and offers an accurate means to monitor and assess operating costs.

While still in its primary stages of use, the AEMP-led Telematics Standard has been well received, and not just by fleet managers-the manufacturers who helped develop the system are also able to use the data. It’s allowing them to better understand how customers are using their equipment, and they’re applying the info to drive design improvements on new products.

Fleet managers utilizing the AEMP system are finding it valuable, and have already been asking for additional info to be added. There’s no doubt these types standardized systems are offering great benefit to fleet managers, and we can expect to see more advancements coming to telematics systems in future years.