Using IoT for Construction Equipment Management and Maintenance

Rose Morrison -
Construction IoT
Illustration: © IoT For All

The Internet of Things (IoT) shows tremendous potential to improve nearly every industry. Due to how IoT-enabled technology could reduce delays, keep costs down, and enhance safety, professionals in the construction sector are now developing IoT technologies in construction aimed to help construction organizations manage and maintain their equipment. Here are several exciting possibilities.

Monitoring Equipment at Multiple Sites

Many construction companies — especially large ones — have several projects happening simultaneously. That reality complicates the necessity of tracking assets. Instead of monitoring equipment locations at one site, company representatives must track valuable machines across dozens or more.

Fortunately, the IoT can help in those cases. The number of assets tracked or the fact that they’re at numerous locations does not negatively impact the technology’s ability to work.

Keeping Construction Locations Well-Equipped

If the construction sites’ teams don’t have the necessary equipment, severe delays become more likely, and short-term frustrations could happen frequently and damage morale. A French company recently deployed IoT tech for all the construction equipment used across various sites in the country. One of the primary goals was to ensure that each site had the machinery needed to progress smoothly.

This particular solution also supports multiple geolocation technologies. Thus, people can verify equipment locations whether the assets are inside buildings or outside on sites and in rural or urban areas. The company opted to connect more than 20,000 pieces of equipment spread across more than 2,000 locations.

Some of the capabilities of this IoT solution include:

  • Giving remote and on-site workers real-time asset location and performance data
  • Offering a one-click view of all construction equipment on a virtual map
  • Providing quality-control documentation and tracking sheets for all assets
  • Showing how and where site crews use each item

IoT data also paired with automation algorithms that are developed in-house show the company valuable equipment-based metrics. For example, a user could see an item’s utilization rate or any associated downtime percentage. The system also reveals the number of billable delays. Site managers can then identify problematic trends and take proactive steps to address them.

Digitizing Time-Consuming Processes

Managing and maintaining equipment without recurring issues also means creating an efficient system. For example, maybe you’ve had the option to do a painstaking task with either digital or manual tools. If so, you more than likely opted to eliminate working by hand because it would take longer than a digital process.

Using these solutions can enhance efforts to stay on top of all matters related to equipment management and maintenance. For example, most IoT products feed data into supporting interfaces. Thus, instead of conducting equipment counts by hand or filling out physical maintenance paperwork, all information can go into a single digital location, based on equipment and process automation.

Reducing the Dependence on Manual Recordkeeping

In addition to slowing people down, manual duties have a higher likelihood of errors. Even the most conscientious employee could make a calculation error or fill out the wrong field.

Using the IoT for equipment-related data collection can also facilitate making more accurate judgments about the assets needed for upcoming projects. If a site manager retrieves the digital details for endeavors of a similar size and scope, it’s easier to gauge what’s needed before starting the work.

One construction company recently invested in an IoT solution for asset tracking after representatives identified problems with its current approach. For example, it was only possible to manually collate reports from physically captured asset data. This system took too much time and required using an unreliable method.

Now, the company utilizes the IoT to connect multiple sensors and devices. The setup goes beyond asset locations and can measure environmental statistics or confirm the number of usage hours for a particular machine. Suppose a piece of equipment gets used more often than most or in an extremely harsh setting. That information might trigger a manager to schedule a maintenance appointment earlier than usual to verify that the machine is still in optimal condition.

Keeping Equipment in Safe, Highly Functional Condition

You can probably call to mind several times in life where you’ve rigged up a creative solution to modify an item that broke. Using duct tape, cable ties, or other readily available products to create a quick fix is attractive to many people when the only alternative is to purchase a replacement. However, do-it-yourself modifications can quickly become dangerous when the items involved are heavy pieces of construction equipment.

Forklifts are common on construction sites, especially since they help users lift heavy objects. Any self-managed modifications could raise the risk of accidents. In 2017, there were more than 9,000 forklift-related work accidents. That prevalence emphasizes why it’s not worth it to alter equipment and hope for the best. Doing so could bring disastrous consequences.

The good news is that IoT technology can prevent anyone needing to try modifications when equipment breaks unexpectedly. That’s because sensors can collect performance data and warn users when values fall outside of an expected range. If a piece of equipment starts running hot or showing excessive vibration, the IoT sensors could alert people to those changes before a breakdown occurs. This prevents the need for quick DIY fixes when equipment unexpectedly breaks, since you’ll be able to forecast breakdowns and prepare for them in advance.

Using Condition Monitoring to Reduce Equipment Costs

The IoT enables shifting from a reactive to a proactive approach with equipment maintenance. Outside of minimizing the frequency of equipment failure events, forward-thinking methods decrease the associated costs with equipment that needs repairs.

Problems often cost less to fix when people become aware of them early. If they progress unchecked, the issues frequently begin affecting parts of the machine beyond the initial source of trouble.

If you’re worried about the time required to learn how to interpret IoT data, there’s no need for concern. Most customer interfaces are intuitive and user-friendly. There are even cases where equipment manufacturers scrutinize the data for their customers and explain areas of concern.

For example, one relatively new program involves the equipment manufacturer sending all IoT maintenance data directly to customers and dealers, along with explanations about why specific metrics warrant taking further action. In one case, a customer with 500 machines saved approximately $700,000 annually via that type of predictive maintenance. Plus, the manufacturer provides dealers with information about suggested fixes, reducing the possibility of costly mistakes or incorrect diagnoses.

Reducing a Company’s Carbon Footprint

Poorly performing equipment can also negatively impact a construction business’s carbon footprint by increasing the associated emissions. Curbing such output is increasingly crucial, especially with many authorities imposing environmental targets for companies to meet.

Keeping a machine in good condition is one optimal way to support environmental sustainability. After all, failing equipment often has associated fumes or excess smoke while operating. However, the IoT can also help company leaders conclude how process improvements could cut emissions.

Spotlighting Idle Time Totals

One company developed an industrial IoT product for the construction, mining and agricultural sectors. It has a predictive maintenance aspect and lets users see the amount of idle time for a given machine. Some estimates suggest that the average heavy machine wastes 2,000 liters of fuel annually while idling. However, this IoT technology measures equipment idle time and sends the data to authorized parties.

After reviewing that data, company leaders could try to detect patterns that would allow improving the workflow. For example, does the most idle time occur with certain machines, during specific times of the day, or with particular users? People are best-equipped to deal with issues once they can confirm such relevant details. Otherwise, decision-makers are more likely to engage in guesswork to fix problems without hard data.

IoT In Construction Is Worth a Closer Look

Construction equipment and maintenance can become daunting tasks, especially on large projects consisting of many teams and locations. However, as these examples prove, construction professionals should strongly consider the IoT to see if the available products could address known challenges.

When company leaders stay abreast of equipment needs and potential issues, they’ll have the knowledge needed to help a project go smoothly and meet or exceed expectations. Such circumstances help businesses remain competitive and profitable, even in a challenging and ever-changing marketplace.

Author
Rose Morrison - Managing Editor, Renovated

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Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...