How to Work Smarter With Forklift Telemetry

What is Telemetry?

Strap on a smart watch or receive a low tire pressure alert on your vehicle and you’ve just interacted with telemetry. At its most basic, telemetry or telematics (the terms are often used interchangeably) collects data from internal sensors. The data is communicated over wi-fi, cellular, radio, GPS, and other wireless mediums allowing users to access the dashboard from anywhere with the appropriate receiver. Whether telemetry is installed on an oven, a car or a lift truck, the concept is essentially the same. What data is collected, how it’s communicated, received, formatted, and reported varies widely in levels of complexity and sophistication. 

In most industrial equipment, a CANbus and some form of vehicle management system acts as a central hub, collecting thousands of data points from on-board sensors. The types of data can include things as basic as equipment diagnostics (engine, transmission, hydraulic and electronic functions), travel speed, load sensing or utilization (was the equipment moving or idle). More complex systems offer may impact detection, measuring G-forces to identify major and minor incidents as well as GPS locating to pinpoint exact problem areas or limit access.

Another further use of telemetry is OSHA compliance. Systems can help ensure only operators with proper licensing are able to access equipment, and each driver’s license can be tracked so that they know when to renew. Digital pre-shift and post-shift checklists can help ensure that operators are complying with OSHA requirements and regulations and can even lock-out access until required checklists are completed. In addition to standard OSHA questions, users can customize questions to their operations or industry standards. 

This continuous telematics data stream is then transmitted, typically over wireless or cellular systems, to either an on-site server or, more typically, to cloud-based storage. From there, the information is fed into dedicated software or mobile apps which serves it up as raw data or displayed in specially designed dashboards. 

Using the smart watch example, your activity is collected through the sensors on the device, transmitted through wi-fi or Bluetooth to a cloud location and served up via an app or computer in a convenient, easy-to-digest customizable dashboard. The information flow is largely invisible, and for industrial equipment, just like a smart watch, set up and activation is a streamlined process. Basically, a hardware device (or devices) is installed on the lift truck, either during production or as an aftermarket option, the data communication system is mapped based the customer facility and IT requirements, software is customized, access levels and permissions established, and the system activated. 

The primary advantage of telemetry is visibility – seeing what’s happening without physically being there. Busy warehouse and operations managers can get almost instant visibility to key performance metrics, operator behaviors, and real-time alerts that allow them to analyze performance and pivot quickly to address or adapt as needed. The data provided can also be an incredibly valuable tool for ongoing monitoring and long-term performance improvement planning. All of this helps free up valuable time to more value-added tasks for both operators and supervisors. 

A quality telemetry system is customizable. This allows the customer to identify and prioritize what data they need to see, how that data is graphically represented and who can see what data. By simply glancing at a phone or computer screen, an operations manager might be able to see how much freight was moved during a shift or a service manager may receive down equipment or maintenance alerts. 

The dashboard presents the data in an intuitive, easy-to-understand way for warehouse managers. Some of the metrics telematics report on include

  • Electronic OSHA checklist
  • Hourly costs per unit
  • Hour meter usage
  • Impact sensing
  • Planned maintenance intervals
  • Alerts and notifications
  • Individual truck and employee tracking

The overall goal of telemetry, specifically in industrial equipment, is improved fleet management and productivity. With a visual representation of key metrics and data, managers can make informed decisions that will ultimately lead to higher productivity, reduced operating costs, improved safety, and streamlined operations. Like any system the value is not in the data itself, but how it is used. Operations who have successfully implemented telemetry have dedicated staff, whether in-house or even at the dealership, to monitor, interpret and report on the data to help drive improvements. 

The past decade has seen extraordinary innovations in telematics technology. Proven benefits have quickly overcome concerns about “big brother” having an eye on everything. Both the type of information captured, and the ways information is delivered have transformed telemetry from a nice-to-have to a must-have in today’s uber competitive materials handling industry. 
 

Contact Fairchild Equipment to Learn More About Telematics 

Lift truck fleet management systems are must-have tools for warehouse managers. By leveraging fleet management technology, warehouses can streamline workflow, mitigate equipment and product loss and damage, maximize production and improve the bottom line. With the ability to choose which metrics matter most to you, your fleet management system can become a powerful weapon in optimizing your operation.

When choosing your lift truck fleet management system, choose Fairchild Equipment. You’ll have precision control over your costs while maximizing your return on investment (ROI) on your fleet investment. Contact Fairchild Equipment today to learn more about telematics, or visit a dealership near you to speak with a local representative.
 

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