Service tips: Leveraging telematics for rental businesses

Telematics products in off-highway rentals have been around for almost a decade but have experienced low adoption rates due to lack of relevant data and a perceived low ROI.

by David Swan

Thanks to customer feedback, Skyjack engineers understand the barriers to adoption for rental companies and has launched Elevate, its OEM-delivered telematics solution in early 2018. It can provide rental companies with actionable insights and the benefits they’ve been wanting.

Common misconceptions
Skyjack researchers found that rental companies wanted a telematics product that can be applied to their entire fleet. They also wanted a realistic and short-term path to ROI.

Early on, the cost of telematics hardware and subscription fees concerned rental center managers. While it made sense to outfit more expensive machines with telematics, but lower cost machines, such as electric scissor lifts and skid steers are the highest volume units in fleets and make up a large portion fleet service and maintenance costs. One of the best ways to see real ROI on telematics is to identify some of the most frequent service and maintenance issues and apply telematics data to eliminate or lower the occurrence of those issues. That’s how rental centers can benefit from telematics.

Construction equipment rental fleets have a variety of brands and their telematics systems don’t often integrate with other models and brands. If factory-installed systems are used instead of retrofitted third-party units, installed cost is lower and the machines are specifically engineered with telematics in mind and will deliver rental centers richer data.

The Skyjack Elevate system is powered by Trackunit, which can give mixed fleets the opportunity to use a single-solution telematics provider.

Missed opportunities
Companies that are sending service technicians to record equipment data can use telematics to timely collect and archive predictive maintenance data and conduct remote diagnostics. It saves on service costs and maximizes profitability and customer satisfaction through innovative billing practices. 

Telematics offers a huge potential for efficiency and better ROI. But where does a rental center start? The ability to feed the telematics data to the company’s ERP or to customer dashboards promise a big ROI but also need time and resources to execute properly. 

The best way is to start small, then grow as telematics gets paired with your processes. Once you understand the process, write it out and educate your staff on how to access the data and how it fits in. Then, roll out the process and get feedback to improve the process.

Just like any other business tool, it can only be effective if employees use it. Encourage the use of telematics systems by clearly defining when and how to use it. Ask employees for feedback on how else the tool could be used, as well as software tips and tricks that can help keep employees engaged.

Identifying employees who have had success with technology-based tools and having them educate other staff on it can also encourage adoption.

Telematics should fit the user’s day-to-day tasks and integrate with the processes already used to manage equipment. Once employees learn to rely on telematics data to solve daily problems, they will become your best resource in developing new uses for the service.

Understanding machine data points
To leverage telematics data, understand the data available from each machine type and start associating it with daily tasks. 

Hours and location are generally available for all machines, but those data points offer little more than service and delivery tracking. To maximize the potential of telematics, look at electrical system data such as charge history, voltage on electric models and fault codes and fuel usage on engine-powered machines.

When searching for the right solution, ask what data is available from each machine category and how that data can be used. Third-party telematics products may provide only basic hours and location reports per unit. These are legacy insights from logistics and on-road fleet systems, but are not as valuable for rental companies needing service information and if the machines are rent-ready.

Make data available
Every role within the rental ecosystem can benefit from telematics data. Desk staff can know the location and rent-ready status of machines; service technicians and mechanics can remotely diagnose problems before traveling to the machine. Fleet managers can remotely track actual machine activity.

The data must be available to those needing it within the organization. Resist restricting access to fleet data because it may reduce the value employees can get from it. Look at solutions that allow read-only data access and record who has accessed what data. It helps managers understand who is using it and what they are doing with it.

Companies that adopt a telematics solution across their entire fleet will generate a higher volume of data points and will learn how to maximize utilization. Finding a telematics solution that is priced in a way that’s feasible to apply to a lower-cost, high-volume machine such as scissor lifts makes achieving full fleet adoption that much easier.

Telematics solutions should help make fleets easier to service, which improves downtime and customer satisfaction. The process of fleet-wide integration and monetizing data through improved service and utilization can be achieved by ensuring the OEM is involved in your adoption process.

David Swan is the product manager for technology and innovation at Skyjack.

This article originally appeared in the July-August issue of Pro Contractor Rentals magazine. All rights reserved.