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If you want more insight into machines such as aerial work platforms and generators, you quickly turn to telematics. The combination of telecommunications and informatics ensures that you not only know where your machine is located, but also how often and how well it has been running, as well as when it is time for maintenance. What does this deliver in practice? And how does it affect business models for rentals?
In total, Boels hires out some 800,000 pieces of equipment throughout 18 countries in Europe. From battery-powered drills to 30-tonne excavators and just about everything in between. Roughly 35,000 of those machines are equipped with telematics hardware. John Smeets, Technical Director at Boels Rental: “It’s been 12 years since we started with the first telematics solution in practice. Back then, we installed the first telematics devices available on about fifty machines. That was new in the market at the time. These only allowed us to determine the location of the machines and read the number of engine running hours. Over the last 12 years, there has been a lot of progress in the further development of telematics.”
Too little standardisation
Although the technology behind telematics is not new, it has become increasingly sophisticated by using readouts from electronic control units. Yet development is still in its infancy. This is mainly because there is still very little standardisation among machine manufacturers. Every manufacturer has its own telematics solution, interprets the available ISO standard in its own way, and for the most part also has its own data platform and dashboard. Not sharing all of the available data with machine owners is also another issue here. Smeets: “We are joining forces with other major rental companies that are also on the Technical Committee of the European Rental Association to push our demands to the manufacturers. We would like to see one single standard in the field of telematics.”
John Smeets, Technical Director at Boels
But Boels is also not waiting for manufacturers to provide uniform data. Boels is striving to be the industry leader by providing new solutions and ideas with the aim of improving its customers’ productivity as well as its own. As such, digitalisation of the rental industry is embedded in the strategy at Boels. The rental organisation has taken matters into its own hands and has developed its own IT landscape and integration platform. A team of Boels specialists is working full-time to further develop telematics. Due to the diversity of brands, models, techniques and data, telematics from start to finish is not yet a simple fully automated plug-and-play solution that already delivers efficiency benefits across the board.
What does telematics deliver?
Because a lot of machines are equipped with this hardware, contractors, project managers and supervisors can get a better overview and clearer insight of all the equipment present at the construction site. With large projects, it is sometimes difficult for contractors to maintain a good overview of all their equipment. Where are all the machines located? How intensively and how well are they being utilised? “If the data shows that only fifty per cent of certain equipment is being used, for example, you can easily reduce the number of machines. This helps you reduce the cost of the project,” explains Smeets.
In addition, telematics in machines helps ensure preventive action. When an error code is generated, a technician can arrive on site right away to prevent the situation from getting worse, or to service a machine before it breaks down. In fact, it often proves unnecessary to physically send a technician over. Many issues can simply be solved over the phone. “This can prevent equipment breakdowns and stop projects from coming to even a brief standstill. This kind of prevention also has advantages for organisations internally, as it reduces the need to repair equipment.”
Finally, telematics can also contribute to site safety thanks to remote authorisation. “On some long-term projects, we also offer key access solutions. We give machine users a digital code that allows them to start the machine. This prevents people that do not have the necessary training from using the machine. It also prevents subcontractors from borrowing the machine without permission,” says Smeets.
“If the data shows that only fifty per cent of certain equipment is being used, for example, you can easily reduce the number of machines. This helps you reduce the cost of the project”
Dashboards in an online environment
The development of telematics, system integration and the associated data analysis is in high gear at Boels. “From the middle of next year, data from machines will be available to view online for certain customers in the Netherlands as well. In Scandinavia, these kinds of insights are already available to customers,” Smeets explains.
Once machine manufacturers and the construction industry in general further modernise and standardise their IT architecture, the potential of telematics will continue to increase. “Telematics will have an essential role in the future. We will soon not be able to do without it. Given the rapid development of technologies driven by climate targets such as electrification at construction sites, the support of telematics will become indispensable. Because we will be collecting and analysing more and more data, I am confident that we will soon see connections that we could not have previously imagined. And ultimately, I believe this will drastically change the entire rental sector.”
The influence of telematics and data in general will permeate the entire rental sector. “As you gain more and more insight into the deployment and actual use of equipment, the current pricing model will also change. That, together with an improvement in efficiency, should result in cost reductions for construction projects,” says Smeets.
The further development of telematics, data sharing and system integrations could lead to entirely new revenue and business models in the rental sector. Only the future can tell.