Telematics system links aggregate fleet

Providing a range of benefits to any size plant fleet owner, Product Link, with its intuitive online interface VisionLink, is an easy to use plant fleet management tool suitable for the largest of fleets or a single asset.

Luke Williams, a construction solutions manager with Cat dealer WesTrac, said the system appealed to every type of equipment owner because of the range of information delivered ? from asset location to utilisation, health and condition reports.

?Product Link can be fitted to most Cat products and even retrofitted to older machines,? Williams said.

?In its simplest form, fitted to small building and construction products, Product Link provides owners with valuable information including location and operational status, while on larger Cat equipment the system delivers detailed asset health and utilisation reports, timely maintenance management information and customisable alerts and displays.

?The easiest explanation of Product Link is that it can help the customer to better manage assets in a number of ways, including assisting in improving productivity.

?That explores what the machine is doing at every moment including idle times, investigating fuel burn and machine health, which is focused on preventing failure.

?A machine that is indicating faults via Product Link?s advanced telematics allows owners to make a decision to act, compared with reacting to a breakdown well after it has occurred.?

In essence, Williams says, Product Link is an asset management tool that can increase productivity through better understanding of utilisation and better notification of the asset?s health.


Product Link?s service scheduling capability adds to time savings. ?It will track and monitor when services are due, identify which parts are required for the particular service and, once completed, allows upload of the service data, so it provides an opportunity to store the service history of the machine,? Williams said.

?The remote monitoring capability of Product Link means all information is delivered to the user?s VisionLink account ? the web interface.?
Owners can perform the scheduled maintenance themselves or engage their

Cat dealer. ?It is a terrific tool with wide-ranging capability, adding significant productivity gains to customers,? he said.

Utilisation benefits
?Product Link?s fuel consumption tracking information is also very beneficial because it measures the idle and operating time of the asset, estimating fuel burn and reporting this via VisionLink,? Williams said.

?Owners will begin to better understand the asset utilisation, particularly idle time. If they have hold-ups in haul cycles, for example, increased idle time will appear in reports, allowing owners to implement operational changes to correct it.

?High idle times could be the result of a poor operating procedure or the way the operators perform and that can often be easily rectified with system changes or operator training to change behaviours. Even the smallest saving will reduce fuel consumption, adding to the asset?s efficiency and improving the company?s environmental performance.?

The data is also valuable in equipment hiring, with reports detailing when the machine has been in use.

Product Link?s geographic fencing capability allows asset owners to set boundaries that trigger alerts when the machine enters or leaves a certain area. Owners can easily draw complex but accurate boundary shapes with Product Link?s street map or satellite view of sites.

?Messages notifying asset owners that a machine is outside the geofenced tagged areas can be sent via SMS or email, which enhances machine security, but it is also data that can be used to restrict machines to certain work zones on job sites that could have environmental values, for example,? Williams said.

?When a machine enters an area it shouldn?t be in, or is operating at times when it shouldn?t be in use, an alert will be issued, allowing the owner to act.?

Health Monitoring
Another important feature of Product Link is machine health monitoring and fault code notification. The information can be prioritised according to the owners? requirements whether it is service notification alerts or operator-generated errors.

?Faults are categorised into low, medium or severe-style codes, with severe codes requiring immediate action to assist in preventing machine failure,? Williams said. ?The alerts notify you of trends that something is occurring that could be developing into a problem and should be used in conjunction with scheduled oil sampling (SOSSM), so other factors or influences affecting machine health are identified.

?Fleet analysts might see a trend in the SOS that identifies a change in the sample and correlate this to an oil pressure warning that may be caused by an oil pump beginning to develop issues.

?There are also operator abuse errors such as coasting in neutral, or over-speed, which can mean additional training is needed. Often operators don?t even realise how their performance can cause issues.? Since its introduction, Product Link has continued to evolve, including the launch of the VisionLink web interface in recent years.

Work continues in areas such as project monitoring, which will allow customers to measure operational aspects including load and haul operations and identify efficiencies to help drive down cost per tonne in production operations.

?Product Link is a system that continues to develop from a track and trace health and monitoring solution to one that is a real-time business intelligence tool allowing asset owners to make decisions on the go based on accurate data,? Williams said.

Product Link provides a high tech capability in an extremely simple to use package.

?If you?ve done internet banking you?ll be able to manage Product Link within minutes,? he said. ?It is very simple to navigate and we have a range of clients, from the biggest companies down to one- or two-machine operators, all using it to their businesses advantage. It is not a big cost imposition and even on a small machine it is not hard to justify the benefits.?Many Cat dealers offer Product Link in conjunction with extended care or warranty packages that include access to a dealer analyst responsible for monitoring assets on behalf of the owner.

This allows the customer to take advantage of Cat dealer expertise in managing, maintaining and operating equipment.

?That further simplifies asset ownership and equipment management for any size customer, with the Cat dealer managing the maintenance scheduling,? Williams said. ?They will arrange the time of the service and ensure preventative maintenance steps such as scheduled oil sampling are undertaken.?

Chris Powell is the technology application consultant for Caterpillar Australia.

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