Telemetry solution boosts lift truck utilization

A cellular-based lift truck usage tracking system maximizes use of the current fleet while right-sizing it for future operations.

Lift trucks can get lost in a production operation that spans 60 acres and employs more than 3,000 workers. But the problem is exacerbated when real-time data about each lift truck is necessary to optimize fleet utilization and effectiveness both now and in the future.

So it was no surprise when Continental Tire opted for a high-tech solution to provide improved lift truck visibility and drive process optimization at its expansive Mt. Vernon, Ill., commercial and passenger tire production operation.

The telemetry solution provides overall fleet management with a cellular or Wi-Fi connection to a centralized portal that tracks all trucks and their activities. As Continental’s fleet and rolling stock manager Nathan Baugher explains, the system tracks metrics in four key areas: OSHA compliance, operator monitoring, preventive maintenance and equipment utilization.

Komatsu lift truck telemetry

That said, certain limitations were on the communications framework that Continental could use. Quite simply, Mount Vernon lacks GSM (global system for mobiles) coverage but does fit in the CDMA (code division multiple access) range. Fortunately, the portal operates on both types of cellular networks.

Getting the facility’s different departments up to speed required training management on basic utilization reporting and equipment monitoring. Training operators on specific features was necessary, too. Baugher led the efforts internally, noting the ease that personnel could learn and access the system.

“Because the system is Web based, getting everyone access was very easy—we didn’t have to install any client-side software to individual PCs. They can literally access the system anywhere, as long as they have Internet access,” says Baugher.

“And the active filtering makes looking for specific operators or vehicles easy to do.” In fact, the system is compatible with virtually any mobile warehouse equipment, accommodating the fleet’s handful of non-Yale tuggers.

The telemetry solution sends automatic alerts for proactive service based on real-time equipment status. These alerts prevent minor issues, such as a loss of hydraulic pressure or minor controller damage, from escalating into crippling downtime.

Furthermore, the alerts are sent directly to the local dealer (Black Equipment), which dispatches a technician without assists from lift truck operators or facility management. It’s worth noting that many operations purchase unnecessary trucks as a budget-busting buffer against downtime risk.

The new system helps Continental Tire avoid such unnecessary expenditures. It analyzes utilization trends to provide data driven confidence that the existing fleet is sufficient for current and future needs at Mount Vernon.

Baugher explains: “With the utilization information the portal provides, we were able to prove that new process workloads could be absorbed using our existing fleet.” Finally, the system incorporates digital checklists into the interlock of each vehicle, ending Continental Tire’s reliance on inefficient, outdated paper checklists. This saves 279,000 sheets of paper and more than $120,000 in paper and clerical costs on more than 225,000 digital checklists annually.

By Gary Forger, Contributing Editor · August 14, 2019


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