Mhlnews 1764 Onboard Computers

Onboard Computers Lift Data Management Burdens

Dec. 1, 2007
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Managing information is what computers do best.
Devices mounted to lift trucks to help manage inventory have been around 20-plus years and have only improved with age. Computers on-board lift trucks to measure the activity of the vehicle, however, are a relatively new phenomena that offer great potential.

The ability for a computer to relieve managers of paperwork, particularly in regard to government regulations, is one of the principal aspects of the Crown Equipment Corp.’s (New Bremen, Ohio, wireless fleet management system known as InfoLink.

“To comply with OSHA,” explains Matt Ranly, senior products manager, “regulations state that every time a truck is turned on, the operator must fill out a pre-use inspection sheet. There’s no way to confirm if they actually do the inspection, or simply complete the paperwork.”

And when that paperwork is completed, it must be collected, stored and data entered into a computer. This new wireless fleet management system can relieve operators and managers of the paperwork burden. When an operator turns the key, the InfoLink terminal cycles through all the inspection requirements, and the data is automatically stored.

“Another benefit,” says Ranly, “is that the system tracks the certification of every driver and every truck he is certified to operate.” It also notes the date of the operator’s certification, and the truck will not operate (when the operator puts in his identification code) if the certification has expired.

Logging the Bumps
Impact sensors now tell managers much more than before. Trucks have previously had sensors to measure impacts. Typically, the sensors would shut the truck down on impact. A supervisor was then required to restart the vehicle, and the operator was reprimanded. Improvements in electronics have changed that.

Now, with InfoLink, the force of an impact that is important to managers will be logged, yet the truck does not necessarily shut down. Whereas a consistent small impact might be common to a specific operation, a larger impact can tell the manager a lot about the operator as well as the truck. Time and place stamping in the data tell the manager exactly what happened, when and where.

“Culling through the data,” says Ranly, “you begin to see behavioral driving habits of operators. When confronted with facts, drivers often admit to having an accident. Now, with InfoLink, operators have been known to go directly to their supervisor right after the incident occurred.”

Financial repercussions are many from collecting this type of information. Damage to trucks as well as racks and products can be reduced, even eliminated.

Working by Remote Control
Another on-board product offered by a lift truck manufacturer, Hoist Liftruck Manufacturing (Bedford Park, Ill, is RemoteTech, a vehicle management system the company is incorporating into its new trucks. This system allows managers, or the truck manufacturer, to do diagnostics on the vehicle, real-time, remotely if necessary.

Design engineer Jeff Svec says, currently, they are monitoring various aspects, such as engine speed, transmission shift points and the functions of the hydraulics on vehicles. The system also employs impact sensors to monitor potential damage to the vehicle. “We’ve also installed a cell modem on board so that we can do diagnostics sitting here [in Cleveland or Chicago] while the truck is any place in the world.”

An example of that was a recent re-programming effort he did via the telephone and an Internet hook up. Tom Murray of HiLo Yale Industrial Trucks (Hauppauge, N.Y.,, took delivery of a truck for a customer. Between the time when the truck was shipped from the factory and when it was delivered, the customer changed its mind about the controls on the pendant that would be used. While sitting on the truck with his cell phone, and a laptop computer plugged into the vehicle, Murray and Svec reprogrammed the pendant operating device on the vehicle within 90 minutes.

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