Data destiny: telematics in the access sector
By Euan Youdale07 May 2019
Data is the new currency but first it needs to be collected, collated and presented in a user-friendly manner, before it can widely reduce the cost of ownership.
Telematics is a complex subject, even to those who know a lot about it, and can even be a controversial one. Nevertheless telematic solutions are increasingly requested on new equipment and there will come a time, probably in the near future, when all machines are supplied with a version of it.
Indeed, the technology and its key uses are developing quickly, but there are some hurdles to overcome before it becomes truly comprehensive, namely the ownership of data and how to provide it in a user-friendly way.
One of the questions that everyone in the industry is wrestling with, is, ‘who owns the data?’ Is it the buyer or the seller of equipment? On that subject, Frank Nerenhausen, the CEO of JLG, speaking to AI, believes the answer lies in a sharing arrangement, “some combination of sharing/ownership that allows a win on both sides.
“Without the data we can’t turn it into useful information. So, we are working through those challenges but that’s all part of the puzzle.”
Complementing telematics, JLG has been expanding is other digital offerings. One of those is its BIM library, which now includes compact crawler booms, making the full line available for download. The 3D system allows architects and construction professionals to more efficiently design and construct buildings and infrastructure projects with equipment being part of the planning.
The company has also extended its ClearSky telematics offering with the new Access Control tool, allowing rental companies to add a layer of protection for end users by preventing unauthorised personnel from accessing equipment. Developments in augmented reality are also being made by the company, along with VR training and a range of others plans.
As Nerenhausen says, the options “go on and on and on. This is the challenge that probably everybody has. We are putting a lot of dots on the map but no one has absolutely connected all those dots together for a holistic value proposition. Some of these are going to work and some of them aren’t, but you’ve got to keep putting dots on the map, with a broader strategy and start knitting them together.
Nerenhausen adds, “As we start coming up with the strategies to connect machines and add predictive maintenance and those kinds of things, there will be a real clear picture of where all this technology takes us. That’s our goal, to lead that, lead the industry into the future.”
For example, the number of units being sold with Clear Sky is steadily increasing, and, says Nerenhausen, will reach a critical mass soon. “The treasure is in the rich data set. Our CAN bus systems will access the data and that’s where you can harvest more information that benefits not only the customer but us.”
That rich data then becomes a conduit to developing more useful solutions for customers. The logical outcome is that all equipment will be supplied with telematics as standard, particularly as electric-powered machines become more mainstream. “It’s possible that electric machines are even more adaptable to richer data sets, to telematics, than IC machines.”
In 2017 JLG selected Orbcomm to provide its telematics services, including global wireless connectivity, along with state-of-the-art hardware and a web platform for asset management.
The manufacturer uses Orbcomm’s ruggedized PT 7000 solution as well as other telematics hardware to provide its customers with access to critical engine and equipment operational data. The hardware is compatible with Orbcomm’s web interface, which has been tailored for the JLG’s ClearSky offering.
The benefits that arise from combining and analysing data are far-reaching. Keith Gelinas, senior vice president and general manager at Orbcomm says, “Combining telematics data with logistics data could allow for greater insight into drivers who are particularly tough on their machines, flagging the need for driver coaching. It could flag a technician whose machines have less problems in the field, to share best practices.
The construction industry is one of the least digitised industries, but it has taken a real step forward in recent years, with telematics being a prime example. Five years ago, many in the industry saw this as a way to track their fleets – now the awareness is there that telematics can save companies both time and money through a myriad of ways.
It will be interesting to see what developments the next five years bring and, as Gelinas says, telematics can benefit everyone. “The insights gained when data is shared benefits the entire ecosystem, from OEMs, to leasing companies, to equipment owners.”
All major OEMs will have partnered with specialist providers of for their telematics services. Skyjack’s system is powered by Trackunit, while Genie’s new Lift Connect programme results from a partnership with ZTR Control Systems.
Genie first introduced its telematics offering in 2015 with the launch of the telematics-ready connector. Christine Zeznick, Genie senior product and business development manager, business development, Terex AWP, explains, “This was in direct response to the mixed fleet nature of the rental industry and allowed our customers access to a few key data points with a plug-and-play solution of their choosing.
“Although many have appreciated this flexible approach, over time our customers have requested access to more data and information.”
Zeznick adds that the data from Lift Connect will become more powerful as it goes on. “Initially the information will be descriptive,” said Zeznick, “Focusing on what’s currently happening with a machine including how many hours are on a machine, where the machine physically is and if there are any fault codes on.”
Paul Wilson, ZTR’s director of commercial development and program management, agrees and adds echoes the point that telematics innovation is not just about the expertise required to generate effective solutions, it is also about working collaboratively to recognise and solve customer challenges.
Over time, Genie Lift Connect data can be leveraged on a larger scale and used for predictive and prescriptive activities, such as predicting failures in the field based on how the equipment is actually being used and proactively prescribing maintenance and service.
It will include dashboards and alert notifications, and the introduction of standard APIs to enable customers to leverage data from mixed fleets and multiple OEM telematics platforms. It provides data in two ways: customers can utilise the Genie Lift Connect portal and all of its features, or alternatively, if with an existing system, customers can consume the data via a standard API.
Speaking about data at the International Rental Conference Asia in Shanghai during November last year Genie’s president Matt Fearon said there are two major drivers when it comes to future equipment, he added, those being safety and productivity.
For productivity, MEWPs must become telematics enabled, Mr Fearon said, with one of the outcomes being predictive maintenance. “We must use technology to add value. The challenge is in taking information from a machine and making it useful and actionable. What is the real use that will drive productivity in a rental fleet.
He adds, “But there is a lot of data out there and people have difficulty distilling it into valuable data. Some rental companies are doing a fantastic job, but it is not the case for others and, I would say, most in the industry.”
Elevate, Skyjack’s telematics offering, is becoming a greater part of customers’ business. The data, it says, helps them make decisions that were previously unquantifiable, and many people are starting to understand the importance and the value of that data. And as far as ownership of the data is concerned, for Skyjack it is simple – the customer owns it. As David Swan, product manager at Elevate says, “We’re getting the question more and more. There’s no question, it’s the customers data.”
Swan adds, “Our customers have made it very clear to us that data ownership is everything.”
The way Skyjack sees it and Swan explains it, “If there is every detail of mine in the cloud, my service time, my run hours on machines and where they are at, that’s my business and that’s my data.”
Thanks to its view on ownership, Skyjack has had positive response from its customers. “One hundred percent of a our customers so far voluntarily give us some or all of the data for certain situations. So, for example, for service support or engineering projects, but they are giving us specific access to some of those projects.
Swan adds, “When you look at some of the things we are doing with autonomous functionality, telematics has really just been the ground work of connectivity, for run hours and location but when you look at our self checking machine it makes it seem that was just the tech testing for that kind of stuff and really the sky is the limit in terms of back and forth interaction with the machine at site.”
The company’s new self-checking system uses an app to run a self check on a machine remotely, and potentially from anywhere in the world. “The other thing we continue to work towards is a move further away from the idea that hours and location have to be what telematics are about.
“We are talking about more advance battery analysis. Swan adds, “The more we move towards electrification of fleet and hybrid technology and away from combustion, the more the largest operating costs of a fleet of aerials is going to be battery replacement cost.”
As we get into Lithium and more expensive battery technologies, says Swan, where the stakes are higher, understanding the state of batteries and being alerted before they become critical, is going to be vital in keeping cost of ownership down. Leading on from this, Skyjack is in the process of launching Elevate Tiles, developed in line with Trackunit. It is a shift away from the map scenario where the customer sees a series of pin icons on a map to donation where their equipment is geographically situated.
Swan says, “It is not the most important thing to know exactly where a 19ft scissors lift is; it is important if someone hasn’t charged the battery for a month and keeps using it and driving that battery down.”
Elevate Tyles is a move towards exception-based data, i.e., the data a customer needs immediately presented to them, rather having to go through steps to find it. It provide a dashboard style analysis of charge history, battery life percentage and problematic charging behaviours for its entire fleet of electric scissors. “The information on the screen will for example tell the customer they have three scissor lifts on rent that are being treated as such that the battery will be dead in a year, rather than four years.
“The location is useful, but if you were to pick one of the other options, like battery condition, I would pick that. I have a good idea of where it is because I rented it to that location, and theft is problem but it’s not the biggest problem in cost of ownership.”
Under the arrangement with Trackunit, it provides the delivery of the data and the presentation of the data and Skyjack works with them in terms of that presentation. “We know the role of that data and we say it needs to look like this and be presented in such a way and Trackunit crates that user interface and manages the data.”
The increasing popularity of telematics is such that this year Skyjack expects to ship 50% of all its units with Elevate. Swan says, “Part of what I am working on now is a test programme for Lithium batteries. We think it’s a great technology but there is clear math do be done - if I am going to spend this much more Lithium battery pack then it needs to last the entire life of the machine, or something like that.”
He adds, “We are never going to do it because it’s neat. That’s a philosophy that spreads across all our telematics and technology. I was asked when autonomous technology will be available, and I answer, ‘when it makes our customers money.’”
Nevertheless, times are changing and he forecasts this level of provision will probably be available in about three years. “When everyone started looking at these kind of things a few years ago it seemed way out there, but costs of technology are coming down, and Skyjack is expanding exponentially now in term of this.”
Trackunit has partnered with numerous OEMs with its current offerings and in June last year it partnered with United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment rental company.
Under the agreement, Trackunit will install Trackunit Manager technology on light and heavy equipment in the United Rentals fleet. It features keyless access control for user authentication, preventing unauthorised use of equipment. The software operates on its Iris platform and utilises Trackunit Go and Trackunit On as mobile applications.
But as chief commercial officer of Trackunit, Soeren Brogaard Jensen, explains, “The world of telematics has changed enormously over the last few years and continues to do so. New technology is available to us, so it all comes down to how we decide to use it.“Instead of just looking at telematics as a spare part that provides theft protection, we now use telematics to its full potential by solving real problems. From just gathering data, we have moved on to exploiting and interpreting various data sources.”
Nevertheless, tracking the location of machinery remains main tenant of telematics, and rental software provider inspHire, has recently added new Asset Tracker functionality to its product portfolio. This links with Google Maps, giving users the ability to pinpoint the location and status of all their inventory.
Alongside the Asset Tracker, inspHire has centralised telematics data within its rental management software. Bringing two systems together allows users to view and quickly cross-reference their telematics and rental data. Brand-new to the market is JCB’s latest version of its LiveLink telematics system, enabling mixed fleet operators to control all of their plant and equipment with one network. The company’s own telematics system is reported by the company to be used on over 160,000 JCB machines worldwide.
Now these same remote machine monitoring benefits are available to customers who also operate non-JCB equipment. Indeed, the new JCB LiveLink Control Tower system allows fleet owners to import fleet data from any telematics system compliant with the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) Telematics standard V1.2.
All machine information – whether JCB or competitive equipment – can then be displayed and interpreted in one web portal or integrated into a user’s own IT system. JCB will also provide several Developer Toolkit services to assist with integrating machine data into existing systems and rental or fleet management software.
Point of Rental’s CEO Wayne Harris echoes Crosslin’s statements regarding KPIs and ROI. “If I had to come up with a theme for the last 12 months’ worth of innovations, it would be that we’re empowering rental businesses to become more mobile and less dependent on paperwork,” Harris says.
Point of Rentals’ Rental eSign allows people to collect secure signatures both at the counter and via email and have those attached to contracts directly in the system. “We’ve added a real-time, integrated CRM within Rental Elite, making customer management more mobile-friendly, allowing enhanced access for mobile sales teams,” he explains. “We’ve enhanced our Syrinx apps, adding mobile CRM capabilities with Syrinx Sales App and enabling simpler workshop management by adding Syrinx Workshop Scheduler.”
Point of Rental has also enhanced its Inspection App to make it more efficient and easier to use. “We’ve added internal tracking capabilities to our Contract Fulfilment module to allow everyone using the system to more easily see equipment movement throughout internal systems, like wash racks and inspection bays,” Harris explains.
But the most exciting feature for the company is its new UnlockIt ability which enables rental stores to provide off-hours rental and pickup options via lockers.
“Emailed contracts feature a barcode that can be scanned by a central computer, and the scan will automatically open a locker with the equipment they’ve rented.”
Harris adds, “Items can be returned, timestamped, and even photographed to ensure staff know when, and in what condition, it came back.