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Cat Vision Link improves fleet management

First publishedin Aggregates Business Europe
March April 2011
Seminar demonstrating the benefits of machine control systems

Caterpillar’s new VisonLink technology promises to improve asset management of almost any construction equipment fleet. Claire Symes attended a demonstration day in Malaga to find out more.

Technology for remote monitoring of construction equipment has been steadily developing over the last five years but Caterpillar believes its new VisionLink takes the systems a step further. The new web-based software - developed in association with Trimble - allows fleet operators to monitor equipment produced by any manufacturer.

"Customer value means something different to everyone but there is value in safety, productivity, cost and quality," said Cat core industries solution manager Damien Giraud speaking at the opening of the company's Connected Jobsite seminar.

Cat organised the event at its Malaga demonstration ground late last year to show customers from all over Europe the possibilities of its machine control systems and the management capabilities of VisionLink.

"Previously fleet information was collected by the site supervisor but Vision Link can change the way that works," explained Cat's Malcolm High. "Now it can be collected remotely and viewed online.

The system allows for fleet, site and asset management, as well as monitoring of machine health and productivity." The new version of Product Link was launched at the start of this year and, according to Cat, has been developed from customer feedback to deliver more robust machine mounted units and management systems.

"VisionLink is the new web-based interface that is used to collate and track machine information for a single machine or an entire fleet," said Cat's Andreas Clauss.

Advantages of the new system include the need for less training than the old system, according to Clauss. "It is more intuitive and is available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese," he said. "We are also working on Arabic, Russian, Turkish, Swedish and Polish versions."

Remote Management

Key features of the information available to managers includes fuel use, idle time versus working time, machine location, maintenance schedules and service timings. Geofencing and time fencing alerts mean that if a machine is moved out of a fixed area or operated outside of normal hours it can help prevent theft of equipment and unapproved use.

The latest version uses both satellite and cellular connections to give more coverage and it also has an open system strategy that allows for third party interface capability so managers can use the system to monitor their entire machine fleet no matter what the manufacturer.

"Cat provides the solution for Cat machines but through our partnership with Trimble, there is a Trimble solution for other manufacturers' machines," explained Clauss

Other updates include the ability to import the raw data into business solutions software such as SAP or Oracle.

The system eases daily management tasks such as checking fuel levels and if a machine is in use or not. Parts ordering is built into VisionLink - it incorporates a parts list for each machine which helps eliminate the risk of ordering the wrong parts.

"Many machines are idle 50% of the time but through monitoring it is possible to try and reduce this to 25% reducing both fuel and service costs," said Clauss.

"Effectively this means that for every four years, an owner will get one free in terms of reduced depreciation too. On a 996 wheeled loader, for example, it would save two services a year and 2400litres of fuel, which represents a saving of up to €6000 a year, a significant figure.

"I have known some customers to have idle times as high as 70 to 85% but as they are not monitoring they are completely unaware of the potential savings."

Information Management

"The display is almost in real time - there is a two to three minute delay on cellular and maybe 15 minutes on satellite connections," said Clauss. "The system updates regularly but information can be requested at any time.

"The system offers a high level of information, but it is important that companies understand what this can offer them and have a structure in place to use it and embed the functionality into their business and not just harvest the numbers," said Clauss. "The overall aim is to reduce owning and operating costs."

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