Photo by JLG
Jlg Clear Sky (1) 22 2

Interview with JLG’s Ara Eckel: Onsite Efficiency

Aug. 11, 2022
Ara Eckel, director of product management for connected solutions, JLG, talks with RER about increasing uptime and utilization, offering information on electric-powered equipment, new data parameters and more.

RER:  What have been the most recent benefits and capabilities of the telematics system you offer to rental companies?

Eckel: The JLGClearSky fleet management solution is an easy-to-use telematics platform that gives users access to actionable data and reports that can be used to track fleet productivity and uptime, while proactively monitoring fleet health and security. Here’s how…

1)   Increase uptime and utilization:

ClearSky can show fleet managers where and how equipment is operating. It also helps to manage the servicing and maintenance of machines more efficiently and effectively. Using telematics, users can remotely diagnose machine problems to coordinate the right tools and parts needed for on-site repairs. And users can also deflect unnecessary service calls to increase the efficiency of service personnel.

2)    Enhance safety and security: With ClearSky, users can know where machines are located. And they can prevent equipment theft by setting virtual boundaries that alert unauthorized movement or operation. With features like access control, telematics systems also help prevent unauthorized use of equipment by limiting access to only trained operators. This means that telematics enables users to always know when, where and how equipment is operating.

ClearSky also provides users with the opportunity to receive automated reports and immediate notifications when problems arise. Fleet managers can proactively schedule maintenance to reduce unnecessary service calls.

3)    Boost productivity and performance: ClearSky also has tools to analyze fleet and operator data, as well as determine the overall effectiveness of a fleet manager’s operation. Sharing utilization and operator data can significantly improve on-site efficiency. By using telematics in conjunction with other digital tools, such as building information models (BIM), users can streamline the planning phase of projects to select the right machine for the job.

What are some of the new features and capabilities you will be adding in the foreseeable future?

Since it was first introduced, developments of new features and capabilities in JLG’s ClearSky telematics solution have been based on customer feedback, which allows us to provide more focused, meaningful data delivered in a cost-effective solution. As an example, historically telematics offered more data points from machines with combustion engines, but today JLG’s ClearSky API also offers extensive information on electric equipment. This opens up the opportunity for more customers to use our program.

Also, new data parameters are available in ClearSky today that give our customers more insights about what is going on with the equipment, not just where it’s at, but also how it’s being used. This enables them to make informed decisions about our products based on the relevant information available.

Future enhancements to the ClearSky system will continue to make it more intuitive for our customers to navigate, as well as more efficient for them to use the data to proactively manage and maintain their fleets.

What are the key types of information that your system shares with rental companies?

The ClearSky telematics system can provide high-level or finite details on a number of machine systems. The key types of information that rental companies most often access JLG’s system for are:

  • Location to help with service planning and cuts on downtime for field techs
  • Fault codes to get machines back on rent quicker
  • Machine hours to help with billing and knowing when to service machines
  • Battery status
  • Machine utilization
  • Setting geofences/time fences to protect investment and to be notified on machine usage (leaving a particular area or being used before/after a designated time)
  • Scheduling maintenance

It is important to note here that telematics solutions to manage equipment aren’t just for the rental companies — or even for fleet managers. We also see equipment users, including aerial lift operators, regularly using certain features within the ClearSky telematics system to:

  • Plan for site visits and rental services, such as equipment deliveries
  • Locate specific machines quickly on a job site
  • Quickly review fault codes
  • Schedule maintenance tasks

How does your system help rental companies to bill their customers?

Rental companies are able to mine important information about equipment out on rent, including machine hours and daily usage, through the ClearSky system, which can be integrated with customers’ enterprise resource planning software for seamless fleet management, including billing and invoicing tasks.

How does your system help rental companies to practice preventive and predictive maintenance?

With access to machine data through JLG’s ClearSky system, rental companies can more accurately manage their machines’ preventive service needs, a proactive approach to equipment maintenance that falls between reactive and predictive maintenance to prevent unexpected breakdowns. For example, telematics users can use the system to plan tasks based on the equipment’s needs in terms of:

  • Customer-created maintenance schedules
  • Operating condition — age of the machine, as well as current condition on the job site
  • Usage — tasks triggered when the machine reaches a specified point, such as hours of use, mileage, harsh working conditions and when the equipment is being used during multiple shifts per day

Having access to actual asset utilization metrics through ClearSky, including engine hours, can help rental companies avoid unnecessary field service calls by indicating, based on equipment schedules, if the machine is due for maintenance or not.

Rental companies can also practice predictive maintenance with JLG’s ClearSky telematics program, as well as JLG’s Mobile Analyzer diagnostics tool. Both solutions use the real-time data from the equipment to monitor machine health and to alert users of potential issues before they occur. For example, with telematics rental companies’ fleet managers can know when a machine’s batteries need to be recharged or if there is a clogged filter or too much water in the fuel tank — all common challenges that occur every day in equipment rentals that can be alleviated by accessing machine data through ClearSky or the remote analyzer.

These digital solutions can also alert rental companies’ fleet managers to future issues before even the equipment operator knows. Through both of these JLG systems, technicians will receive an alert letting them know about the specific issue. That reduces the cost of the service call because technicians can arrive with the right parts and tools to target the specified components — and may even eliminate the need for some service calls.

Sometimes equipment rental companies have commented that they are overwhelmed by too much data. Do you help them to work out what is best and most important for their operation?

Historically, customers who mentioned being overwhelmed by too much data were only gaining access to the information via an API data feed. Taking a step beyond this method to alleviate the challenge, JLG’s ClearSky solution offers customers a way to access the data through a telematics portal, allowing them to manage the data and prioritize the information they most want to view through dashboards that include equipment maintenance pages, maps that include machine location, geofences and fault code reports.

In the past, often rental companies felt they couldn’t afford telematics systems. Are they now more affordable for smaller rental companies?

Although telematics has been around for more than 20 years, the cost of the technology has decreased significantly over the past few years, including the hardware necessary on the machines, the software needed to gather and analyze the data and the portals or applications used to access the information anywhere, any time — even on remote job sites.

OEMs like JLG have played a huge role in this. For example, JLG supplies telematics devices factory-installed and form-fitted to the exact machine on new production models, as well as retrofit kits for machines currently in the field. This offers a huge convenience to our customers, especially smaller rental companies, who had to, in the past, evaluate, choose and install their own telematics solutions or hire someone after the sale to do so. Now on with OEM-supplied telematics, JLG customers just need to connect the asset, then access the data via a mobile device or computer.