Since JSE-listed equipment distributor Barloworld’s Monitoring Bureau went live in January, the company has connected to and interacted with many construction and mining machines that have been fitted with earthmoving machinery and construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar’s on-board transmitting hardware system, Product Link, in Southern Africa.
Barloworld Equipment Bureau manager John Paul Briggs tells Engineering News that the machines communicate through a global system for mobile communications (GSM) or satellite technology, which transmits to a dedicated control room at Barloworld’s Condition Monitoring Centre, in Boksburg, Johannesburg, which also houses the company’s Monitoring Bureau.
“Most new Cat machines are factory fitted with the Product Link system, which is are also available as a retrofit option on older Cat machines,” he states.
The Product Link hardware is activated by Cat’s electronic technician software, or through the GSM cellular networks, and is registered on the company’s Internet-based platform, VisionLink.
Briggs says that Product Link comprises an antenna receiver, which is hardwired to an on-board electronic control module (ECM).
Further, he states that the ongoing roll-out of Cat Management Solutions (EMSolutions) will extend to include coverage across the Southern Africa region this year, as more machines are fitted with the system.
“GSM technology coverage is available throughout Southern Africa, with satellite catering to remote connections outside the cellular grid. GSM provides the best platform for near real-time tracking, as immediate and/or hourly reporting on machine health, location and use are reported, whereas satellite is generally limited to daily reports.”
Meanwhile, Briggs notes that Cat’s remote monitoring and asset management service, Cat EMSolutions, is offered at five levels and meets “every operational scope requirement”, from plant hire and construction fleets to full-scale mine sites.
“The Cat EMSolutions’ levels range from information access to full service and maintenance support options; they were developed in response to customer demand for a comprehensive solution that incorporated fleet condition monitoring and maintenance management,” he explains.
Moreover, Briggs emphasises that the introduction of the Cat EMSolutions places Caterpillar at the forefront of original-equipment manufacturers in terms of advanced conditioning monitoring.
“VisionLink can be accessed using a personal computer or through smartphone devices, making it easy for users to zoom in from any location for a detailed analysis of individual assets.”
Further, Briggs notes that Cat EMSolutions’ supporting tools include Cat S.O.S Services’ fuel and oil analysis programmes, housed at the Barloworld Conditioning Monitoring Centre, which are, in turn, accessible through VisionLink and are optionally inclusive with all Cat EMSolutions offerings, depending on the level selected.
The five Cat EMSolutions packaged options are Level 1 Access; Level 2 Inform; Level 3 Advise; Level 4 Support and Level 5 Manage.
“In terms of summary overview, Level 1 Access enables users to access the VisionLink portal to locate equipment and determine the tasks it is performing using remote, near real-time information,” Briggs explains.
He notes that Level 2 Inform is used to manage equipment health and use trends, compared to benchmarks from automated reporting.
“These reports show a range of parameters, such as fuel-burn trends by machines and site applications, fault codes that indicate a need for operator training or repairs, the amount of time the machines spent idling as opposed to earning and confirmation of fleet machine hours recorded to schedule prescribed maintenance,” says Briggs.
Additionally, he highlights that the Equipment Monitoring Bureau using these reports generate a monthly fleet summary report, for the customer, highlighting areas for potential improvement.
“The Level 3 Advise package moves beyond pure reporting to include expert dealer recommendations. A Barloworld Equipment condition-monitoring adviser provides valuable advice about maintenance, use and repair using the generated data trend analysis. These recommendations work hand-in-hand with a conditioning-monitoring programme that can include infield machine inspections and fluid analysis using the Cat S.O.S Services programme,” states Briggs.
“Cat S.O.S Services is an essential component in machine life-cycle costing, as well as predictive and preventative maintenance strategies,” he adds.
Level 4 Support builds on Level 3 Advise and caters for larger fleet owners, entailing the outsourcing of fleet maintenance, parts or repairs to a dedicated Barloworld Equipment technical services team, supported by the full EMSolutions and S.O.S suite, including the services of a dedicated conditioning-monitoring adviser.
“For our mining customers, Level 5 Manage is a negotiated maintenance and repair contract option, whereby Barloworld Equipment has the sole responsibility within predetermined maintenance pricing structures to deliver according to agreed-upon machine availability targets.”
Meanwhile, at the Equipment Monitoring Bureau, a dedicated Barloworld Equipment team tracks individual machine data feeds downloaded by its on-board ECM computers.
“Alerts received by the company’s Equipment Monitoring Bureau, in Boksburg, use the updates, with more detailed information transmitted, depending on the Cat EMSolutions level selected. Alerts sent by Cat ECM systems notify fleet owners when standard protocols have been exceeded. Examples of typical alerts are ‘engine overspeed’, ‘high torque converter oil temperature’, ‘machine abuse’ and ‘implement hydraulic oil temperature high’,” Briggs explains.
He points out that alerts differ, depending on the severity of the possible outcome.
“A Red Level 3 alert status, for example, would indicate the need for an immediate mechanical shutdown and service support. Planned and well-managed maintenance programmes provide the best assurance of high machine availability within budget, which is where the routine use of Cat S.O.S Services provides a high degree of certainty,” says Briggs, adding that all S.O.S sample results and reports for each machine are easily accessible using Vision Link.
However, he believes that Level 3 offers the best overall advantage for fleet owners seeking the benefits of mutual monitoring, S.O.S analysis and constant on-line remote tracking and reporting by Barloworld’s Equipment Monitoring Bureau.
Briggs points out that the key EMSolutions features include near real-time fuel level information, machine filtering according to job site and geographical location, multiple machine tracking, payload displays on medium and large wheel loaders, as well as geofencing capabilities.