This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of CropLife magazine.
New integrated tools from Raven Technologies and Razor Tracking allow you to view all your equipment – from sprayers to trailers.
By Robin Siktberg, Custom Content Editor, Meister Media Worldwide
In the never-ending quest for efficiency, retailers are realizing the benefits of tracking the usage and maintenance status of their key equipment. The ability to easily view a machine’s downtime, for instance, can allow an operator to zero in on machines with maintenance issues, identify a need for an additional tender, or manage user error. Keeping all equipment up and running during critical times can save you money and keep your customers happy. With ever-increasing acreage in a wider range of locations, it’s a challenge to monitor where equipment is and get it to the right place with everything in place to do its job.
Until recently, it has been up to fleet managers to do this, usually through a hodge podge of different software solutions. Early this year, Raven Applied Technology introduced Fleet Analytics Manager, a tool that provides fleet and system data from application equipment in one view. Usage data such as acres per hour and per day, the location, and historical data can be easily viewed in real time at one place. A breakthrough for the industry that answers a need for data around machine usage, ag retailers still needed one more piece to the puzzle; how to track all the ancillary equipment needed to support planters, sprayers, and harvesters?
New Tools Provide Air Traffic Controller’s View of Operation
To add that piece, Raven partnered with Razor Tracking to create additional tools for monitoring these numerous and necessary vehicles, such as trucks, tender units, and tanks. Seamlessly integrated into Slingshot, the additional tools provide an air traffic controller’s view of the location of all the company’s equipment.
“This partnership with Razor Tracking allows us to provide additional capabilities within Slingshot” says Paul Welbig, Director of Slingshot Services and Logistics at Raven. “The key advantage is the operations manager or dispatcher has a consolidated view of the entire fleet. They can make decisions based on that throughout the day. And afterwards, they can run reports to see where everybody went, where there were delays, and analyze why.”
“We’ve been in close contact throughout the years with Raven, and just in these last several months we have been able to identify a way to partner to create even more efficiencies for our customers,” says Eric Mauch, CEO at Razor Tracking. “Any time we can streamline systems for the grower or retailer, it makes their life easier. Often software providers are putting the burden of finding and assimilating the information onto the customer. This is a conscious effort by Razor and Raven to take that step ourselves and put everything all into one platform. The additional capabilities provide a true end-to-end view of the entire operation that wasn’t possible before.”
All of the information from Fleet Analytics Manager, including this new information from ancillary equipment, can all be logged, recorded and analyzed. If idle time is longer than normal for a particular machine, its easy to dig deeper to find out the reason.
“Was the driver waiting for a tender truck to refill, and if so, what happened?” Welbig says. “Did the truck break down, did the driver get lost or stop too long for lunch? Was there already a tender truck there, but we should have scheduled an additional one due to the distance? We now have the data to actually see what happened, instead of just guessing.”
Mauch says besides tracking equipment, Slingshot Fleet Tracking with the Razor Tracking integrated capabilities offers the ability to train and manage workers, especially new seasonal workers.
“A lot of your knowledge is sitting in your dispatch towers,” Mauch says. “When new workers come on board, they may not know the proper route to spread a field, or how to even get to the field. Now, watching in real time, the dispatcher can help them when they need it and prevent errors.”
Easy to Use and Install
The Razor tracking system is designed to be simple and usable on any color or type of equipment. Small tracking devices are easily attached to the vehicle and are connected through Raven’s Slingshot connectivity program to the Fleet Tracking dashboard. They are powered by the vehicle. A second option is a battery-powered solution for trailers and tanks, for instance, that don’t have their own power. The tracking devices report back periodically with updates. The devices are easy to install and don’t require a technician or extensive training to use.
“Find Your 20”
While Razor’s tracking system can be a stand-alone platform, the integration with Slingshot provides extra value to retailers. And the feedback is promising.
“We’ve been talking to our customers about ‘Find your 20,” Welbig says. “Whether it is a 20% gain in efficiency, or 20% savings, that’s the average we have been hearing from our customers so far. By leveraging these efficiency tools, they are able to do more with less, or get 20% more done with the assets they have. Or, if they have to purchase new equipment, they have the data they need to be confident they truly need it.”
Both Welbig and Mauch say this is something retailers have been asking for. And the timing is fortunate, because it is becoming more difficult to find workers, and most retailers cannot buy new equipment at the pace they did a few years ago when economic conditions were better.
Welbig says, “Having better insights into the operation and being able to apply those and use resources differently truly helps the customer’s bottom line.”