Your warehouse needs smart solutions to operate at its best. Effective fleet management is essential for getting the most out of your equipment, which in turn helps you boost performance and cut costs. One of the most beneficial tools for the modern warehouse is telemetry, which utilizes equipment data to help you make the most efficient use of your fleet.
Telemetry software collects information from machines and centralizes it for easier analysis. This solution allows you to improve your operations and gain visibility into your fleet performance that you never knew you could have.
What Is Telemetry?
Strap on a smartwatch or receive a low tire pressure alert on your vehicle, and you have just interacted with telemetry. At its most basic, telemetry or telematics — the terms are often used interchangeably — collects data from internal sensors. When users have the appropriate receiver, they can access data via GPS, radio, cellular, Wi-Fi and other wireless mediums.
Whether telemetry is installed on an oven, a car or a lift truck, the concept is essentially the same. What data is collected and how it is communicated, received, formatted and reported varies widely in levels of complexity and sophistication.
How Does Telemetry Work?
Telemetry uses remote sensors embedded in each unit to gather data and transmit it to a wireless location for storage. Telematics collects physical or electrical data from the item in which it is embedded. In most industrial equipment, a Controller Area Network bus (CANbus) and some form of vehicle management system act as a central hub, collecting thousands of data points from onboard sensors.
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 serve it up as raw data or display it in specially designed dashboards.
Using the smartwatch example, your activity is collected through the sensors on the device, transmitted through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to a cloud location and presented via an app or computer in a convenient, easy-to-digest customizable dashboard. The information flow is largely invisible.
For industrial equipment, just like with a smartwatch, set up and activation of telematics is a streamlined process. Basically, a hardware device — or devices — is installed on the lift truck or other piece of equipment, either during production or as an aftermarket option. The telemetry data communication system is mapped based on the customer facility and IT requirements, the software is customized and access levels and permissions are established. Then the system is activated.
What Are the Uses of Telemetry?
Telemetry has several applications across industries and businesses. In warehousing, telemetry primarily helps warehouse managers track their fleet’s performance and ensure compliance with safety requirements:
Tracking Equipment Data
The most prominent use of telemetry for warehouse operations is in tracking fleet and equipment data. Telemetry provides real-time insight into your fleet’s efficiency. Monitoring equipment data gives you and your team advance notice about component and vehicle functioning to ensure your fleet is always in top condition. Telemetry also provides warehouse managers with a more profound awareness of how their fleet is used throughout the day.
The types of data telemetry tracks can include factors as basic as:
- Equipment diagnostics, such as engine, transmission, hydraulic and electronic functions
- Load sensing
- Travel speed
- Utilization, such as whether the equipment is moving or idle
More complex systems may offer impact detection, measuring G-forces to identify major and minor incidents, as well as GPS positioning to pinpoint exact problem areas or limit access.
A further use of telemetry is Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance. OSHA provides stringent standards for workplace safety that telemetry can help warehouse managers achieve. With digitized pre- and post-shift checklists, operators can ensure they comply with OSHA requirements. You can even lock access until workers complete required checklists. In addition to standard OSHA questions, users can customize questions to their operations or industry standards.
With telemetry systems, you can also limit equipment access to those with proper licensing. Operators and managers can track driver’s licenses so they know renewal dates.
What Are the Benefits of Telemetry?
With several uses for fleet management telemetry systems, it is no wonder that many warehouse managers are implementing the technology in their operations. Although setting up the system requires some time, the clear benefits of telemetry make it a convenient way to increase warehouse efficiency. Whether you want to improve specific aspects of your operation or want more insight into overall fleet performance, telemetry is an excellent solution.
Here are the five most beneficial ways that telematics improves warehouse fleet management:
1. Increasing System Visibility
The primary advantage of telemetry is visibility — seeing what is happening without physically being there. Fleet management systems exist to gather information, and that simple function opens a fleet up to greater inspection. Busy warehouse and operations managers can get almost instant visibility into key vehicle performance metrics and operator behaviors.
With real-time alerts that allow them to analyze performance and pivot quickly to address or adapt as needed, warehouse managers are empowered to make dynamic improvements in their everyday operations. Telemetry allows you to increase your supply chain efficiency, make more informed hiring decisions and so much more, all using real-time machine data stored in your fleet management system.
2. Improving Machine Maintenance
The data provided can also be an incredibly valuable tool for ongoing monitoring and long-term performance improvement planning. By tracking fleet data in real time, warehouse managers gain a better understanding of each component’s daily performance. This information is highly valuable, as it allows maintenance teams to address issues before they become major problems.
You can set up your fleet management system to send alerts to your maintenance team’s computer system whenever machine components experience performance issues, when oil or other fuel levels reach a certain level or other indications of difficulties. Warehouse managers can also use fleet management systems to gather insight surrounding vehicle failure to prevent future issues.
3. Saving Time
All of the functions of telematics help free up valuable time for more value-added tasks for both operators and supervisors. Without the need to track fleet data for performance monitoring or ensuring safety compliance, your teams have more time in their workday to focus on their core tasks. Real-time alerts and the intuitive user dashboard let supervisors and managers focus on other business aspects, while vehicle operators may be able to complete more work.
Telematics also saves time by monitoring systems automatically and removing possibilities for human error. Telemetry systems operate without any human interference, collecting data around the clock that would be impossible for a person to gather manually. This function saves your maintenance teams, supervisors and operators time they would have spent tracking performance or recovering from a calculation error.
4. Improving Warehouse Safety
As telemetry helps warehouse managers ensure OSHA compliance, it also helps them maintain other safety standards and protect their fleet and workers. Creating vehicle driver controls like the ones described above is one of the best ways to ensure basic safety precautions are met. A fleet management system can require operators to have the proper licensing and complete a safety checklist before driving equipment. These requirements help prevent unsafe operations.
Another telematics capability that improves warehouse safety is vehicle positioning alerts. Supervisors can receive notifications about vehicle location and usage to determine where their operators and vehicles are within the warehouse. Increased visibility and vehicle tracking make it easier to develop and monitor safety measures for the entire warehouse.
5. Maximizing the Budget
Budgeting requires deep knowledge of fleet performance if it is to be effective. Telematics provides the data your financial team needs to drive budgeting insights and save your warehouse money. For instance, using machine data to understand why breakdowns occur enables you to prevent costly issues with preventative maintenance. Telemetry enables supervisors to pinpoint areas of fuel inefficiency and encourage better operator habits, like less aggressive driving and idling.
Fleet management software also gathers and centralizes information about service work orders, rentals, sales and parts to give warehouse managers an itemized view of their costs. A telematics dashboard should offer a glimpse into each unit’s cost per hour, month and year. This insight enables better cost-saving strategies so your warehouse can reduce costs while driving efficiency.
What Should You Look for in a Telemetry System?
Telemetry systems abound, yet they are not all exactly alike. Research your options to decide on a fleet management system that best suits your location and unique needs.
As you consider investing in a fleet management system, look for the following characteristics that can help ensure your warehouse has the insight it needs to make major improvements:
A quality telemetry system is customizable. This ability 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. Customization makes your fleet management system ideal for your warehouse so it can give you exactly what you need. That is a major win for your efficiency and productivity.
Customization also gets information to the right people when it is needed most. 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. Telematics enables quick communication and empowers your team to make fast decisions about your fleet’s performance.
An Easy-To-Understand Dashboard
A telemetry system may provide hundreds of thousands of data points, but that information is not helpful unless it is presented in a logical way that is easy to understand. Some telematics systems require users to dig through heaps of data and make sense of it themselves. Fleet managers should look for a fleet management system that includes a user-friendly dashboard so they can gain at-a-glance insight into their fleet data at any time.
An effective telemetry system 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
- Hourly meter usage
- Impact sensing
- Planned maintenance intervals
- Alerts and notifications
- Individual truck and employee tracking
Just as all fleet management systems are different, the providers of these systems also vary in the services they offer. When you use telemetry, you benefit from improved breakdown prevention and insight into machine performance. Finding a fleet management system provider that also offers machine repairs and servicing gives your warehouse the best fleet support, whenever you need it.
When telematics alerts you to a machine’s upcoming need for service, you can put in a service request right away. Requesting maintenance promptly can help your maintenance team stay on top of needed repairs. Responsive fleet service from an experienced team that knows your equipment and your telematics system helps you make the best of your fleet data and ensure the communication lines about your fleet’s performance are always open.
Utilizing Telemetry Effectively
The overall goal of telemetry, specifically in use with industrial equipment, is to improve 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 in how it is used. Operations that 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. It takes a team to effectively utilize telematics, and building that team is an essential part of gaining the benefits.
The past decade has seen extraordinary innovations in telematics technology. Proven benefits of fleet management systems 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 tool in optimizing your operation.
When choosing your lift truck fleet management system, choose Fairchild Equipment. You will have precise 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.