February 13, 2015

The Missing Link

JDLink™ connects contractor to the next evolution of fleet management

In these challenging times, fleet managers need to run their fleets as efficiently and productively as possible. Telematics is the future of fleet management. As with almost everything else, the Internet paired with wireless communication and GPS technology is revolutionizing how work gets done. Trouble is, many telematics systems cause fleet managers to feel lost in a sea of data.

As a part of the John Deere WorkSight™ suite of construction technology solutions, the JDLink machine monitoring system is changing that perfection. Developed using input from fleet managers, JDLink provides a complete telematics solution that makes it easy for them to get the information they really need. It provides 24/7/365 access to fleet location, utilization, maintenance-management tools, curfew, geofencing capabilities, and more, anywhere they can power up a PC.

Easier, better fleet management

JK contractors in Idaho Falls, Idaho, got up and running quickly on JDLink with the help of their dealer, Honnen Equipment.

The dealer worked hard up-front to make sure that JDLink is customized to the company's specific needs and is easy for them to use.

"Our dealer brought us sample reports, got our feedback, and tweaked the system to our needs," says Steve McBride, equipment manager, HK Contractors. "We were up and running in no time. We didn't need to spend a lot of time learning all the bells and whistles. We started realizing benefits from JDLink immediately."

"We're always looking for that competitive edge to help make us the best at what we do. JDLink provides a number of tools to give us that edge. It helps us monitor machine health, hours, and location; simplify maintenance scheduling; increase uptime through alerts of potential downtime; and maximize fleet utilization."

Proactive, Not Reactive

HK Contractors provides a one-stop location for its customers, and strives to be their preferred source on projects ranging from large highway projects, underground utilities, and large parking lots to small customer driveways. It uses JDLink to manage its 35 John Deere machines, which include wheel loaders, motor graders, excavators, and skid steer loaders. The company works primarily in southeast Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

The company's state of the art asphalt hot plant depends on a single John Deere 844K Loader to fill bins and manage stockpiles. "We might have 15 to 20 trucks lined up for loading so any downtime on the 844K causes major delays and costs," says McBride. "We need to avoid this by any means necessary."

Plus the work season is short, from mid-April through October. "It's very important that HK contractors does not have down-time because the window to work is so short around here," says Darryl Simmons, branch manager, Honnen Equipment. "Their units are very important to us, so we use JDLink to help monitor them on a daily basis. We make sure any issues get taken care of immediately to head off major problems."

All of JK Contractors' machines are monitored by Honnen Equipment's Technical Services Department (TSD) in Commerce City, Colorado, and are set up to send email alerts of any potential problems to TSD and the customer. TSD will alert the local dealer's service department of any diagnostic trouble codes and provide a brief description of the alert. A service manager can then log into JDLink to obtain the exact location of the unit.

By reviewing the trouble code remotely, Honnen can ensure they send out the right parts the first time. That's important when many of the machines work hours away in Far-flung, remote locations, including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier national parks.

"In the past, we'd wait for a call, then we'd send a technician out to do a diagnostic first, then return with the part,” says Clayton Orme, service manager at Honnen Equipment. "Now we can diagnose the problem more proactively, even before the customer knows there is a problem. We can fix it the first time out, which saves us a lot of trips. And we can catch a problem before it becomes more serious."

JDLink also simplifies scheduling of preventive maintenance. The system provides reminders to ensure that HK Contractors schedules their technicians in a timely manner and that Honnen has enough filters in stock.

Loader 54, where are you?

JDLink tracks individual machine utilization, including location, hours worked, idle time, and workload of the unit. The utilization feature is very important to HK Contractors. "If a machine isn't being productive, JDLink can actually track its path and help us determine if we can make changes operationally to make the machine more efficient," says McBride. "And if we notice a machine is sitting most of the time, we can move it to another location where it is truly needed. We live and die by our utilization reports—we simply can't afford to have idle equipment."

Using JDLink to measure workload helped HK Contractors verify that they made the right choice in the 844K Loader. "You want to make sure the unit is running medium to high load, "explains Simmons. "If it is running to the low side, you may have too big of a unit for the job."

JDLink also helps determine if the operator is maximizing productivity. "It's amazing the information that JDLink can provide—from fuel consumption to how long the machine is running in each gear to whether the lockup torque converter has been engaged, "says McBride. "If we put a new operator on a machine, we can look at data from the system to determine if he is as effective as an experienced operator. If not, we can provide additional training."

"We're just beginning to scratch the surface of what JDLink can do. Our imagination is the limit on what we can do with it."