Telematics is technology that combines GPS systems and onboard vehicle diagnostics to record and transmit vehicle data such as utilisation of the machine and operator, speed on impact, location, forklift functionality and operation. This helps companies in the material handling industry to have sight of the functionality of machinery, boost their productivity and future-proof the business.
Those running warehouses often have little idea how operators handle forklifts. Handling is critical and can lead to abuse of machinery and accidents. A big appeal of telematics is that the activity of operators can be monitored on a daily basis to gain insights into efficiencies and remove any roadblocks.
Telematics saves time and paperwork for managers. Hour meters reporting can be used to see exactly how long machines are being used; to set service intervals proactively; and ensure fewer maintenance issues and less machine downtime.
Telematics features include on-screen safety checklists which make pre-start checks mandatory, with operator lockout if there’s a critical issue. Questions are asked and answers are captured on screen. This ensures operators have inspected the machine and determined that it is safe to use. If questions are answered inadequately, the machine will not run.
Being able to set up lockout thresholds is also a sure-fire way to ensure safety at all times. This feature will be able to either limp or stop a machine from working after an impact. Warehouse managers decide what these impact level thresholds are based on their specific needs. Unreported impacts are costly to business, both in terms of product and equipment damage and machine downtime. With telematics solutions, you can receive instant notifications of impacts so you can identify which operators and areas are most prone to incidents. GPS tracking can also pinpoint where the impact occurred.
Stephen Mostert, National Technical Manager for CFAO Equipment SA, says the company’s Toyota Material Handling’s I_Site fleet management system, a state-of-the-art telematics solution specifically designed for Toyota forklifts, was first introduced in South Africa in 2008, and is on an upward trajectory.
“Forklifts are fitted with data handling units (DHUs), which allow for 24/7 live communication about each machine. This allows managers to see and manage all machines from their desks or cell phones, with automated daily, weekly or monthly reports and warnings that allow them to troubleshoot issues immediately.”
“The system monitors where, when and how the machine is being used. With the resultant data and analytics, warehouse managers are better prepared to enhance their operations, identify safety issues, make sure machines are operationally checked, compare sites, establish the running costs of their machines, deal with breakdowns or accidents faster, introduce driver training where necessary and prevent theft.”
Mostert says it is difficult for warehouse managers to have oversight of all machines on the floor, especially if they have hundreds of machines at different sites throughout the country or, in some instances, across the continent. Each I_Site DHU is fitted with GPS and a wireless connection that allows them to be constantly monitored.
With I_Site, warehouse managers can give access to machines to approved operators via a pin code. The ability to choose who operates each machine, based on personalised workplace criteria, allows for operations to continue running smoothly without interruption. Also, battery monitoring can help to avoid unnecessary wear of expensive batteries, maximise charge cycles, and prolong battery lifespan.
CFAO Equipment SA’s dedicated technicians install I_Site on the forklifts of customers who choose to have the technology fitted and field service technicians respond to issues in real time. Telematics administrators handle portal queries and provide customer support.
Looking forward, Mostert said there is room for more development of telematics.
“We sit down with customers and ask them what else they would like to have to make things easier. Many new features are in the pipeline. A health check, for example, would give information about services, impacts and so forth,” Mostert concludes.