Tracking Indoor Equipment with Tags

Tags eliminate the hunt for indoor equipment and enable fleet managers to boost utilization.

Construction equipment, whether rented or owned, represents a big chunk of a project’s costs. Using it wisely often results in saving money. Telematics can tell you exactly where every piece of your equipment is and also provide data on utilization. Managers can see equipment that’s sitting idle and allocate it to other jobsites or return it if it’s rented.

“Say you have 10 scissor lifts and 10 forklifts,” said Kevin Noonan with the Advanced Solutions group at United Rentals. “Equipment tracking can tell you who’s using them, when are they using them and whether you need more or fewer of them based on utilization rates.”

But here’s the rub: Telematics requires GPS, which requires satellites.

“Telematics won’t work if it’s indoors or in a basement,” said Noonan. So tracking indoor equipment requires a different approach. Some companies are turning to equipment tags.

One United Rentals client, the power company Ameren Missouri, currently uses more than 20 scissor lifts and forklifts at an energy plant in St. Louis.

“They were tired of not being able to find their forklifts or scissors lifts. It could take two hours to locate the specific equipment, ” said Noonan.

United Rentals solved the problem by supplying equipment tags from Triax Technologies called Spot-r EquipTags. These small, battery powered, rechargeable devices adhere to equipment. They provide real-time equipment location and automatically collect activity and utilization data. The localized, closed network they run on doesn’t require Wi-Fi or GPS. (The tags can also work outside.)

“The system to cover 220,817 square feet was installed and operating in less than a day,” said David Strubberg, director of innovation, programs and IT at Ameren Missouri. “"It’s an effective way to reduce wasted time looking for mobile equipment inside a large industrial facility.”

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Ameren Missouri placed a 40-inch monitor displaying the Spot-r app dashboard in a central location so people don’t even have to look at their phone or computer to see where a piece of equipment is.

“Prior to the deployment of this,” said Noonan, “they never thought about utilization.” Now that they have visibility into the location of every asset, “that’s drastically improved their operational efficiency.”

When someone requests an additional piece of equipment —a forklift, say — a manager can check the utilization rate of the forklifts already onsite to judge whether more capacity is needed.

When EquipTags are used in conjunction with the Spot-r Clip, which tracks worker location, you can also know who’s operating it and whether that person has the proper certification to do so.

Increasingly, data-driven knowledge is key to productivity and safety in construction. Devices like EquipTags bring the technology-connected worksite indoors. By providing visibility into the location and usage of equipment even when there’s a roof (or ceiling) over it, they can help companies save manhours, reduce safety incidents and boost the bottom line.

Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.