Avoiding Data Overload from Equipment Telematics

Data is useful only when it informs decisions or prompts action.

With telematics you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about a piece of equipment: its location, the number of hours it’s in operation each day, the amount of fuel it’s using, its minute-to-minute engine temperature and hydraulic pressure — even how much time a dozer spends moving forward versus backward. But when it comes to data, more is not necessarily better. At some point, it becomes noise.

“Some companies even quit looking at telematics data because it’s just too much of a burden,” said Mike Bierschbach, director of enterprise intelligence for United Rentals.

There is a way to overcome this data overload. In short, said Bierschbach, “You need to have a plan for the data, to understand what business problem you’re trying to solve for, and then customize the data to the problem statement.”

Bierschbach offers these suggestions for making your telematics data work harder for you.

Identify a problem that needs to be solved

The first step is to understand what you’re trying to accomplish by collecting data. “You don’t want to just dive in, look at all the data and then try to solve a problem with that data,” Bierschbach said. “Companies should identify a problem that needs to be solved and then custom tailor their data to fit that business case.”

One common mistake companies make is thinking that if data is available, they want it.

“They don’t think through the business case. Just because a machine can measure and produce a data point back to you doesn’t mean that you need that particular data point.”

Bierschbach recalled one customer who wanted to continuously monitor the soot levels in all of its diesel particulate filters.

“But they really didn’t want to know the soot level in every diesel particulate filter; what they wanted to know is which diesel particulate filters are beginning to be overly plugged. You have to look at the data from the right angle.”

Determine what data a business group needs

While several managers in your company may want data about a piece of equipment, it’s unlikely they all want the same information. Set up your telematics system so they get only what they need to do their jobs effectively.

“You’ve got to customize it to the end user,” Bierschbach said.

For example, project managers will want data that lets them determine if a piece of equipment is being underutilized or worked too hard. That lets them adjust resources as necessary. But they are probably not interested in the information that service managers will need, such as how much fuel a piece of equipment is using or how certain parts or systems are operating.

The frequency of data collection will also vary according to each manager’s needs. A fleet manager who wants a quarterly overview of equipment utilization doesn’t need every-half-hour updates on where the equipment is located. An on-site project manager, on the other hand, may find that information invaluable.

Tailoring the telematics data reports to each manager’s requirements lets them use the data instead of drowning in it. (They can always access more data if they need it.)

United Rentals’ equipment management platform Total Control allows users to easily add and remove telematics data points, filter for certain data points and set alerts around certain data points.

Tailoring the telematics data reports to each manager’s requirements lets them use the data instead of drowning in it.

Be creative

Be curious and creative when you’re thinking about how telematics data can help solve a particular problem. Instead of trying to manipulate masses of data yourself, ask your telematics provider if you can adjust the current data flow to provide the insights you need.

“We have a customer that wanted to monitor a very specific process within their environment. With a couple of small tweaks in our methodology we were able to accomplish what they wanted,” said Bierschbach. “It’s not a typical telematics solution; they wanted to ensure that each piece of equipment went through several stages of maintenance. By changing our program’s reporting rate, we could confirm that each of the pieces did go through each stage of the process.”

Explore the possibilities of linking data from other systems, such as service records or operator logs, to your telematics data. Instead of having to access information from a variety of sources, you might be able to look at it all in one place.

Work with data analysts who understand your industry

Many telematics service providers offer some type of data analytics service that packages the telematics data into easily digested formats.

“The early stages of such partnerships work very well, but pretty soon it becomes clear that you need some subject matter experts in your data analyst group. You need someone who has familiarity with your business because they can understand and respond to business leaders’ requests more effectively,” said Bierschbach.

Once you know why you want telematics data and what data you want, and you have someone who can effectively analyze it, you can stop wasting time swimming through seas of extraneous information and start using relevant data points to drive improved productivity.

More on Telematics: What is Telematics? | The Benefits of Telematics: Predictive Maintenance and More | Implement a Strategic Roadmap for Successful Technology Adoption


Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.