New offering lifts the curtain on lift trucks
September 26, 2012 - MMH Editorial
Not long ago, the materials handling industry was only about moving goods, but that focus has been shifting to include the value of information about moving goods. When it comes to vehicle management systems, an hour meter was once the only necessary piece of onboard data collection equipment. Modern fleet management crunches much more data, and exposes areas where small changes can save big money while creating a competitive advantage.
Over the past decade, I.D. Systems has installed its asset trackers on the lift truck fleets of more than half of the Fortune 200 companies that operate lift trucks, including several organizations with fleets of more than 5,000 units. During that time, its RFID-based trackers have given facility managers plant-level data to help them move from the hour meter to by-the-minute visibility of utilization, operator performance and maintenance patterns. The trackers have also been compiling that data in a central database. Last week, the company announced the release of I.D. Systems Analytics, a set of software tools that gives executives and facility managers a window into what could be the VMS industry’s most massive database.
Analytics will enable current I.D. Systems customers to benchmark industrial vehicle activity by facility, region, and industry, with data about everything from impacts to utilization to average downtime and maintenance costs broken out by lift truck OEM. A customer in the market for a certain equipment type might evaluate the total cost of ownership and the success of a certain brand in comparable applications. With web-based data no more than one day old, customers can look at anonymized industry data about best-in-class operations in facilities just like theirs.
I recently spoke with Ken Ehrman, president of I.D. Systems, about what Analytics means for the evolution of fleet data analysis. Ehrman called Analytics “an extremely effective tool for answering the question: Is it working?”
“Utilization studies can be done around static information, but Analytics is not based on studies. It’s based on reality,” Ehrman said. “From the day you implement a new piece of equipment or a new process, you can see results without having to go onto the floor with a stopwatch.”
For example, say a customer deploys a solution at two sites. One site improves from 40% to 60% utilization. The other remains stuck at 40%. “The only way you know you’re more efficient is by measuring,” said Ehrman. “Without the visibility, you can’t fix the problem.”
While a 20% utilization improvement would be impressive, just a 1% improvement could create annual savings of more than $10 million for a customer with 5,000 vehicles. Very large fleets will benefit by being able to break down their fleet assets into manageable parts, said Ehrman.
The technology works behind the scenes, with no data entry required by operators or managers. The data can then be sliced any which way by executives, who have expressed plenty of interest in Analytics, according to Ehrman. “At the plant level, however, it’s unclear how much they want known about how their operations work.”
This new software promises to increase accountability both on the warehouse floor and on the showroom floor, as OEMs face customers armed with a decade of virtually every metric important to a fleet manager, according to Ehrman. I.D. Systems’ offering joins a growing list of fleet data collection tools enabling customers to transition from a focus on “moving goods” to “information about moving goods.” Perhaps the next step is simply information about what works.
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