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Taking control of trucks

12 December 2012

Simon Duddy talks to ID Systems founder and president Ken Ehrman to hear how PowerFleet promises savings on maintenance costs and other benefits.

US technology firm ID Systems recently boosted its UK business through acquisition (see box) and offers its PowerFleet vehicle management system in a bid to help warehouse managers boost fleet visibility. 

The manufacturer counts a number of blue chip US firms among its clients, such as Wal-Mart, Xerox, OSRAM Sylvania and Continental Tire.

PowerFleet has a host of useful features from the ability to restrict access to lift trucks to authorised operators and monitor how the trucks are being used, for example logging impacts, speed and when trucks are carrying a load.Managers can also interact remotely with trucks to change their behaviour.

The firm claims this increased visibility has a number of benefits for the warehouse manager, such as optimising truck maintenance schedules.

ID Systems founder and president Kern Ehrman explains: "Most manufacturers say carry out preventative maintenance after every 300 hours of the hour meter, but this assumes the vehicle is in use for the full 300 hours.

"With PowerFleet, managers can track actual truck usage.

Typically we find this is half of the hour meter which means if you are using the hour meter you're doing about double the preventative maintenance you need to." The technology also offers zonal control. This option allows managers to locate trucks via triangulation. For instance, it can spot when a driver has strayed into an area where he has not been authorised, say, a high value pharmaceutical area.

Safety is a key consideration with Ehrman claiming that in the US the second most significant cause of accidents for Fortune 500 companies is the forklift, behind road incidents.

"It is a high risk, big companies can have a few hundred forklifts and thousands of pedestrians on premises," continues Ehrman.

ID Systems attempts to counter these risks by imposing policies on truck use and monitoring actual usage, with supervisors able to be notified by email if trucks don't behave as they should.

Use of the truck can also incorporate a safety routine, whereby operators must inspect equipment and ensure it is safe before being authorised to start using the truck.

The system has been installed with Continental Tires in the US, which previously used paper checklists to complete its vehicle safety inspections. Operators were not actively evaluating the vehicles and just blindly completing the form. Additionally, it took extensive administrative effort from the Production and Safety Departments to collect and manage the checklist paperwork.

Now, the on-vehicle PowerFleet device prompts each operator to complete a safety checklist prior to each shift or vehicle use; failure to do so can disable that vehicle. This not only increases operator accountability, but also alerts management if operators are not inspecting their vehicles.

Continental Tire also forecast a 33% improvement in vehiclerelated damage in the warehouse.

The system can also be used to measure truck and operator utilisation, giving managers an accurate picture of how assets are being used.

"We know how many hours operators are using trucks," says Ehrman. "If you're paying someone to drive a forklift for 8 hours, you'll want to know how long they are logged in. It's the same with the trucks themselves. It gives managers the opportunity to see what the resources they are paying for are actually doing."