The connected construction fleet

Jeremy Gould, VP sales Europe, TomTom Telematics, discusses how technological developments in vehicle telematics have opened up new workflow management possibilities for the construction industry

WITH economic uncertainty prevailing, and a weakening pound at risk of increasing input prices, many companies may start reviewing their business strategies and cost bases in a bid to find ways to protect their bottom line.

Telematics has traditionally been used to provide visibility into fleet vehicle and mobile workforce activity. Basic tracking and tracing functionality offered by such technology can deliver data on key areas such as time on site, job completion and driving performance.

Recent developments, however, driven by the advent of open platform software, are helping to raise standards in mobile workforce management to a whole new level.

Automated, paperless processes have been made possible because data from a range of sources – such as mobile hardware, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and routing and scheduling software – can now be brought together on a single platform.

As a consequence, construction industry operators can look to benefit from greater efficiency savings and more streamlined operations.

Importantly, this can be done without having to invest in costly IT consultancy and protracted development projects.

Connected workflow made possible

Open platform telematics technology is helping companies bring mobile construction workers and their back offices closer together.

From a technical perspective, this has been made possible by providing software developers with unhindered access to the platform via application programming interfaces (APIs).

As a result, ‘out of the box’ applications are being developed that enable construction companies to boost the functionality of their core systems.

The telematics platform, for example, can be integrated with office software, such as routing and scheduling optimisation, ERP, supply chain planning and asset management.

In the field, mobile hardware, such as lone worker alert devices, vehicle sensors or printers, can integrate with the in-vehicle telematics device via wireless technology. Tablet-style driver terminals can even be uploaded with mobile apps for use by mobile workers.

M2M applications in the spotlight

As an associate member of FORS – the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme – we recognise the importance of establishing best practice standards for operational safety and efficiency.

Telematics and machine-to- machine (M2M) applications are a key enabler for helping the industry achieve this. With even more control and visibility over mobile construction workers, and less reliance on paper for recording business intelligence, the bar has been raised in workflow management and compliance process efficiency.

At the start of each day or week, for example, vehicle checks can be made by workers via an app on their driver terminals, with the results updated in the back office to ensure maintenance schedules are kept up-to-date.

Daily workflow will then be automatically loaded on to these devices, with drivers routed directly to their site destinations. At the same time, automatic alerts advising customers of their arrival times can be sent via text or email.

Moreover, job statuses can be updated in the back- office system with proof of delivery submitted via the app’s signature capture functionality, in-built camera or near field communication (NFC) chip. On-board weighing systems can be integrated with telematics software to enable real-time weight information, along with vehicle location and journey data, to be sent to back office software.

This means customer invoices can be raised based on load weight, as soon as materials have been collected, without vehicles having to attend weighing bridges. In addition to helping to boost productivity, this can also help support the legal compliance processes associated with loaded trucks leaving construction sites or depots.

For the time-sensitive transportation of materials such as concrete, accurate ETA information, based on real-time traffic and historic journey time data, can be integrated with industry planning software.
To help ensure quality control for ready-mix concrete, managers can be informed when the product is in transit and when it is being offloaded thanks to mixer drum sensors.

These sensors can relay real- time data, via the telematics platform, on the rotational direction of the drum. The possibilities for smarter, connected, workflow processes – underpinned by the open telematics platform – are many.

As innovative solutions continue to unlock efficiencies in ever-more revolutionary ways, construction firms will find new ways to meet the challenges provided by a changing market.

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