Improve Equipment Management with Telematics

Companies that find ways to better manage and leverage information have an edge over competitors. Fleet managers are discovering that tracking assets with telematics using cellular technology, GPS hardware, and the internet can supply them with the information they need to better control their operations. Telematics can help develop better equipment utilization and efficiency, accurate billing, and improved maintenance scheduling—all items that contribute to reduced operating costs and increased revenues.

Automation provides accurate information

Continuously tracking equipment remotely removes the questions about where it is or if it is available for use. Pete Mastro, general manager at US Markets (USM), an aerial lift re-rental company based in Elmhurst, Ill., says that when he first joined the company, one of his key concerns was the ability to keep track of its equipment because it relied heavily on phone audits and customer inputs.

“For years, USM had been tracking the use and care of our equipment manually, by calling or sending faxes to our customers to confirm location, use, and maintenance,” he says. “Clearly there had to be a better way to get a handle on our business and monitor not only utilization but the maintenance of our fleet.” The company’s current fleet of about 800 units is comprised of boom lifts, scissor lifts, and telehandlers.

Despite being based in Illinois, USM’s customers are rental companies across the country, and the company’s equipment moves from customer to customer, as needed, without returning to USM’s rental yard. “Obviously, this creates a challenge in monitoring and tracking our equipment location, usage, and quality,” Mastro says. In 2005, USM chose a Qualcomm system for its product capabilities and ability to support the company’s equipment on a nationwide basis. GPS units are on all the company’s large booms and telehandlers in its re-rental fleet.

Acme Lift, Mesa, Ariz., is another re-rental company that monitors the location and engine hours of its high-reach aerials and cranes with telematics. Woody Weld, president of the company, says using telematics “avoids the insanity of trying to keep track of expensive capital equipment on anecdotal information from our customers.” He notes that prior to using the Qualcomm system, equipment was in places it wasn’t supposed to be, and it was difficult to get accurate information from the field. The company didn’t know when the equipment was broken or in need of repair. “If customers gave us the wrong information, we’d make the wrong decisions,” he says. Now, with accurate data, the company is able to increase its efficiency and make better choices by knowing what’s occurring with the equipment.

Since their introduction, asset tracking systems have become simpler and more cost effective. Whether using GPS or cellular technology, these systems collect, manage, and transmit equipment operating status and location data automatically. This operating data can be used for billing purposes; tracking equipment productivity; warranty tracking; providing reminders to schedule maintenance based on operating hours; and keeping service and repair histories. They can also be used to provide a clearer window into big-picture issues such as identifying which equipment produces the best return on investment, which requires the most maintenance, and making repair or replace decisions.

Read this entire article in the May issue of Lift and Access or find it online in the digital issue.