07 May 2008
It isn't surprising that JLG Industries has taken the step of offering the option of a full telematics system for its combustion engine booms. After all, many of the world's major equipment manufacturers are considering or implementing similar solutions, including Caterpillar and Komatsu. Equally, some of JLG's more adventurous rental company customers will have already fitted tracking systems to JLG machines in their fleets.
However, JLG is the first self-propelled aerial platform manufacturer to offer it as on option on a wide range of its machines – all of its engine-driven machines except for its biggest model, the 150HAX. In this, it is following in the footsteps of truck mounted aerial platform manufacturers like WUMAG of Germany who have offered remote monitoring options with some of their larger truck units, as well as some construction hoist producers such as Alimak Hek and Raxtar.
JLG will launch its system at the ConExpo exhibition, at which time more detailed information, including costs and geographical availability, will be available. However, in basic terms the “connected asset system”, as JLG calls it, uses satellite tracking technology (GPS) with mobile phone communication networks to allow owners to track and monitor their equipment remotely in real-time. (The technology will get a user-friendly trademarked name at ConExpo.)
The system, which can be factory- or retrofitted, uses a telematics control unit developed by Illinois-based telematics specialist MasterTrak to provide a two-way communication link to the machine control system.
The system will provide users – via a secure web page – with information including:
• on-demand diagnostics and troubleshooting;
• Preventative maintenance alerts based on real operating data;
• Remote turn-on and turn-off;
• Theft deterrent and recovery;
• Geo-fencing and GPS mapping.
JLG emphasises the benefits to rental fleet owners, saying that, for example, they will be alerted to a problem before the point of failure, meaning that a service engineer can be on site with the correct part to minimise any down time. JLG can also 'ping' the machine itself, at the request of the owner, and try to identify any problems.
“These capabilities can save time and money by eliminating unnecessary trips to the field, and they allow service technicians to arrive equipped with the right tools, parts and training so they are more effective”, says JLG.
Rental companies will also enjoy the benefits of knowing if a machine has been used outside its contracted period, and owners can also be alerted if the machine is being used beyond its safe operating parameters. This could have important safety and training implications, by identifying sites and users who would benefit from further training.
The choice of its technology partner, Wood Dale-based MasterTrak, makes sense not just because of MasterTrak's evident expertise, but because MasterTrak recently signed an alliance with SmartEquip, the US company that has developed a web-based aftermarket support platform that links major equipment owners with their big equipment suppliers.
JLG is one of the suppliers that has signed up to the SmartEquip solution, and was one of the first to do so. The combination of SmartEquip's technology with the MasterTrak telematics solution holds out the promise of truly wireless fleet management.
The SmartEquip system could provide an automatic link between data on faults and machine-hours generated by the MasterTrak Telematics and the recommended actions provided by the equipment manufacturer. The system will then be able to automatically create a work order for corrective action or preventative maintenance.
For manufacturers the attraction is obvious: systems that provide a 'cradle-to-grave connection' between the equipment, the original manufacturer and the owner. For rental fleet managers, meanwhile, there is the prospect of reducing repair and maintenance costs, and at the same time increasing utilisation and equipment reliability. That sounds like a powerful argument.