Fleet Analytics "Give Machines a Voice"

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This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of CropLife magazine.

Real-time, in-depth data on their fleet allows managers to optimize equipment use.

By Robin Siktberg, Custom Content Editor, Meister Media Worldwide

With efficiency being the name of the game in current farming practices, it makes sense to approach it from all angles. Tools are available to create more efficiencies in application, record keeping, labor management, and workflow. But why stop there when there is now a tool to manage your fleet of equipment that provides in-depth information on usage and maintenance needs?

Fleet Analytics allows managers to know the operating cost of each machine, helping to make decisions about replacement and maintenance easier.

In March 2020, Raven [introduced] its Fleet Analytics Manager tool which provides fleet and system data in one view. Managers can look at each machine and see usage data such as acres per hour, per day, and location. It can also provide historical data of system events and recommendations. By analyzing this data, a fleet manager can see if a machine is performing as it should and head off problems before they arise. It also helps to make decisions about when to replace a machine easier.

“This is something our customers have been asking for,” says Paul Welbig, Director of Slingshot Services and Logistics at Raven. “There’s a real hunger for data around machine usage, because of the drive for efficiencies. Retailers are continuously being squeezed and are trying to optimize their operations as much as possible. Being able to understand on a machine level how much time each one is being used to actually apply products in the field versus being transported down the road or waiting for a tender truck, allows managers to use data to keep the machines moving and as efficient as possible.”

Seamless Integration on Any Color

Fleet analytic systems aren’t completely new, Welbig says. What is new is that Raven’s Fleet Analytics Manager tool is seamlessly integrated with other Raven systems already on the machine through its Slingshot® technology. And while other systems may come with machines of a particular color, and some are third-party systems that may track machine’s location and speed, Fleet Analytics Manager can work with mixed fleets and provides much deeper information on a machine’s operation.

The ability to easily analyze data on each machine’s usage allows more efficient scheduling of resources.

“We can provide a much richer data set than what you might find from some third-party options,” Welbig says. “And it’s seamless; you don’t have to piece together information from different apps. And anyone with our Slingshot system can use Fleet Analytics; you don’t need a specific color of machine.”

Chad Biegler, Product Manager at Raven, says Fleet Analytics Manager provides deeper insight into a machine’s performance. So if something seems off with a machine or particular application, you have an easier way of figuring out what is wrong.

“If it’s not the machine, it may be operator error,” says Biegler. “But either way, you have a better insight into your machine and operation. Or, if a machine is experiencing a lot of downtime, you may realize you should pair it with more than one tender, so it’s not waiting for another truck, for instance.”

Large retailers are trending toward having more locations and covering ever-larger amounts of acreage. And rather than purchase new equipment on a regular rotation, they are looking at ways to save money and increase the efficiency of the machines they have.

Biegler says the ability to determine the actual cost of operating each machine helps managers make those decisions.

“They can look at the data to see which machines are not providing enough return, and they can retire them,” Biegler says. “Or they optimize use by moving the machines from one part of their territory to another to extend the application life per season. They still may buy some new machines, but they are doing it with the knowledge that it really is going to increase return over the older ones based on the data Fleet Analytics Manager provides.”

Fleet Analytics Manager also provides real-time alerts when there is a problem with the machine — sometimes even before the driver knows. Managers can create custom data sets based on what they want to know and when and can request to be notified by email, text, or a pop-up on the webpage. System alerts and notifications are time-stamped, viewable on a map, and recorded.

System Requirements

Many large retailers already have connectivity on their machines with the Viper® 4 and Slingshot technologies from Raven, which work with any color machine. Biegler says if you already have those, Fleet Analytics Manager is merely a seamless software update. If you don’t already have the Viper 4 and Slingshot capabilities, you will need them.

“There are a number of different packages available, Biegler says. “We are making it as simple as possible, so you can dive in and be able to understand in very easy detail how to use our system.”

Welbig says Raven offers multiple ways to learn to use Fleet Analytics Manager — and really, any Raven product. We host training events, webinars, and have tools on our website,” Welbig says, adding that the company sponsors its Top Gun events and also works very closely with its dealer channel to educate them on its products.

“You’re not going to be out on your own trying to learn how to use it,” Welbig says. “We want to make sure our users are comfortable with Fleet Analytics Manager, or any of our technologies and get the best value from using them.”

“At the highest level, Fleet Analytics Manager provides managers and dispatchers a really good understanding across their entire fleet, allowing them to keep their machines moving and working as efficiently as possible,” Welbig says. “It’s as if we’re giving the machines a voice and having them tell us, ‘here’s how long I’ve been working, here’s what’s working well and here’s what is not.’ And that allows managers to know where they’re at with each machine and make decisions to help them get where they want to be.”