• Fleet management

Efficient fleet management

Efficiency and the ability to plan are crucial for optimising the flow of materials in production halls and warehouses. Villeroy & Boch knows this and uses the KION fleet management system in order to get the best from its fleet.

It is as small as a wallet but a real boon in Matthias Hasenmüller’s day-to-day work. The card reader attached to the Linde truck has a usefulness that belies its unremarkable appearance. But the device is able to tell who is and who isn’t authorised to operate the truck at ceramics manufacturer Villeroy & Boch in the Saarland town of Mettlach. “As fleet manager I’m also sent data about drivers and trucks and about where and how equipment is being used so that I can organise the fleet more efficiently,” says Hasenmüller, who as head of maintenance introduced fleet management at the company.

Villeroy & Boch deploys 23 Linde trucks on a shift basis at its main site, where there is a constant switcharound of drivers. Ensuring that the trucks are used only by authorised personnel is very important to the company. “The access control will only let the truck be operated by employees who have the relevant licence for it, who have been properly trained in how to use it and who have recently passed health checks such as eye tests,” says Hasenmüller. “We want to prevent people from getting hurt and goods and equipment from being damaged.”

Fleet management of the future

The KION Group’s two premium brand companies offer two logistics solutions: Linde’s connect: product family and STILL’s web-based Fleet Data Services. And both can do much more than differentiate between authorised and unauthorised drivers. They also track operating hours, distances covered, speeds, energy consumption, loads, capacity utilisation and shock events. The systems are modular and can easily be expanded. “This means that customers combine only the modules that they need and track only the data that is relevant to them – which in addition to truck data might include business data such as maintenance schedules,” says Sebastian Erdmann, Head of Business Solutions at STILL. “The customer’s requirements are paramount here.” Analysing the data creates transparency and highlights how the fleet can be used more efficiently: capacity utilisation and maintenance can be optimised, health and safety is improved. “By optimising how we deploy the trucks, we are able to reduce costs,” says Hasenmüller.

The data is transmitted using Bluetooth, GPRS or Wi-Fi. Simple and efficient. It’s perfectly possible for fleets to be made up of equipment of different brands. The hardware components are fitted to new trucks by the manufacturer and can be retrofitted to customers’ existing trucks.

Sebastian Erdmann is a firm believer in this new technology: “Simply manufacturing trucks is no longer enough. The market is calling for smart, connected components that deliver information about the trucks. Fleet management will be much more data-driven in the future: simulation of fleet deployments, pattern identification and automatic optimisation will be further stages of development.”

Pre-op check app for smartphones

Maik Manthey, Vice President of New Business & Products at Linde, adds: “Soon the data will be telling fleet managers not just where their trucks are located in the plant, but also at what exact rack they are working and at what height.” Which means that if a rack is ever damaged, maintenance staff can quickly replace it, and steps can be taken to avoid further accidents. This is known as predictive maintenance.

“We are also moving towards the stage where trucks will be able to communicate with each other, with buildings and with users,” says Manthey. “And so we are expanding the functionality of connect: accordingly. The latest tool is the pre-op check app for smartphones.” Instead of logging the condition of the truck by hand at the beginning of the shift and having the truck signed off by the shift manager, the driver now runs through a series of questions on a smartphone. If the check shows that the truck is in good shape, it will be released for use. This new functionality saves on paper, time and costs – and makes life even easier for customers.