Aerial equipment — including mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) and telehandlers — is an important part of many rental fleets. Several technological advances have improved safety and productivity as well as help manufacturers and equipment rental companies comply with new American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, but it wasn’t until the last year or two that aerial manufacturers started touting the addition of telematics.
Improving bottom lines through a better return on investment (ROI) can be tricky as rental stores want to keep track of what equipment is on a job, what equipment needs maintenance and where the equipment being used is located. Challenges abound, and with it, technology in the form of telematics integration can provide solutions on both fleet health and security, among other offerings.
“Although integrating telematics into a business’s daily operations can be a bit challenging, there are numerous benefits that can help justify the initial time and effort,” says Jonathan Shapiro, senior manager, ClearSky telematics sales and business development, JLG Industries, McConnellsburg, Pa.
“As telematics data becomes more manageable, fleet managers can easily see the benefits of using these systems to enhance their daily operations,” Shapiro says.
“For example, telematics can help fleet managers more accurately manage the service needs of their fleet, therefore keeping equipment running longer, which translates into major returns on uptime, reliability, productivity and profitability,” he says.
The timing of regular and preventive maintenance can be an everyday challenge for fleet managers as equipment usage on job sites can last weeks or months and that equipment must be maintained while out in the field to avoid unexpected downtime and lost productivity.
“Telematics technology can help address these challenges by giving visibility to the equipment’s location on the job site as well as its operating condition through fault and diagnostic codes any time of the day or night,” Shapiro says.
Christine Zeznick, director – telematics, Genie, a Terex Brand, Redmond, Wash., says by providing descriptive data about what’s going on with a machine, telematics can help rental stores plan for how many technicians they need and what skill levels those technicians will need. Zeznick says rental stores can use telematics to proactively manage a machine’s uptime through scheduling maintenance when needed.
“This is especially helpful when machines are out on long-term rentals,” Zeznick says. “The ability to remotely see the machine hours and usage of the machine can help prevent downtime situations.”
Zeznick says using telematics to help with remote troubleshooting equipment issues in the field means a rental company can proactively respond to a problem before sending a technician out, saving time and money.
That’s why Genie Lift Connect™ telematics provides a range of insights for rental businesses from complete tracking of machine location to optimizing equipment utilization, she says, adding that the program is purpose-built to directly address the unique business needs of rental stores.
Malcolm Early, vice president of marketing, Skyjack, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, says using the data collected with the customer’s consent, Skyjack has been able to redesign its machines to reflect true job-site usage. The latest machines through data-driven design were launched in February 2021 and included changes to the 40-ft. and 60-ft. booms.
“Those changes increase ROI for rental companies as they employ smaller engines that don’t impact real job-site performance,” Early says.
In addition, he says there are numerous benefits for rental stores to purchase equipment fitted with telematics solutions like Skyjack’s ELEVATE, a solution for off-highway vehicles introduced in 2018. Early says the solution captures the most important data relevant to off-highway vehicles and provides rental companies with measurable benefits and actionable insights.
For example, ELEVATE Live provides operators access to a machine’s current state of health and serial-specific resources through a QR code. ELEVATE BMS (battery management system) is an optional system that targets the largest cost of ownership on electric scissor lifts, providing operators with charging advice and provides the rental company with the ability to manage the cost of battery replacement using accurate data.
Early agrees giving rental companies the ability to stop service calls before they start and giving their service staff full insight to a machine from a distance saves countless amounts of personnel hours and time, which creates a better customer experience.
Shapiro says the process of finding the right telematics fit for your business involves establishing essential best management practices, starting with understanding specific fleet management needs and concerns by taking note of specific, real-life occurrences or situations that presented a fleet management challenge or issue in the past.
“This knowledge can point out specific business needs that a telematics solution can help address,” Shapiro says.
From there, fleet managers should start by talking to their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners to understand the different telematics programs available in the market to find the one that best suits a company’s fleet management objectives.
“Fleet management isn’t a one-size-fits-all activity,” Shapiro says. “That said, fleet management best practices take into account an equipment fleet’s operational efficiency, operational cost effectiveness, operator management, equipment maintenance, and equipment safety and compliance. Monitoring and tracking these five factors on each machine in a rental fleet may seem like a daunting task, but through the use of telematics, it is easy to gather, read and understand the information machines are providing.”