Managing mechanical equipment operation has definitely evolved through the years. Thirty years ago, we were able to place sensors on stationary equipment such as air handlers, chillers and boilers in mechanical rooms. We then would “poll” those machines periodically by dialing up the building automation system to accumulate operational data. This gave us insight as to how the equipment was operating and we were able to dispatch necessary service personnel to the site in order to correct any problems that occurred, day or night. We were able to keep equipment running and buildings comfortable by identifying the problem before the tenants or building managers were aware of the issue. Today, these sensors can be placed on mobile equipment.
The sensors placed on mobile equipment today can send out notifications that allow us to respond to conditions, similar to what we have been doing with stationary equipment for years. To get to this point, several things have aligned. First, most manufacturers of equipment and vehicles produced today are equipped out of the factory with some kind of telematics unit. Depending on the type of equipment, different operating conditions are being monitored. This could include location, hours on the engine, fluid operating temperatures, idle time, load lift capacity, and more. Second, the manufacturers now provide a dashboard or “portal” that allows the owner of the equipment to login and see what is going on with their equipment.
Recently, we have seen a tipping point in construction related equipment, with more than 50% of what is being manufactured going into the rental industry, rather than ownership to the end user. This has created a huge opportunity, as well as a bit of chaos, for rental companies. With most rental companies running multiple lines of manufacturers, how do you come up with a good way to manage all these sensors on so many different brands of equipment?
There are a few ways to accomplish this:
1. To create/program a portal that talks to the various manufacturers’ portals in order to collect the data in one place for fleet management.
2. To retrofit the sensors to a common brand/type so that one portal can receive all equipment communications.
3. To deploy an IoT Cloud solution that can both receive direct sensor readings and communicate to the manufacturers’ portals.
We at Sycor feel that the third option is truly best. We utilize Microsoft Azure IoT that already has, and continues to build, standard links to many of today’s equipment manufacturers’ portals and can communicate with an “IoT-Ready” sensor that is placed on the equipment. We have equipped our equipment rental management solution, Sycor.Rental with a ready-built connector to Microsoft Azure IoT so that any information brought to Azure IoT, can be integrated into your system.
This approach is the most logical because most rental companies deal with multiple equipment lines, some having pre-configured telematics and some that will have to be equipped with appropriate sensors. It also provides a lower cost because new manufacturer links are only built once. In addition, it reduces your long-term system costs since these links are maintained by Sycor and Microsoft. This allows you to encompass practically all your telematics needs under one solution.
The next step is to figure out what to do with all the data you are collecting. Most companies work through a multi-phased approach.
1. First, they want to look at equipment location and hours. This helps with monthly rental billing and assures you know where the equipment is at all times.
2. Second, companies want to bring in alerts or notifications of operating conditions that should trigger a service call or equipment swap. These alerts are typically created by the manufacturers’ portal that will have normal equipment operating temperatures and pressures set up.
3. Third, companies want to bring in the raw data from the sensors so they can create their own algorithms that will create their own alerts. Many times, in this third step, we will assist the customer in creating AI (Artificial Intelligence) processes that will take many operating factors into account. These outputs may create an equipment shutdown, a service call for maintenance, or an adjustment to a scheduled maintenance plan.
At Sycor, we help you economically connect to different telematics devices on multiple vendors and we enable you to use that data to streamline your equipment rental management needs now and in the future.