Technology is rapidly changing how companies collect data and improve machine operation.

Construction equipment has come a long way from its beginnings more than 100 years ago. This is particularly true of technology improvements that are designed to provide more valuable information to equipment operators, owners and fleet managers.

From the introduction of steam-powered engines to internal combustion engines, from tracks used for tanks during World War II to the first crawler tractor, technology has significantly changed how construction tasks are performed and how machines are monitored. Today’s earthmoving machines offer operators access to more information than ever before. LCD displays provide real-time machine information and camera views for improved visibility. Controls also have advanced since the first levers were installed on construction equipment.

You have likely heard of the newest technological advances in machine intelligence and communication, commonly known in the industry as telematics. Did you know that recent improvements in telematics can significantly benefit your company by lowering fuel usage, providing machine error codes, increasing operator knowledge, improving operator efficiency and strengthening your company’s bottom line?

What is Telematics?

In its simplest form, telematics is machine communication and connectivity. Telematics was introduced in the 1980s in the automotive industry with a basic GPS location service. The technology made its way into the construction industry nearly 10 years ago. Since then, the way information is gathered, the types of real-time data collected and how that data is transmitted have rapidly changed.

For heavy construction equipment to employ the power of telematics, it must first be equipped with a modem. The modem, furnished with a cellular and satellite antenna, collects data from sensors on the machine and sends the data from the machine to a central database via cellular service—or satellites, when cellular service is not available—even in remote locations. Equipment owners and fleet managers can log in to a website to view useful information about one machine or an entire fleet of construction equipment.

Types of Data

Telematics is a tremendous asset for equipment owners and fleet managers who are tasked with the sometimes stressful job of keeping equipment operating at peak performance. Below is a list of the popular types of data fleet managers pay close attention to:

  • Filter/oil management
  • GPS position history
  • Machine alert history
  • Machine details
  • Machine location
  • Maintenance history
  • Sensor history
  • Daily, monthly and weekly utilization reports

How is Telematics Beneficial?

What does an equipment owner or fleet manager do with all of this information and data at his or her fingertips, and how does it improve the day-to-day operations of a construction company?

Managing a fleet

First and foremost, fleet managers know exactly where all of a company’s machines are located. They can keep a close eye on a machine and see where it’s been operated with a machine history report. Keeping machines fueled becomes easier because the fleet manager can monitor the fuel levels for each machine. This capability can minimize the number of trips fuel truck drivers must take in order to monitor fuel levels of different machines.

Theft protection

Telematics plays a significant role in preventing equipment theft. Equipment owners can create a geofence or an invisible/virtual boundary through the machine’s GPS system. If the machine leaves the virtual fence, the owner is notified and can alert authorities about a possible equipment theft. Additionally, owners can create a time fence or curfew on each machine. If the machine is operated beyond the working hours, the owner can receive an email or SMS text notification. This helps to prevent unauthorized operation and potential vandalism to the machine and jobsite.

Fuel efficiency

Reducing diesel fuel usage improves profitability and, with the help of telematics data, can help improve equipment fuel efficiency. Fleet managers also can monitor equipment idle time. Using data communicated from the website, fleet managers can identify machines that are working under or over capacity. Also, fleet managers can monitor power mode operation and make recommendations for an operator to adjust the power mode to use less fuel.

Maintenance schedules

Fleet managers can review historical details about a machine’s maintenance schedule and look ahead to see when a machine is due for its next maintenance appointment. You can share the data with your dealer and have the maintenance department contact you when your machine is due for service.

Reduce machine downtime

If a machine breaks down, the machine’s telematics system can communicate fault, error and warning codes to a fleet manager through the website. If you share your data with your equipment dealer, the dealer’s service department can diagnose the problem without physically being in the same location as the machine for faster response time.

Software updates

Similar to the way a smartphone receives updates without connecting the phone to a computer, on-machine software will receive updates over the air, preventing you from having to visit your dealership for updates.

The best way for you to understand telematics is to try it on your own equipment. Most new heavy construction equipment sold today comes with a free subscription. Contact your local equipment dealer if you’d like to learn more about how to improve your machine monitoring and profitability by incorporating telematics in your daily operations. Your fleet manager will appreciate the enhanced knowledge about each machine, and you will likely see improved profits from more efficient machine operation and maintenance.