Empowering Your Vehicles With the Internet of Things

Stefan Weisenberger

Regardless of your industry, how you manage vehicles presents a wide range of challenges that even seasoned veterans have a hard time grappling with. This could include a company that owns its own fleet of delivery trucks, or one that uses heavy equipment like excavators, or even mining companies with haul trucks. When you manage vehicles across a global network, you’ve got a seemingly infinite number of rules and regulations (that change on a regular basis) to worry about. You have drivers taking inefficient routes or operating under less-than-safe conditions, but you don’t know where they are. You don’t know the specifics of how. You don’t know why.

The Internet of Things offers many opportunities for industry professionals to address all of these challenges and more. As a concept, the IoT involves a series of “smart” devices that are all creating, collecting, and sharing data with one another at all times. This doesn’t just mean smartphones or smartwatches, either. Ericsson predicts that by 2018 there will be more IoT-connected devices in the world than there will be mobile phones. Business Insider predicts that by 2020 global manufacturers will invest an incredible $70 billion on IoT-powered solutions.

There’s a reason why manufacturing is expected to be the biggest IoT platform segment, with a total value of $438 million, by 2021. The IoT promises tremendous benefits to companies with moving assets – particularly for those in the mill products and mining industries. Mill products includes paper, metals, packaging, building products, cement, concrete, furniture, plastic products, and textiles.

Going beneath the data

Building your connected fleet or assets on the IoT is about more than seeing where your vehicles are at any given time. It’s about going deep into the data you’re collecting to uncover an essential narrative about your business as a whole.

This is particularly valuable in the mill products and mining industries. Knowledge of where products are in the transportation process can keep the supply chain running efficiently and customers satisfied by delivering on time – even with changes in schedules or project delays.

In the steel and paper industry, steel coils or paper rolls are easily damaged and require delicate handling, expert packaging, and proper storage. Using IoT technologies to track real-time location, process, and product characteristics throughout production and delivery offers tremendous value. This intelligence can support end-to-end root-cause analysis, including how often a coil was lifted, the acceleration and force applied to move it and put it down, and the temperature and humidity where it was stored and transported.

For most companies in these industries, fleet and transportation is a huge cost driver and often represents a large percentage of the cost of goods sold. Deeper analysis into transportation patterns can identify factors that improve speed or reduce maintenance (by predicting tire wear, for example) and generate direct, bottom-line benefits. Data on pedal position, speed, and velocity can give valuable insight on drivers’ safety and the types of decisions they’re making on the road. Patterns and trends that would have otherwise been undiscovered are now clear, allowing you to dramatically increase the safety of your drivers, reward drivers who are doing good work, and invest in training in those who aren’t. You can even make hiring or firing decisions based on this data, using an objective analysis to determine who is an appropriate fit for your fleet and who isn’t.

If drivers and their trucks are tracked in this way, each one can be assigned a score based on factors like safety and ability. You can identify, based on historical data, what conditions are more likely to be associated with increased accident risk; when taken in the context of an individual driver, you can make decisions that reduce accidents altogether.

In mining, many companies are already tracking tire pressure, wear, breaking, and other factors related to haul truck tires, which cost upwards of $20,000 each. Companies have reported millions of dollars in annual savings by predicting failure ahead of time, enabling companies to schedule maintenance or replacement and reduce downtime.

Even information like the total weight of a particular load or the G forces while in transit can all feed back into your business, maximizing your logistics strategy to allow your team to work “smarter, not harder” in the future. In industries that produce wood or building products, this type of information can be used to identify and reduce fraud. For example, a company hauling logs or other types of building materials can weigh a truck’s contents at pickup and again at delivery to ensure no theft has occurred.

Smart boundaries: Geofencing

Geofencing is another way to use data to track and improve your fleet or assets. Geofencing uses mobile devices to set up virtual boundaries, or “fences,” around designated areas. Vehicles collect and transmit location information over wireless networks to the company, enabling it to live-track fleet vehicles when they enter a physical job site or other designated or secure area. When a fleet truck or mobile worker crosses one of these geofences, the time and location is logged and sent as an email or pop-up alert to specified recipients. Geofencing can also be used to interact with a driver. For example, an alert can tell the driver exactly where to dock and when to enter, once the truck is close to its destination.

Creating the 21st century fleet with the IoT

In many ways, the advantage that the IoT brings to the mill products and mining industries is more than just creating and storing data. It’s about having access to that data in real time. It’s about empowering decision makers with accurate, actionable, and instant information they need to take the perfect step at the perfect time.

Mill products companies can collect, map, store, and analyze fleet and vehicle data at a moment’s notice. This can be used for everything from performing a driver safety analysis to reducing accidents. It can help organizations keep track of ever-changing rules and regulations, minimizing compliance issues.

However, the most important benefit of all is connecting your entire fleet together in a rich and meaningful way. At that point, a fleet becomes less the sum of a series of disparate parts spread out across the globe and more a living, breathing whole.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

About Stefan Weisenberger

Stefan Weisenberger is a Director at SAP, responsible for the Industry Strategy, Industry Solution Definition & Portfolio Management for the Mill Products & Mining Business Unit.