Guest Column | July 10, 2023

Here's How To Harness The Power Of Lift Truck Telematics Data

By Emily Newton, Revolutionized


Telematics is one of the most important technologies for supply chain organizations to invest in. Fleet managers understand this, though most implementation focuses on logistics fleets when use cases like lift trucks are highly beneficial, too. Capitalizing on lift truck telematics data can make warehouse operations safer, more efficient, and cost-effective.

Despite this potential, it’s important to recognize that the extent of these benefits depends on how the technology is used. Here are six steps to harness lift trucks’ telematics power in that light.

Determine What Data Is Needed

The first step in profiting from lift truck telematics data is determining which specific data points are most beneficial. Many companies point toward a lack of data as the reason behind failed projects, but it’s often more an issue of lacking the right information. In fact, the most common reason for data project failure is a misunderstanding of business contexts and user needs.

Telematics initiatives must be targeted to be effective. Managers should start by analyzing which specific use cases will likely yield the most significant improvements. Maintenance may be the biggest area where fleets fall short, while others may gain more from safety improvements. Each use case requires different data.

Companies that understand how to apply telematics can determine which data points must be collected. Vibration, temperature, and mechanical stress are most relevant for maintenance, while real-time locations are more important for warehouse transparency.

Consider Scale, Environment, And Budget Restraints

The next determining factor to consider is a telematics solution’s real-world application. Which devices and network protocols are best depends on the lift truck fleet’s operating environment.

Telematics solutions can use various communication standards, each with unique benefits and advantages. 5G can support many devices and high data volumes but has a range of just 1,000 feet in many cases. Consequently, it may be ideal for tracking complex maintenance data in a small warehouse but not for larger-scale fleet management.

Managers should consider their facility’s size, how many forklifts are in the fleet, how much data must be transmitted, ideal network speeds, and environmental factors like outdoor workflows. They should also outline their budgets, which can significantly impact which devices or protocols work best.

Compare IoT Standards And Device Vendors

With these constraints in mind, managers can find the ideal IoT standard for their lift truck telematics data. Because lift trucks don’t typically travel far, it’s often best to use a shorter-range but higher-bandwidth option like Wi-Fi, Zigbee, or Z-Wave. Companies already deploying IoT devices in the same workspace should consider what those use.

Once there’s a communications protocol in mind, managers should start shopping for compatible devices. They should compare multiple vendors, as some may offer the same or equivalent products at different prices.

The cheapest solution isn’t always the most cost-effective in the long run. A more expensive but reliable telematics system could save money by preventing forklift injuries — thousands of which occur annually — or boosting productivity. Some vendors may also offer ongoing support, which can mitigate software and implementation-related costs.

Gather, Consolidate, And Manage Telematics Data

At this stage, managers should know what telematics devices they’ll use, where they’ll get them from, and how they’ll use them. The next step is to purchase and deploy the solution. That may seem straightforward, but many organizations overlook data management best practices.

Consolidation is a crucial but often overlooked step in this process. Companies that want to gain all they can from telematics data must have a single point to view and manage it all. That means deploying a cloud data management platform compatible with IoT endpoints and communications protocols.

Telematics software should compile data from all lift trucks into one place. The more automated features it offers, the better, as organizing and presenting this information manually can take a lot of time and introduce room for error. Data cleansing and verification features are beneficial, as they’ll minimize faults that could lead to costly missteps.

Start Small And Expand Slowly

The vast potential of lift truck telematics data can make it tempting to adopt it rapidly. However, these solutions can be costly and take time to produce positive returns. That’s why small fleets are less likely to adopt telematics than their larger counterparts, with costs remaining the leading decision factor.

Taking a slower, methodical approach is the key to overcoming these financial barriers. Companies should apply telematics systems to a few vehicles for a single use case. They should set performance benchmarks and monitor relevant KPIs closely to gauge the project’s success.

Managers that begin seeing returns from this initial investment must review the process. They should go over what went well and any unexpected complications to determine how to implement similar systems more effectively in the future. They can then take what they’ve learned to apply telematics to more lift trucks and across more use cases, building slowly to spread purchases out.

Act On The Information

Companies should act on the information gathered. Lift truck telematics data alone will not and cannot improve any aspect of a business. It’s merely a tool. Managers must apply it to achieve its potential.

Fleet managers tracking maintenance data should set up an alert system and repair scheduling protocol to enable predictive maintenance. Those using telematics to prevent accidents should connect the data to wearable sensors on workers and set up automatic alerts or braking. They also can routinely analyze this information to see where workplace safety must improve.

Telematics data provides the necessary insight to make relevant and effective decisions but can’t make those decisions alone. Employees or automated systems must routinely analyze and act on the generated information for it to produce positive results.

Lift Truck Telematics Data Holds Vast Potential

Lift truck fleets can gain a lot from telematics systems if implemented effectively. Following these six steps will help achieve that success.

Applying telematics effectively can prevent accidents, extend equipment lifespans, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. Regardless of a company’s goals, telematics can help, and achieving those targets starts with understanding how best to use this technology.

About The Author

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She regularly explores the impact technology has on the industrial sector.