A Guide to GPS Tracking Your Machinery and Heavy Equipment

May 04, 2021

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Key Takeaways

From oil and gas to construction and more, industries are realizing the potential of tracking machinery with GPS technology. Benefits include time savings, enhanced safety, and streamlined operations. Learn how heavy equipment tracking expands fleet visibility, detects theft, and prevents unexpected breakdowns.

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If your organization still uses spreadsheets or paper files to track your heavy-duty equipment, you’re not alone. According to McKinsey Global Institute, the construction industry is among the least digitized. But, the industry is making progress: 37% of contractors plan to adopt equipment tagging by 2022. 

On the other hand, the oil and gas industry fares much better in terms of overall digitization, but needs to transform end-to-end workflows to break inertia and achieve substantial business value. Cost cutting continues to be a priority with the industry investing in the efficiency and lifespan of existing assets. Industry leaders look to technology solutions to drive optimization.

Cloud-based asset tracking is a good way to jump into digitalization if you’re unsure where to start. You can use global positioning systems (GPS) to track machinery and heavy equipment. It’s an easy to use technology, it’s cost-effective, and it can make a big impact on your operations. The transportation and logistics sectors have already embraced GPS. It’s now becoming an indispensable tool for industries that manage heavy equipment. 

Read on to learn why tracking machinery and heavy equipment with GPS is beneficial and how to evaluate GPS solutions.

What is GPS tracking?

Global positioning systems (GPS) are a collection of 31 satellites circling the globe. It comprises three parts: satellites, ground stations, and receivers. When combined, basic GPS can calculate location with approximately 7.8-meter accuracy, 95% of the time, anywhere on earth

Just as GPS technology has become more pervasive in our personal lives, it’s likewise a valuable tool for businesses. Today’s devices, sensor technology, and software allow GPS to track nearly everything. You can find GPS helping people do their jobs more effectively in every sector. From marketers tempting shoppers with coupons to scientists surveying nature—they all benefit.

The commercial fleet industry associates GPS technology with vehicle telematics. Vehicle telematics combines several technologies—such as GPS systems and onboard diagnostics. Combined, they communicate vehicle location and performance. It’s an integral tool for fleet management across industries. Similarly, telematics for equipment can collect and send data for your assets.  

3 reasons machinery and heavy equipment need GPS tracking

Heavy machinery and equipment–like backhoes, bulldozers, and the trailers that haul them—cost companies a lot of capital. Keeping track of every piece of equipment is critical for operational efficiency. Here are three reasons businesses are turning to GPS tracking solutions.

1. Visibility

Locating assets on a large job site, such as a vast construction site or oilfield, can be inconvenient. Repeated site searches are not only time-consuming; they can cause project delays. With GPS, you can check the real-time locations of heavy equipment remotely. It also enables you to track how effectively your fleet is using fuel, vehicles, and employees. GPS tracking software provides visibility into entire inventories from a single dashboard view, giving fleet managers more inventory control. They can avoid time-consuming yard hunts and unnecessary equipment movements. Companies can also use live tracking to capitalize on unexpected jobs by routing available machinery quickly.

2. Theft

Unfortunately, job site equipment theft is quite common across industries. For example, in 2016, the National Equipment Register (NER) estimated that construction theft costs around $300 million to $1 billion each year. And only 25% of stolen equipment is ever recovered. Companies that lose tools and machinery need to get them replaced, which can take days or weeks. If a company cannot proceed without the equipment, it causes delays, angering clients. GPS tracking devices can dissuade thieves and aid in recovery efforts of stolen equipment. Plus, having full visibility into inventory status helps fleet managers move fast. They can mobilize swiftly to send a replacement to the job site pending availability.

3. Maintenance

Beyond location data, many GPS solutions collect usage and diagnostic data. This allows fleet managers to track equipment performance through data such as engine hours, error codes, and fluid levels. Consistent monitoring reduces downtime and prevents breakdowns in frequently used equipment. GPS systems can also provide customized preventative maintenance alerts for specific equipment and vehicles. For instance, with Samsara, you can set up preventative maintenance schedules and tasks triggered by usage, time, or mileage.

The benefits of GPS tracking machinery and heavy equipment

With more companies turning to GPS to track their machinery, several key benefits emerge. Here are some of the most impactful benefits: 

Save time

Delivering projects on time is essential for keeping clients happy and costs down. GPS solutions like Samsara drive time-saving efficiency. For example, with Samsara’s Connected Operations Platform, you can manage operations from one place. No more phone calls tracking down machinery. This means you can also respond to customers faster. When all your fleet data is in one place, you switch less between different systems. You can digitize workflows, creating automated tasks that reduce paperwork. They may seem small, but minor changes add up to enormous improvements in productivity. 

Protect your assets

GPS technology can help you identify theft and retrieve stolen assets while offsite. If your GPS solution can create geofences—or virtual borders around areas—you can detect theft or unauthorized use faster. With geofences, fleet managers can receive instant alerts when a tracked asset leaves a tagged perimeter. Further, having real-time GPS location data helps authorities to retrieve stolen equipment. 

Improve your bottom line

Did you know that GPS tracking solutions can save you money and improve your bottom line? Here are a few ways:

  • Maximize asset usage: Are your assets leveraged to their fullest? Or are they sitting dormant more often than not? GPS tracking and tools like Samsara’s Utilization Report give you a clear picture of how assets are being used. You can identify idle equipment versus heavily used assets. This information is key to operational efficiency. Instead of buying new equipment, grow the business by redeploying underutilized equipment to areas with higher demand. Or rightsize your fleet with confidence. Make informed decisions to reduce unnecessary overhead costs.

  • Contract enforcement: Whether you own and rent equipment, or rely on heavy equipment to get a job done, GPS data can hold all parties accountable. Locational data can pinpoint vehicles’ movements. It’s simple to confirm if the equipment is staying within an agreed-upon area. Having this data helps you enforce or dispute agreement penalties.

How do I choose a GPS tracker?

As you evaluate tracking for your machinery and heavy equipment, there will be many product variables to consider. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re assessing a system. 

  • Easy installation: How seamless will the installation process be for your fleet? Is the hardware plug-and-play like Samsara’s or will you need to hire extra people to install? Approximately how long will your equipment be out of service?

  • Power considerations: What is the asset tracker’s power source? Is it better to have plug-in powered trackers or unpowered trackers? If unpowered, does the tracker’s battery life meet your needs? Does the powered asset tracker have a backup battery in case of a power failure?

  • Quality of data: Will your equipment or vehicles benefit from real-time tracking? Or will a location ping every five to ten minutes suffice? Do you need both? Should you look for an option that switches between real-time and interval tracking like Samsara?

  • Ease of use: What do reporting and the tracking dashboard look like? Is the software’s interface intuitive to use? Will it need a heavy lift to onboard and train employees to use it? Can you easily customize your dashboard with drop-and-drag tools to fit your needs?

  • Customer support: Does the machinery or vehicle tracking provider have customer service options that fit your team’s needs? How does your team access support? Does the provider offer live 24/7 hour support on those channels?

Track your machinery and heavy equipment with Samsara

GPS systems are becoming more commonplace at companies using heavy equipment. GPS solutions like Samsara help businesses manage every stage of their projects. Using GPS technology increases fleet visibility, detects thefts, and decreases downtime on job sites. It’s a cost-effective way to ensure your equipment’s security and projects’ efficiency.

Samsara’s real-time tracking systems end yard and site hunts, freeing you to tackle high-value tasks. Geofencing features offer you peace of mind. You’ll always know exactly where equipment is at all times, from anywhere. Samsara empowers you with a full suite of pre-built and customizable reports. Track fleet operations to ensure efficiency, safety, and compliance. With Samsara's GPS solution for heavy equipment, you can feel confident in delivering on-time projects on budget.

Ready to see Samsara in action? Reach out for a free trial, or read more about Samsara’s asset tracking solutions.

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