Getting started with Telematics (AEMP 2012)

Updated Nov 16, 2012

The second half of the telematics portion of the Association of Equipment Management Professionals 2012 Fall Symposium honed in on the practical aspects of using the technology.

Terry Rasmussen, PE,  fleet services manager at Caterpillar, applauded what AEMP has done in developing a telematics standard for off-road equipment and noted that a group in Germany is doing something similar.

The first question Rasmussen says he gets from customers that want to get into telematics is: “Where do I start?” His response: “Think big. Where will your business be in the next five  to 10 years? If you wait for it to all get figured out, you won’t be ready for 10 years,” he said.

Telematics can improve efficiency and reduce costs in a number of areas besides equipment management, Rasmussen said, including materials, payloads, cycle times, and invoicing.  Without telematics all these elements of the job require manual data entry, and manually entered data is usually fraught with errors, misfiled or lost all together.

“Do you have a list of machine serial numbers?” he asked the 200 AEMP members attending the session. “Is it accurate? Many folks don’t know what their fleet looks like. And if serial numbers aren’t right, what about machine hours, fuel information, time cards? It is amazing the number of mistakes, and numbers that are transposed in paper records,” Rasmussen said.

Telematics can start you on the path toward more accurate, timely and useable records of this information. “It is not going to happen overnight. It’s a journey but you have to start sometime,” he said. And while Rasmussen recommended thinking big, he also said you should start small. The first step is to identify a senior leader as sponsor. Recognize also that you’re going to have to engage in change management and that some people are going to be threatened.  Next, you need to identify a cross functional team and ask them to support a pilot project.

Bringing in co-workers from other parts of the company helps tamp down suspicion and improves your chances of succeeding, Rasmussen said.  “Have them help you. They know your business,” he said. “Figure out what the recipe is so you can replicate it across your organization. How many people have to touch the time cards, how much time is spent on these aspects of the business?”

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Rasmussen acknowledged that few sites have all new machines or even machines that are telematics ready. So he says to take the salt and pepper approach. Mix some representative machines with telematics into a site with machines that don’t. And remember, you can at least get the hours data off any machine.

“What I’ve found is that (you realize) you’re not nearly as good as you thought you were once you start to measure it.”

The pilot program doesn’t have to take a lot of time, Rasmussen said. Two to six months is plenty. And once you’ve got the data you need, you can begin to think about how you can integrate it into your processes.

“There is tremendous value into distributing reports to site managers and equipment managers,” Rasmussen said. “And don’t just do websites. Email them the reports and use the website for additional information if they need more.” At this point you’ve overcome the technical hurdles of telematics implementation. Now the challenge is to communicate the successes and benefits of the pilot with peers and upper management. Show cost savings, improved utilization, greater accuracy, increased  safety and security, improved maintenance and reduced emissions and compliance issues.  Don’t just make an add on to existing business metrics. Integrate the data into your business.

“What I’ve found is that (you realize) you’re not nearly as good as you thought you were once you start to measure it,” he said.

Rasmussen closed by telling attendees that telematics implementation is a journey. “It doesn’t happen overnight. You get better over time.  The picture here is much bigger than the equipment management.”