Toby Sims, owner of Ka-Jen Logging LLC in Elkton, Fla., says that sometimes when he asks other loggers what kind of fuel economy they’re getting with their wheel feller buncher, they’ll give a total weekly average for all their machines. “Really? How do they know if they are making any money?” Sims asks. “I can look right on my phone and tell you how much my buncher burns since the day I bought it.”
Sims has Cat® Product Link™ on his Cat 563C wheel feller buncher and his Cat 535C wheel skidder, both purchased in 2012. Product Link is an advanced — but user friendly — remote monitoring technology for equipment. With Product Link, Sims knows where his equipment is, what it’s doing and how it’s performing. Armed with this information he can maximize his efficiency and lower his operating costs.
Product Link isn’t just for large equipment fleet owners sitting behind a desk. Loggers with one or two crews can get an edge by using Product Link. “This market is so tight, it’s very important for me to figure out where every dollar I make is going. That way I can try to figure out how to keep more of it,” he laughs.
Sims points out that even when he’s in the woods operating his knuckleboom loader, he still uses Product Link because he can’t see all his machines all the time. “When I’m in the loader I can see my skidder a lot of the time, but my buncher man gets so far away from me I can’t see him. So I’ll check my iPhone for fuel and idle time, just to make sure nothing’s throwing a flag up.”
Monitor daily fuel usage
For most loggers, measuring exact fuel consumption per machine is the most valuable aspect of Product Link. Sims checks his fuel consumption several times a day. “On the different blocks of wood we cut, I try to figure out where to set up the ramps (decks). How far to pull the wood with the skidder before it starts getting into the profits,” he says. “If my fuel consumption goes way up on my skidder, and nothing else has changed, I know we’re pulling the wood too far and we need to move the ramp.”
Watching fuel on his buncher tells him when he needs to change the air filter. His crew blows out the air filter every day, but when he sees the fuel consumption increasing and conditions haven’t changed, he knows it’s time to replace the filter. “And it’s amazing. I can see the difference,” he says. Sims keeps track of the size of all the blocks he’s cut and how much fuel it took. This helps him estimate costs when he’s preparing bids for similar tracts.
Track working vs. idle time
In addition to burning fuel, idle time eats up warranty coverage and accelerates preventative maintenance schedules. Sims has been watching his numbers, but this has not been an issue for him. “I’m amazed at how productive my guys are. There’s no idle time. These tractors are running hard!”
In another situation, a sawmill realized significant fuel savings as a result of tracking idle time. The company discovered its wheel loaders were idling up to 45% in a shift. By instructing operators to shut down the machines when they weren’t working, the utilization rates shot up to 70+%.
Sims gets email alerts when a condition warrants attention or service is due. Nine times out of 10 his dealer’s service department has called him before he even has a chance to check his email.
Some customers prefer to have the dealer monitor Product Link data for them. “We’re looking for codes that would cause the machine to go down — overheating your torque converter, low oil pressure,” says Billy Mason, Product Link manager for Yancey Bros. Co., Cat dealer in Georgia. “For example, we were watching a customer’s machine and saw it overheat multiple times in a day. We called the customer and it had been raining and the engine compartment was full of mud. So they pressure washed out the radiator and it went back to normal temperature.”
Chris Tomkinson, service manager at Ring Power Corp., Cat dealer for Florida, reports that their field dispatcher has saved a couple engines as a result of following up on a low engine oil pressure warning.
Besides alerting the customer when a condition needs attention, both dealers provide regular summary reports. “Customers who don’t have time to monitor Product Link, rely on the report because it’s basically an executive overview of the issues,” said Shawn Green, Product Link manager for Ring Power.
Easy to use
Sims views VisionLink®, the user interface for Product Link, on both his iPhone and iPad. “I use it a lot more on my iPhone because I’m on the loader a lot, but if I’m not on the machine I’ll be in my truck overseeing everything and checking my fuel and idle time on my iPad.”
The system is user friendly. Even loggers who don’t consider themselves computer savvy, can pick it up easily. Both Ring Power and Yancey train customers on how to get the most from the system.
Other features of the system include the ability to setup machine boundaries and access other services, like Cat S•O•SSM fluid analysis service and the Cat PartStore™.
“It’s not that hard. They would be able to figure it out really easy if they would just try,” Sims says. “I’ve told loggers this Cat equipment with Product Link is state of the art. They need to get their hands on it because it is so important to know how much fuel you’re burning.”