I have a lot of clients who manage fleets of heavy construction equipment, so I jumped at the chance recently to attend a presentation on new telematics technologies given by one of the country’s largest equipment suppliers. I was more than impressed by advances in the amount and type of data that could be collected from onboard systems, and by the intelligent use of integrated mobile wireless and GPS technologies.
For any reader not familiar, telematics refers to the automated gathering and communication of measurement data from remote locations. In construction, the term is used most often in reference to heavy equipment, collecting and delivering information on things such as run vs. idle time, distance traveled, or fuel usage.
After the presentation, I spoke with several other attendees. All were equally impressed and looking forward to using the new telematics capabilities in the management of their heavy equipment. I, however, wanted to know one thing: what would they do with all this data? How exactly would they use it?
From data to information
In asking this question I learned a couple things. First, project and equipment managers know that up-to-date field data is important. Second, the availability of data is outstripping their ability to process it effectively.
As I’ve written before, there is a vast difference between data and information. One way to look at this difference is through the lens of context. If your data can be placed into context—for example, into a business process or a report—then it becomes something useful. It transforms from raw data into information.
From information to work flow
The challenge is knowing which data is relevant and what that data is really telling you. The more data you have, the harder this becomes, but the bigger the payoff if you can get there.
To get there, smart construction software certainly helps. Yes, I develop construction management software, so I admit a bias here. But the real key to navigating our deepening sea of data is to have business processes in place. Decide what you want to achieve (for example, optimizing your fleet average age). Establish a process—a flow of work—that helps you achieve your objective. Decide what data you need to feed that process. Then the relevant data will pop out naturally and the way it plays into your process will tell you what you need to know.
The general point here is to let your business objectives drive your data needs. Work backwards from them, see where you have “data holes” to fill, and then find a way to fill them. The new generation of telematics will certainly help fill in data gaps in equipment management, but likely not all of them.
Do you use telematics to help inform your equipment management? Do you have processes in place to manage your equipment data?