By Jack Petree
According to Matthew Flood, John Deere’s ForestSight product manager, “Successful businesses in the future will truly be defined by how well technology and telematics capabilities are leveraged by customers and integrated into day-to-day decisions in the business.”
Flood works at the cutting edge of what he calls, “a new era” in machine operations in the forest, an era enabled by telematics. Telematics involves the gathering of machine information, data, and metrics and the sharing of that information to a central location for viewing and analysis. Flood points out that analysis, when leveraged and followed by appropriate action, can result in significantly reduced machine downtime, reductions in non-productive run time on the machine, diminished fuel burn, decreased maintenance costs, and more efficiently accomplished harvests; in general, an enhanced ability for machine owners to fine tune an entire operation with a view towards the optimization of the potential for profitability.
In the recent past, Flood puts forward, “A person might have perceived machine telematics as simply providing critical feedback about machine locations, working hours, and fuel burn.” Today, he continues, “Our machines are doing more than just sending information to a remote server, they are truly becoming ‘connected’ to our world. A customer can view information about the machines available at his or her fingertips from a location on the opposite side of the world. Dealers and technicians can remotely monitor and connect to machines and initiate data collection on demand, based on triggers such as machine alerts or fault codes.” Analysis of the data can then be utilized to reduce costs by avoiding unnecessary expensive repairs, multiple trips by a service technician who can remotely diagnose machines before leaving for an on-site visit, or any one of a variety of other problems capable of eating up cash.
The Key Is Leveraging
Telematics is not just for the large-scale operator according to Flood. “All contractor sizes can benefit from the information provided through telematics whether that business has two or three machines or 30-plus machines,” he contends. “The key is leveraging telematics’ capabilities to increase your bottom dollar.”
By way of example, Flood mentions, “One of the best ways to leverage telematics is to increase your bottom dollar through managing or limiting idle time on the machines. Traditionally, a machine could idle between 10-20 percent of the hours that it’s utilized through a given week/month/year. Now one could argue that the savings in fuel alone is quite minimal. However, look at the larger picture: a machine that idles 20 percent of an annual accumulation of 1,000 hours just spent 200 hours sitting at idle rather than being productive. Those 200 hours not only resulted in a loss of production but also contributed to a faster degradation of both warranty and, potentially, resale value. Tracking of fuel burn and machine utilization metrics could also point to training requirements, improper operation by an operator, or potential machine maintenance requirements.”
Telematics does not, Flood says, generally require much in the way of operator training. “From the telematics standpoint,” he comments, “an operator is basically hands-off, and the data flow is autonomous. I would say, however, it is important for an operator to understand that some of the metrics about the machine could be monitored by a business owner or job site foreman.”
Machine operators can also benefit from the use of telematics. According to Flood, telematics has the potential to lessen the stress placed on an operator over the course of a work day. He explains, “As we team [with owners and operators] and gather more information from our machines, we are developing and finding new ways to help operators be more productive through the long days.”
Communication Is Key
Flood contends that the most important factor in successfully utilizing telematics to best benefit an operation is the building of a strong relationship between the contractor and the dealership.
“The strategic part, and really the key [of introducing telematics to an operation] is to leverage and discuss the machine information after a demo of an appropriate duration,” Flood comments. Working with the dealership’s experts, the contractor can directly relate to the information provided through telematics that is appropriate to his or her specific application; the dealership and the contractor thus learn together how telematics can best be utilized to the fullest extent in the contractor’s own specific operation.
Flood’s best piece of advice to a contractor either using, or considering the use of, telematics? Build those strong partnerships with your dealership around telematics-enabled features.
“Experts at dealers are on staff and are trained to monitor machine information and trends necessary for troubleshooting long before a customer knows there could be an issue with the machine. This leads to preventative maintenance potential and the reduction of machine downtime through proactive decision making.”
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