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19 April 2017

Uptake partners with Caterpillar to transform the construction industry through data analytics

First published18/04/2017
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Caterpillar wheeled loader
Through a partnership with Caterpillar, Uptake plans to put construction industry data to profitable use
Through its model of collaborative disruption and a landmark partnership with Caterpillar, Uptake plans to put the construction industry’s data to profitable use.

The construction industry says it has seen it coming for a while now: the commoditisation and decreased costs of telematics, both in terms of hardware and connectivity, could help lead to billions of dollars worth of new efficiencies in operations and capital management.

Several factors, including a downturned economy and glut of used equipment that has at times slowed the purchasing of new machines, have meant the industry has been slow to adopt telematics and the so-called industrial internet-of-things. But there are signs that will soon dramatically change.

A recent push from OEMs and AEMPs to standardise hardware and information throughout the industry, combined with the decreasing cost of telematics and connectivity equipment, signals that the industry is on the cusp of generating what could amount to billions of dollars worth of increased uptime; better equipment utilisation, and optimised workflow processes and operations, says Uptake, a Chicago, USA-based data analytics company.

However, telematics will generate a deluge of data that most companies in the industry won’t be prepared to analyse, much less take actionable insights on.

Equipping millions of pieces of construction equipment with sensors is the easy part: utilising the data they will produce is the real obstacle.

Uptake says it wants to take on the data challenge, and is working with the industry to standardise its telematics ecosystem, and to provide a platform to use all that data to increase efficiencies across the board.

But rather than developing a software platform as a third-party vendor to sell to the sector, it launched a joint venture project with Caterpillar to drive change from within the industry itself.

“The construction industry has so much to gain from using data to optimise manufacturing, maintenance, logistics and operations: it’s certainly in the billions of dollars,” says Trevor Mecham, vice president of construction and agriculture with Uptake.

“Rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, we are partnering with Caterpillar and other companies to build predictive analytics solutions that solve challenges unique to the industry.”

Examples of how data can be used to increase efficiency and drive revenue for the construction industry can be quite powerful, says Uptake.

For example, sensors on a piece of equipment could alert owners to a maintenance need. The equipment is then taken offline for a scheduled repair and is sent to a shop with a waiting mechanic that specialises in the repair and already has the needed part. Back at the job site, another piece of equipment has been scheduled to temporarily fill in. The time and hours saved on just one repair are significant, but an example like this barely scratches the surface.

According to Uptake, when data analytics becomes prevalent across the industry, its uses and effects could be staggering. Contractors could know just how long a piece of equipment can operated before a repair is needed, down to the hour. Daily job site data gatherings, such as weather, can affect job site preparation and labor. Data can optimise job site schedules; manage fleets of equipment, including their uptime and utilization; dealers and rental houses can improve logistics and service.

Companies can increase equipment utilisation and decrease downtime for themselves and their customers. Construction schedules can be shortened; workforces could be optimised day-by-day, and project management could be transformed.

“The data gained from construction can be as specific as the tyre pressure on a single machine, or as general as the schedule and budget of an entire project,” says Meacham.

“Nearly every piece of the construction ecosystem can generate usable data that leads to patterns, and those patterns can lead to predictions that companies can trust.”

The Uptake platform gathers both historical and real-time data, and then combines it to be analysed and provide actionable predictions to its users. Results are then fed back into the software platform to further refine and validate its accuracy. This information includes condition monitoring, workflows, logistics fleet management and other streams, such as weather and event-specific information.

“To be successful in construction, you have to know the industry from the ground up,” says Meacham.

Caterpillar and Uptake began working together in 2015 to identify the strategic touch points where predictive analytics can transform construction, in terms of both equipment and the ecosystem in which they operate.

As the Uptake software platform becomes more powerful, the two companies are working together to validate its predictions, ensuring quality and trust in the program.

Similar to its partnership with Caterpillar, Uptake has also begun ventures in other industrial verticals.

“In the short-term, it’s all about awareness. Lots of companies in construction know that the power of data and telematics will enable them to work better, faster and longer, but right now, it’s ‘how’ will this happen and ‘when’ will there be an impact,” says Meacham.

“In the long-term, it’s about transforming the industry. We know there are billions of dollars to be gained from harnessing the power of data. Over the next generation, this industry will see radical change.”

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