To remain competitive, successful loggers are always trying to find ways to boost production or reduce expense. To put it more simply, either sell more or spend less. The key to finding ways to do either is more information. Telematics, or remote reporting of equipment information through satellite or cellular service, can generate the information a business needs to sell more and spend less.
Many forestry equipment manufacturers now offer a telematics option on their equipment, and on some machines it is a standard feature. Telematics installed by the OEM as standard equipment will often be less expensive than a retrofit, and it is certainly hard to beat the convenience. However, a quick search of the Internet will turn up aftermarket telematics vendors that can provide varying degrees of information on your equipment.
At its heart, a telematics system includes hardware and software that together provide information ranging from the location of your equipment all the way up to complete diagnostics of all machine components, including fault codes, event codes, preventive maintenance due, and so on. Many of these systems include a controller installed on the machine that communicates via a satellite link to the vendor or manufacturer’s computers. The equipment owner is then able to access the information on a website from anywhere in the world, even using a smartphone. Some telematics systems use cellular service rather than satellite; this can be less expensive depending on options, but it may provide less reliable communication due to gaps in cell coverage.
Some ways that telematics can help you spend less on your equipment:
Reduce idle time: For an average size machine, idle time is the equivalent of throwing a two dollar coin out the window every minute. With VisionLink®, the user interface for Caterpillar’s telematics system Product Link™, a Cat customer learned an operator had run a mid-size dozer for 40 hours one week, with 16 of those hours running at low idle. With the dozer consuming about five litres of fuel per hour at low idle, and with diesel fuel costing roughly $1.50 per litre, the operator cost his company $120 that week. More importantly, he added 16 unproductive hours to the machine clock, and the machine will be due for its next scheduled service sooner.
Eliminate catastrophic failures: If the telematics system is capable of “talking” to the machine’s electronics, it can report Level 2 and Level 3 fault codes, emailing them directly to the owner or fleet manager. Recently, a Cat customer had a machine with three Level 3 fault codes for the transmission overheating. Not only did he receive three email notifications, Caterpillar personnel called the customer by phone to ask him to shut down the machine. The problem was corrected, and catastrophic failure of the transmission was avoided. The customer found the operator had deliberately overridden the fault codes and continued to operate the machine.
Fleet tracking: You know where every machine is. No more wasted trips to refuel a machine that isn’t there. No more phone calls to five different people trying to track down a machine that’s due for service.
Uptime: Most telematics systems can track the operating hours of a machine, and many have a maintenance tracking feature. No more missing a scheduled service and, for example, running with dirty air filters. Preventive maintenance can more easily be done regularly, on schedule, and at a time that does not interfere with production.
Cost per hour calculation: Telematics capable of tracking fuel consumption and maintenance intervals can help figure how much it costs to keep a machine productive. Armed with this information, you can make better decisions about whether to rebuild a machine coming to the end of its life or to purchase a new one. If you invest in a new machine, you’ll have good data to decide what size, make or model machine to buy.
Like any information you gather about your business, telematics only provides value if you act on it. If your equipment came standard with telematics, you are already a long way toward selling more and spending less.