What is Equipment Telematics?

August 09, 2021

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Key Takeaways

Equipment telematics is a system that transmits data over a telecommunications network and reveals the status and location of equipment. Companies can use telematics to monitor every piece of equipment, giving them more operational visibility and minimizing downtime.

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As companies realize the importance of technology to transform their organizations, they’re looking at moving to digital at scale. IoT or the Internet of Things plays a big role in digitization, connecting formerly analog “things” and turning them into smart devices. Equipment telematics is one example.

Cloud-based asset tracking and monitoring is a good way to jump into digitalization. You can use global positioning systems (GPS) to track all sizes, from trash cans to heavy equipment. Tracking and monitoring your equipment not only tells you where it is but also how its health is. Equipment telematics can tell you how equipment is being used, how fast it’s consuming fuel, and if it’s on the verge of failure. It gives you more visibility into operations, allowing you to conduct business efficiently.

In this guide, we’ll look at equipment telematics, what it can do, and how that benefits your business.

What is equipment telematics? 

Equipment telematics, or an equipment telematics system, describes a system that transmits data over a telecommunications network for a piece of equipment. You may have heard of vehicle telematics–also called fleet telematics—that uses GPS tracking and onboard communication systems to communicate vehicle information. It’s the same principle, but instead of getting deployed on vehicles, you use telematics to track different industrial equipment types.

The most common applications of telematics are tracking and monitoring. With tracking, you can keep track of where your powered and unpowered equipment is located. And with monitoring, you can keep an eye on engine diagnostics, fault codes, fuel consumption, and various equipment-specific sensor data.

For example, you could track a forklift on your jobsite. Based on engine hours, historical data, and OEM guidelines, you could identify when to schedule the forklift for preventive maintenance. Or, using telematics technology, you could set up geofencing around your construction site to help detect unusual activity, including theft.

Telematics has grown due to telecommunication networks getting stronger and the internet becoming more accessible. Today, business demand and regulatory requirements, such as the ELD mandate, have also contributed to telematics systems’ popularity. What data points do equipment telematics track? 

Telematics data can reveal lots of useful information that you can turn into action. With telematics, you can collect the following data points:

  • GPS and locations: A GPS tracker can find and track a piece of equipment’s location, even if you work across multiple sites. Location data can be collected and displayed on a map which you can then use to locate that item.

  • Fuel: Fuel is a huge cost for businesses. With fuel data, equipment fleet managers can see an individual equipment’s fuel usage, what’s causing the consumption, and take steps to reduce consumption and improve fuel efficiency.

  • Engine hours: Engine hours data is useful for tracking heavy equipment running for long hours on construction sites. This data can help you fully understand fuel or maintenance costs, in addition to what’s happening when equipment is operating.

  • Downtime: Viewing downtime data helps you understand downtime trends and the reasons it happens. You can then prioritize correcting what’s causing the issue. Downtime data also helps you prioritize preventative maintenance or equipment replacement. 

  • Fault codes: Also known as diagnostic trouble code (DTC). When a check engine/equipment light appears, telematics data can reveal what the issue is. You can take steps to have the equipment checked out. Or, if the same fault code and problem persists, determine if you should replace it.  

  • Idle time: Idling is a huge drain on your fleet’s fuel management and shortens an equipment’s lifespan. Equipment managers can use this data to understand its causes and take steps to reduce unnecessary idling.

  • Machine health: Continuously monitor the health of critical equipment to prevent downtime. Automate monitoring machine vibrations and surface temperature for key parts, including motors, compressors, pumps, fans, and more.

How equipment telematics can benefit your organization 

Telematics solutions streamline and automate equipment management. Here are some of the key benefits of equipment telematics.

1. Tracking capabilities provide greater visibility

Searching for assets on a large jobsite, such as a vast construction site or oilfield, can be time-consuming. Repeated site searches can cause project delays. GPS eliminates this asset hunt with a few clicks. 

Even better—with a cloud-based platform, you can easily check the real-time locations and status of your entire equipment fleet from anywhere. Management software provides visibility into entire inventories from a single dashboard view, giving fleet managers more inventory control. You can reduce unnecessary equipment moves and capitalize on unexpected jobs.

2. Theft prevention 

Unfortunately, equipment theft is quite common across the manufacturing and construction industries. It’s estimated that construction theft alone costs around $300 million to $1 billion each year, with only 25% of stolen equipment ever recovered. Replacing equipment and tools causes delays, angers clients, and eats away at profits.

Equipment telematics helps detect unauthorized movements and sends alerts notifying you of suspicious activity so that you can investigate or notify authorities. This is done by setting up geofencing alerts—a virtual perimeter—around your jobsite. If your equipment travels outside of the perimeter after hours, telematics software triggers the notification to you. Plus, GPS location tracking increases the likelihood that the equipment is recovered. 

3. Prevent downtime 

Unscheduled downtime is a huge concern for construction companies and product and equipment manufacturers. It causes bottlenecks and stops your plans altogether. A telematics solution helps you prevent downtime.

First, telematics provides visibility into your equipment so fleet managers can reduce maintenance and emergency repair issues in the first place through predictive or preventive maintenance programs. This ensures equipment stays healthier, boosting uptime.  Second, real-time data allows fleet managers to make informed decisions. For example, if a fault code appears, you can source another piece of equipment and plan around the maintenance before the issue worsens. 

4. Increased efficiency

Doing more with what you already have is essential to businesses with thin margins. Real-time data is key to working smarter and reducing operating costs. Equipment telematics data helps you understand equipment utilization. When you figure out which equipment is being underutilized, you can reallocate it before purchasing or renting more equipment, saving money. Monitoring utilization also helps you free up more resources to take on more business. 

If you work with multiple job sites, you may have to move your equipment around. Telematics helps you determine which equipment is the closest and the most efficient route to take, avoiding inefficient travel. It can also help you plan better routes based on available traffic and weather data.

Data access for reporting, compliance, billing, and more

Operations include the not-so-fun administrative/paperwork side of the business. However, you can streamline these tasks with a telematics solution and management software. For example, with equipment telematics data, you can create and share efficiency and usage reports, compile data for compliance checks, and use the data for billing purposes. 

Today’s modern equipment fleet management platforms help you manage operations all in one place. For example, on Samsara’s Connected Operations Platform, you can see where equipment is, monitor status, see how it’s being used, spot problems early, automate compliance, and more from a remote location. 

Types of equipment to track with equipment telematics 

Your equipment fleet encompasses a wide range of assets, but all it can be tracked and monitored with equipment telematics. The telematics device you can deploy depends on the type of equipment.  We break it down into three categories: unpowered, powered, and heavy.

Unpowered equipment. There is a wide range of unpowered assets. Typically, the telematics devices tracking these will be battery-powered.

* Shipping containers * Dumpsters * Portable toilets * Water tanks * Dollys * Trailers * Light towers * Arrow boards * Generators

Powered equipment. A little bit of everything as long as it’s powered, this category includes small, portable air compressors to large commercial boilers.

* Pumps * Compressors * Boilers and Chillers * Instrumented trailers * Oil equipment * Agricultural equipment * Custom machinery

Heavy equipment. Most construction equipment (i.e., Caterpillar, John Deere, Komatsu machines) fall under this category.

* Forklifts * Excavators * Backhoe loaders * Scrapers * Rollers * Skid Steers * Cranes * Boom Lifts * Dozers

Unpowered equipment

This equipment sometimes gets overlooked for larger, costlier equipment, but it’s certainly missed when it’s gone. Companies like Samsara have battery-powered tracking solutions that provide periodic updates on location. This is handy in case equipment gets stolen, but the real value is creating geofences for theft detection.

Powered equipment

Powered equipment telematics devices usually plug into or connect with a cable. Aside from providing live location data, you can often collect equipment usage, engine diagnostics, sensor, interface, and programmable logic controller (PLC) data. You can track your critical metrics to improve productivity, prevent downtime, and maximize efficiency.

Heavy equipment

Heavy equipment is mostly used for moving, demolition, digging, or lifting. Because heavy equipment is sometimes located in remote and rugged, telematics solutions need to be both powerful and durable to operate in any conditions. More powerful than battery-powered devices, heavy equipment telematics has robust diagnostics for monitoring engine hours and status, RPM, coolant temperatures, and more.

How to select an equipment telematics provider 

When looking for an equipment telematics provider, evaluate the provider for the following criteria and ask yourself (and the provider) these questions:

  • Data quality: Is the data in real-time? Can the telematics devices and platform retain functionality even in areas with little cell reception? Can the solution scale to handle enterprise-level operations without a drop in performance?

  • Connectivity: How does the telematics device transfer data? Do they use wired or wireless connections? Is the connection the provider uses fast enough to send real-time data?  

  • Alerting capabilities: What does alerting look like? Can you choose how you receive alerts (such as SMS, email, or voice alarms)? How easy is it to set up alarms? How customizable are alerts?

  • Mobile accessibility: Can you access equipment data while on the go? Does the provider have mobile apps for both iPhone and Android users?

  • Ease of install: How easy will the telematics device be to install? What tools do you need? Will you need to have a professional install devices, or is it possible to set it up yourself?

  • Customer support: What kind of customer support does the provider offer? What channels are they on, and how often are they available?

Asking these kinds of questions and questions specific to your operations helps you figure out which provider fits best with your organization.

Track and monitor every kind of equipment with Samsara

Samsara’s real-time tracking systems give you visibility across your entire operations and eliminates yard and site hunts. Geofencing features offer you peace of mind, helping to prevent theft and detect unauthorized usage. You’ll always know exactly where equipment is at all times, no matter where you are.

Samsara empowers you with an integrated platform, complete with a full suite of pre-built and customizable reports. Track and monitor equipment fleet operations to ensure efficiency, prevent downtime, and extend the life of your investment.

Curious to see Samsara in action? Reach out for a free trial.

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