The Association of Equipment Management Professionals’ 2014 Asset Management Symposium kicked off Tuesday in Nashville, Tennessee, with a record-breaking crowd packed into a standing-room-only ballroom at the Sheraton Music City Hotel. This year’s symposium was dedicated to a single subject–off-road telematics–and began with a panel discussion from three of the industry’s leading practitioners.
In a presentation titled “Evolution of Equipment Managers: Past, Present, Future,” Dave Gorski, CEM, and shop administrator for K-Five Construction, shared how maintenance records were kept early in his career. In the past, handwritten records stored in file cabinets were often inaccurate, incomplete and difficult to retrieve, Gorski said. Although typewritten and computer entered data made records easier to read, the problems didn’t go away because the information was still recorded on paper and physically stored in file cabinets and field service personnel didn’t have access to the computers.
John Meese, senior director of heavy equipment at Waste Management followed with a look at the future of maintenance information management, a future that in many ways his company has already adopted. “Today, with telematics, our equipment speaks to us,” Meese said. “If something is wrong, it sends us an email.”
One of the most obvious benefits that telematics provides said Meese was the ability to monitor idle time. As a typical example, he cited at Caterpillar 966 wheel loader that his telematics system told him idled half the time it was running. Over the lifecycle of that loader, the excessive idle time would result in $17,000 of unnecessary fuel burned and a warranty period that was cut in half. By knowing which operators and machines operated with excessive idle time, the company is able to use the information to modify behavior and reduce the associated costs.
But idle time is just the low-hanging fruit, and telematics has much more to offer contractors and equipment managers, Meese said. With the ability of telematics data feeds to be aggregated and customized, the equipment manager’s role is no longer just to keep the machine’s running.
“You’ll need to use this data to help operations and procurement to make decisions, and that is a new role for the equipment manager,” Meese said. This includes providing information about equipment utilization rates, right-sizing equipment, scheduling PMs and extending service intervals. Given Waste Management’s vast fleet and more than 700 locations, Meese said, “We don’t have enough feet on the ground to keep up without telematics.”
The third panelist, Barth Burgett, vice president of equipment and support for Kokosing Construction, talked about how his company was using telematics today. Burgett told the audience how much more he collaborates with financial decision makers in other departments in the company thanks to the information telematics provides. For example, the utilization reporting that telematics provides informs decisions about depreciation, rental rates and the gain or loss on disposal. Idling information also affect depreciation, fuel and lubricant costs and maintenance parts and labor. With excessive idling, you find that “you are throwing money out the door,” Burgett said. “Fifty percent, is not uncommon.”
Collaboration with other departments was a challenge in the past because not everybody had the same information, Burgett said. With telematics, it is easy to get everybody on the same page and as a result you can close those gaps in the communication process.
During a Q&A session following the formal presentations, the panel of equipment managers was asked if they worried about the big brother-ish aspects of having all their operational data being handled by dealer and OEM websites. Meese flipped the question on its head.
“We want big brother watching out for us,” Meese said. “The question I would have is ‘why aren’t you watching our machines.’ I’m all for the dealer seeing all that we’ve got.”
Gorski concurred. “We need all the eyes on the equipment we can get,” he said. “I will accept anybody who can help us by any means. They may see some of the things in the field that we may miss, and if they’re smart they’ll watch out for us in the field and make recommendations.”