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The Benefits of Telematics: Predictive Maintenance and More

When machines deliver actionable data, efficiency improves.

Equipment that’s well maintained lasts longer and is less likely to break when you need it most. That’s the point of preventive maintenance. But through the use of telematics, companies gain the efficiencies of predictive maintenance — and more.

Telematics is the remote monitoring of equipment and vehicles using a “black box” that collects and stores data and sends it via cellular or satellite to a cloud server and, ultimately, software accessed by the end user. These telematics devices can, depending on the telematics system, help you monitor everything from fuel consumption and engine temperature to fluid levels and run time. Managers can set criteria that define what alerts, such as fuel and service notifications, are sent.

RELATED: What is Telematics?

Reducing maintenance costs

One clear-cut benefit of using telematics for predictive maintenance is reducing maintenance costs. Operators and managers can use data about equipment and vehicles to determine when certain maintenance tasks are needed rather than schedule maintenance based on miles or time driven. This just-in-time maintenance means you’re not over- or under-scheduling shop time. Data-based maintenance can also help fleet managers better forecast their maintenance budgets.

Reduced downtime, increased productivity

A second key benefit of predictive maintenance is, of course, reduced fleet downtime and therefore increased productivity.

For an example of what predictive maintenance looks like in the field, take dozer maintenance. A dozer’s undercarriage accounts for about 20 percent of the purchase price but closer to 50 percent of the lifetime repair costs according to one estimate. You can schedule complete undercarriage inspections based on a timeline from the manufacturer, but that may not be ideal if you’re using the dozer more in some months than others. Maintaining the machine every so many miles instead of every so many months also has its issues because it requires your operator to keep an eye on the odometer, and still you don’t really know on which day maintenance will come due.

With telematics, the “black box” is watching the average miles driven and can predict on an ongoing basis when you’ll hit your target mile mark for maintenance. Some systems can even tell you how much time the dozer spends moving forward versus backward, which is useful because it tells operators to watch for damage caused by excessive reverse travel — and perhaps alerts managers that an operator needs to change his or her driving habits.

Machines equipped with telematics also typically have a GPS receiver so that, with the right software or platform, you can know where every piece of equipment is, across jobsites, at any given moment instead of wasting time looking for equipment. Location data can also help you identify underutilized equipment.

Real results

Telematics is taking off as more manufacturers are making their heavy equipment internet-ready. United Rentals offers more than 200,000 units equipped with telematics technology as well as a fleet management platform, Total Control®. This platform lets you see data on your entire fleet of rental equipment in one place, and without the need to switch apps or web portals for different manufacturers or to enter data manually into spreadsheets in order to reconcile it. The advanced functions of Total Control® include geo-fencing, which helps managers ensure that pieces of heavy construction equipment remain outside of designated areas — and aren’t stolen.

United Rentals can also add telematics devices to a customer’s owned equipment.

Unlike, say, drones or exoskeletons, telematics may not be the flashiest of technologies, but the benefits — from optimizing equipment maintenance and increasing fleet visibility to improving operator behavior, reducing fuel consumption and protecting against theft — can show up in your bottom line before you know it.

RELATED: Implement a Strategic Roadmap for Successful Technology Adoption


Megan Headley has been writing about every aspect of the built environment since 2004. As owner of ClearStory Publications, LLC, Megan demonstrates her passion for helping contractors create more productive and safer jobsites, and more sustainable and successful projects.

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