How equipment tracking can have benefits beyond just visibility - AS Communications (UK) Ltd.

How equipment tracking can have benefits beyond just visibility

Vantage are really pleased to be able to offer vehicle tracking with the added benefit of immobilisation, a product range which is delivered by the well respected MetaTrak who are renowned in the automotive space. This is something our customers have been asking for with some interesting use cases, lets have a look at the range and how it helps complete our whole fleet solution even further.

Just what is telemetry, often referred to as tracking?

Most commonly known for locating a vehicle or an asset there is no surprise that telemetry is often referred to as “tracking”, however, the technology is now able to offer so much more value around this simple function. In its simplest form a device will be installed into the vehicle, this could be a telehandler, tractor or lorry as long as it has a power source e.g. 12v battery. Once physically installed, this device is then able to transmit a signal which can be monitored remotely, usually through a website and more recently, a mobile application. The value of these devices can then be realised from the portals to which they are monitored.

Added value with vehicle tracking

Once you have installed a device, the immediate value is being able to locate the vehicle remotely. Not only are you able to see the vehicle when it is static or travelling, but the device can also give insights such as;

  • Is the ignition on the machine on or off
  • What route is the machine/ vehicle travelling
  • Who is operating the machine
  • How long has the machine been in that particular location

Individually these information points (data) can be useful, some of our customers will only be interested in one or two. We see some real value coming from businesses which look at a particular issues within their operation, then relate these information points to a way of solving these problems, that is when you see information being converted into value, often monetary savings when employed correctly.

How does ignition on/ off tell me anything useful?

Lets take a 175hp tractor as an example here, it belongs in a fleet of 3 or 4 similar machines which operate on a arable contracting enterprise completing tasks such as muck spreading, cultivations, maize haulage and drilling. The owner of the business is actively involved in operating the equipment and has employees working for them to keep other equipment running to complete work on behalf of their customers. Some of the above operations will not be continuous work, if the machine is not working, is the machine earning as much money as it is potentially costing? To put it in perspective;

  • When the tractor is on a muck spreader working with 2 other machines, there could be a short haul between the work area and the muck heap which means the machine is often in a queue to load. Is the ignition of the machine on while waiting (engine running)?
  • During the Spring months the tractor is being used for drilling with a combination drill and front tank putting in both seed and fertiliser (2 tanks). When the machine comes back to the yard to fill up with seed and fertiliser, is it being left running while the operator loads out the seed, fertiliser from their locations and fills all 3 tanks before then doing some generic walk around checks?

These are only two examples, but when a machine is running and not being productive it is usually costing the owner. Fuel is an obvious expense, but also engine hours and the idle hours which are being accumulated on any service contracts etc, these can all stack up.

I can track the machines route, but why would I want to?

This is one of the most common features of any system, however it is incredibly under utilised in some cases. A business running a combined fleet of tractors, HGVs and telehandlers can be used as an example here, operating in different areas of a county and being managed from a single office. Where is the value in tracking your equipment location?

  • The obvious benefit would be traceability, if your equipment is being tracked it can be seen immediately should you be a victim of theft. These details can be shared with police directly or using the approved 24/hr stolen vehicle service we offer, it is likely to increase the changes of recovery and prosecution.
  • Customers operating a variety of machine type and brand often suffer with “silo syndrome”, a term for information being kept in many different places and not coming together. This is where a retrofit solution can be beneficial, it is a uniform platform which can be installed on any type of vehicle which allows you to see the whole fleet on one screen. Time is saved not logging into different websites and you have a single source for monitoring and reporting.
  • Often we like to see where a vehicle is going, less often do we realise that the same system can be used to make sure machines are not going into a certain area. For example, if your large machine is banned from a certain route and you have casual labour, you are able to check where that machine is and proactively stop any breaches which could have a financial fine or detriment to your local popularity
  • Operational efficiency is also a benefit. For our HGV fleet working with telehandlers, the route and location information can be used to assess the speed of loading and capacity of the HGV fleet or the telehandler. If there are too many trucks waiting, can another telehandler be utilised and vice vera for the loader. Gain efficiency by having the right machines in the right place at the right time.

As our customers expand in order to become more viable or cater for larger customers, being able to see the fleet and its live location can deliver significant value for all involved, not only those at head office.

How does it know who is operating the machine?

One of the unique benefits of this solution is the operator ID feature, something businesses in both Agriculture and Construction have been asking for. MetaTrak hardware can be installed on the machine to complete the tracking we discuss above, in addition it has a proximity system available which will allow a “tag” to be assigned to a record e.g. an operator. It is using this tag proximity that our portal is able to tell you exactly who is operating that machine and when, giving you another dimension of information. Below are some of the ways we have seen this being used to add value or save in some cases.

  • More often or not we see machines being damaged in their line of work, due to the cost of the repairs operators can be somewhat distant when it comes to the details. Those managing fleets are able to use this tag feature to help them confirm who was in a machine during a shift, cross reference this with the walk around checks of the previous shift and the next, it can be proven who was operating when the damage was incurred.
  • Machinery requiring a qualification to operate is often at risk of somebody without this ticket being behind the levers, something difficult to control in remote locations. By utilising the immobiliser feature available with MetaTrak it is possible to control what tags can/ cannot start a machine. As the responsible person, you are able to restrict those not qualified from starting a machine, utilising technology to significantly reduce health and safety risk and remove potential hazards remotely.

We have more businesses struggling to find good operators due to the skills shortage, as a result we have less skilled labour available which brings its own challenges. Utilising technology to not only monitor your operators but physically manage their capability brings much more than just peace of mind.

So my machine has stopped, why would that deliver value to me?

This could be a similar feature to the idling and will be relatable to un-productive machine hours, equipment stopped with the ignition on are usually not productive machines. However, there are more insights to be had from equipment in one place for a long period of time, for example;

  • If you have a operator in the field working alone (lone worker), there is a responsibility to ensure they are safe which can be difficult in the fast moving world of Agriculture, Forestry or Construction. Using MetaTrak you are monitoring machine activity, by default you are also monitoring when there is a lack of activity. Using this technology it is possible to receive a notification if a machine has been idle/ stopped for a duration of time, therefore notifying you that there could be an issue in the field and prompting you to check in. Health conditions such as heart attacks or accidents will result in machines being static, discovery time is crucial and could be the difference between life or death.
  • Equipment costs continue to increase and margins are under pressure as a result, if you are operating a hire fleet on a weekly contract with a customer but unable to collect the machine until the following Monday; how confident are you the machine is not being used? We see a number of machines on self drive being utilised outside of their hire contact at the expense of the hirer, users taking advantage of the machine availability and wanting the results without the costs. Hire operators are able to monitor hours of work and receive reports through certain date ranges, do not let a single engine hour slip through the net.

Again, there can be times where periods of inactivity are as valuable as activity when it comes to machine utilisation, not having visibility of this can be a detriment to users, operators and business owners alike.

As a business catering for all types of land based equipment we are fortunate to have exposure to various use cases which would not otherwise cross the users desk, something we want to encourage as it will help the overall efficiency of our land based fleets. Are any of the above use cases something you can relate to, maybe it is something you have not thought about until now; the whole reason we compose such articles.

If you have business areas you feel could be improved by adding fleet transparency or control, why not get in touch with our team and discuss how MetaTrak or our other products may be able to help you combat the costs. Drop us a line at info@vantage-ag.uk or call our office on 01480 861824 where we would be pleased to hear from you.

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