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Your Construction Equipment Is Talking: This Is What It Has To Say

Nov 21, 2017 - one year ago

By Supply Post

Voice-to-text and voice recognition software technologies such as Alexa, Siri, and Cortana are becoming more mainstream. Similar functionality can be applied in the construction industry to enable automatic feedback on machine operation. This can help identify errors and various malfunctions from sensors including problems with pressure, heat, or flow.

Having this type of technology on the equipment allows it talk to you. The integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) in construction equipment for remote monitoring is gaining momentum. Also, the technology is beginning to advance very rapidly, which will change how operators conduct business in the future.

Tony Nicoletti, director, sales and business development, DPL America, says as machines get more sensors on them, they are integrated with telematics or global positioning systems (GPS) to give information about the equipment to the person. This will help in monitoring the performance and efficiency of the machine. This communication in the construction equipment is conveying crucial information about its status, utilization, and maintenance needs.

The automated communication that happens when equipment either talks to each other, machine-to-machine (M2M), or to people directly can be achieved in a few different ways.

Jenny Shiner, marketing communications manager, GPS Insight, explains, “Telematics enables equipment to communicate and help construction businesses solve their most problematic challenges. This technology provides insight into real-time locations, remote diagnostics, equipment use on the jobsite, and streamlines a variety of other aspects of equipment management.”

Sensors additionally play an important role in helping equipment communicate. Fred Sixt, director, business development, construction, Telogis, adds, “Sensors are becoming more powerful, less expensive, and are proving very helpful. Sensors are connected to “onboard computers,” which determine if the signal is temporary, or a real problem. The computer analyzes the magnitude of the signal, and sends a message to the operator or the cloud for analysis.”

The Value of Connected Construction Equipment
There are several challenges that connected equipment helps solve. Nicoletti of DPL Telematics says, “It depends on the problem the company wants to solve. Safety on the jobsite is a big one. Reducing theft of the equipment is another one. GPS helps with these when integrated with telematics. Visibility at the jobsite is another issue to solve. Equipment usage with telematics provides the runtime and location in almost real-time for the contractor. It is more accurate; it can track fuel consumption and engine run time. There needs to be a goal of using the tech to utilize it correctly.” Businesses in the construction industry depend on the reliability and efficiency of their drivers, crews, and equipment. Having “talking” equipment helps the industry in many ways.

Shiner of GPS Insight adds, “Telematics takes the guesswork out of fleet management and provides a view necessary to run fleet operations as efficiently as possible. Along with recovering stolen assets faster, telematics helps construction businesses improve billing accuracy, extend the lifecycles of vehicles and equipment, and dispatch their fleet more proficiently.”

Building on that concept, there are also advantages to the equipment operators, which is critical to success at the construction jobsite.

Sixt of Telogis explains, “'Talking machines have the potential to reduce cost, maximize uptime, and increase production. They may also create a more engaging interaction between the operator and the equipment. Imagine the possibility of having two-way interactions between the operator and the equipment, enabling the operator to sync with the machine and accomplish more in less time with less risk and fatigue.”

Overcoming Implementation Hurdles
As with any technology implementation, there are hurdles to overcome both during implementation and throughout the extended use of systems.

For instance, Sixt says, “There can be issues with false-positive alerts, which can be the result of a temporary outage of specification measurement, which later corrects itself. Without knowledge of these false-positive alerts the result could be machine shutdown, stop of production, or unnecessary analysis and diagnosis.”

However, perhaps one of the biggest challenges with any new technology implementation is helping the operator understand how to get the most out of the solutions at the jobsite.

Nicoletti adds, “A challenge to using the technology is there is a learning curve to it. Once you put the tech on the machine you need to know how to read and manage the data. You also need to train your contractors on the new system. That can sometimes be a cultural shift for veterans on the jobsite. “

Building on that further, if a company is going to implement this technology, they have to follow through. Too often, technology is purchased and then not leveraged to the fullest.

Shiner says, “I would say a disadvantage to having telematics on equipment would be if a business takes the time to research and implement a solution, makes that type of investment, and then does not utilize the information. At that point, it becomes an expense opposed to a tool that’s revenue generating and cost-saving for the business.”

Still, at the end of the day, the benefits of the technology far outweigh the challenges that come with implementation and use on project. “Talking” equipment can help locate, analyze, and fix problems before major and costly failures occur. The real progress in the future lies with the development of a large database that analyzes sensors alerts. With this ability, the proper corrective actions can be made.

This predictive equipment management approach, which helps construction businesses reduce or even eliminate unplanned downtime caused by component failures, will be the way all construction equipment is managed in the future. Perhaps it’s time to listen to what your equipment is telling you.

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