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Interview with Martin Roath: Digital Transformation Ideas

Aug. 27, 2020
Martin Roath, product marketing manager for telematics provider ZTR Control Systems, talks with RER about expanding telematics to tools and accessories, enabling new digitization processes, using remote learning, capturing and integrating data, and more.

What are some of the products and capabilities you have added in the past year approximately?

Roath: Earlier this year, ZTR released five new products – all designed to enable customers to grow and evolve their digital strategies. ZTR expanded its product offering to include an exclusive new Data Brokerage service, the ZTR M7 advanced telematics control unit, T-series tags, Access Management, and the new ONE i3 interactive dashboard.

What are customers asking you for now, or what are some of the trends in what they’re asking for? 

We see a greater focus on digitization in business, especially now with the magnitude of COVID-19 changes to which we are all adapting. Customers are keen to accelerate their digital capabilities not only to adapt, but to thrive. As we explore those opportunities, the direction we take naturally links to some of our new product offerings that support the market.

Our M7 ideally enables that digitization path because it gives customers the flexibility and power they need to change their processes. By capturing more data and integrating with the OEM machine controllers and rental software, rental companies can work smarter with tangible insights to service and support the machine.

Customers are looking to us to make installations easy for them too. By working with over 100 OEMs to deliver telematics-ready equipment into rental fleets and by offering installation services for retrofits, we take the pain out of the equation. Access management solutions are also in higher demand as more customers focus on safe, controlled access to equipment.

We also see a lot of companies exploring IoT applications beyond the machine, expanding their technology ecosystem to include tracking of smaller items like tools, accessories and attachments. This gives them greater awareness and control of their total fleet inventory, reducing losses and increasing productivity.

And when you have access to all this data, it’s often important to have the ability to intelligently share it with customers and OEMs to derive value across the value chain. This is where our Data Brokerage service comes in. We have the trusted environment within our platform to enable those experiences.  

What are some the capabilities of your software that are under-utilized that you wish more companies would pick up on? 

ZTR has a very powerful set of API capabilities. We support the common industry standards like AEMP and ISO 15143, which customers use often. In addition, we offer a wide variety of application-based ONE i3 Business API options that enable tighter integration with customer business systems.

By putting more of the right data into the right place at the right time, it opens up more possibilities to enable new digital processes, further automate business processes, or provide visibility to information in places that it didn’t exist before. Some of these types of integrations take a bit more time, effort and coordination up front, but the payoffs can really be worth it!

A lot of things have changed in the world because of the pandemic. What has changed in the rental industry, and how has your approach to software changed? Greater emphasis in e-commerce capabilities? Other changes?

We see our customers responding to COVID-19, looking for ways to leverage technology to align with the ‘new normal,’ to align with customer expectations and at the same time, use the opportunity to explore new digitization opportunities.

We’re taking a partner approach with customers right now, to help them make business process changes related to the health and safety protocols that they may need. As they pursue digital transformation ideas, they can see how they can leverage data at a distance to enable operations or have the ability to remotely control a machine if needed. For example, if a new e-commerce initiative requires up to date run hours and utilization data to drive an automated invoice for a customer, it’s easy to see how a telematics solution would fit into that.

In terms of the pandemic, presumably visits to your software users have decreased? Have you improved or enhanced your online training capabilities? 

Yes, like most companies, ZTR is digitizing its processes and using technology in place of face-to-face visits for collaboration and training. We have found the transition to be both successful and efficient. 

Here are some areas I hear people talking about. Do you have anything new to share on any of these topics?

a.   Predictive maintenance

                                               i.     As the industry grows in this area, it will be important to go beyond basic run hours and location information. Getting deeper insights from the machine is essential to making predictions beyond regularly scheduled maintenance.

                                             ii.     Our approach is to enable our customers with a product like the M7, so that they can be better equipped to do more intelligent things with the data.

                                            iii.     From an industry perspective, we still see many customers taking their first steps in using telematics to automate processes so that machines are ready to work. They’re looking primarily at asset location, maintenance schedules, critical failure prevention, remote diagnostics, as well as contract and billing management.

                                            iv.     The current reality is that most of the connected machines that are out there are just capturing basic information, which is a solid first step. Without additional sources of information and integration to gain deeper insights, a prevalence in predictive maintenance may be a few years out even though we see some great developments going on in the market. We are certainly researching and developing our own roadmap to support these trends and are continuing to provide more data enriched solutions for our OEMs to help drive change.

Maximizing e-learning and other online training programs:

                                             v.     We’ve adopted video conferencing and messaging applications more broadly at ZTR both as an internal and customer-facing tool. We use it daily as a collaboration tool and to bring our teams together.

                                            vi.     From a customer perspective, since we can’t be there in person right now, our Program and Solutions team has an increasing amount of demand for remote learning, so it’s easy to hop on a video call and share a screen to help people learn the ONE i3 system in real-time, with a personal touch.

                                          vii.     We’ve also been experimenting with using more recorded video content as a learning tool both internally and externally.

b.    Improving delivery/dispatching capabilities:

                                               i.     In this area, we see rental companies looking for ways to use telematics location information more powerfully from a couple of perspectives.

                                             ii.     One is from the perspective of the rental company. Using GeoZone technology in our platform, we can trigger notifications automatically when equipment arrives or leaves a site. Using APIs, this data can also be brought into rental software to update status information.

                                            iii.     From our customers’ and ‘new normal’ perspective, I think we will see an increased focus on mobile app experiences that show delivery and order status coming from a combination of integrated rental system and telematics data.

c.     Helping rental companies to analyze utilization and improve rental rates?

                                               i.     In the core of the ONE i3 platform, we have utilization data available for every connected asset. Customers continue to leverage that data in two ways.

                                             ii.     For enterprise customers, this data becomes integrated into their business systems where it gets used or further analyzed.

                                            iii.     For smaller customers, they’ll leverage a variety of flexible reports and dashboards within the ONE i3 platform to explore and analyze data for individual machines, or entire fleets.

                                            iv.     Our new ONE i3 dashboards are the perfect solution for ad-hoc analyses of utilization data.

d.    Tracking location of each asset:

                                               i.     We are certainly seeing quite a bit more demand for this type of information to be shared between Rental software and Telematics platforms.

                                             ii.     Telematics location data combined with GeoZone technology provides a lot of flexibility and enables status-driven views and systems integration.

                                            iii.     ONE i3 Business APIs enable our platform to take in rental systems status data, and also enables us to share telematics data with the rental software so that both systems can by synchronized.

                                            iv.     Given there are so many different brands of rental software on the market, it will be interesting to see what standards for data interchange may develop to make integration with third-party telematics systems more of a “check-a-box in the software” process.