Virtual monitoring for near real-time machine health, utilisation and location

In January 2014, Barloworld rolled out the Cat Equipment Management Solutions (EMS) telematic suite across its southern African dealer footprint. Now, over a year later, there are more than 4 000 machines reporting to the Cat VisionLink™ internet portal via Product Link™, the onboard transmitting hardware, either through GSM cellular connection, or satellite. (GSM technology coverage is available throughout southern Africa, with satellite catering for remote connections outside the cellular grid.)

Most new Cat machines leave the factory with Product Link fitted as standard. "Retrofit kits are available for older machines," explains Barloworld Equipment senior product manager, Wally Parsons. (Barloworld Equipment is the Cat dealer for southern Africa.) Automatically set for international roaming, Product Link provides seamless cross-border coverage.

Offered in five levels, Cat EMS meets every operational scope requirement, from plant hire and construction fleets to full-scale mine sites. Benefits of registering machines on the EMS programme include peace of mind; cost reductions; better resale; safety; higher mechanical availability; and improved utilisation.

Key EMS features include near real-time fuel level information; machine filtering by job site / geographical location; multiple machine tracking; payload displays on medium and large wheel loaders; and geo-fencing capabilities.

Machine tracking and reporting is the responsibility of the Equipment Monitoring Bureau. This is a control room based at the Barloworld Condition Monitoring Centre in Boksburg, Johannesburg.

At the Bureau, a dedicated Barloworld Equipment team tracks individual machine data feeds downloaded via their onboard ECM (Electronic Control Module) units. ECM alerts sent via VisionLink notify fleet owners when standard protocols have been exceeded. Examples of typical alerts are 'engine over speed', 'high torque converter oil temperature', 'machine abuse', and 'implement hydraulic oil temperature high'.


The five Cat EMS 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 enter the VisionLink portal to know where their equipment is and what it's doing with remote, near real-time information.

Level 2 Inform enables users to manage equipment health and utilisation trends compared to benchmarks via automated reporting. These reports show a range of parameters such as fuel burn trends by machine and site application; fault codes that indicate a need for operator training or repairs; the amount of time units spend idling as opposed to earning; and confirmation on individual machine hours recorded in order to schedule prescribed maintenance. The Equipment Monitoring Bureau generates a monthly fleet summary report for the customer, highlighting areas for potential improvement.

With Level 3 Advise, the package moves beyond pure reporting to include expert dealer recommendations. A Barloworld Equipment condition monitoring adviser provides valuable advice about maintenance, utilisation and repair, drawing from the data trend analysis generated. These recommendations work hand-in-hand with a conditioning monitoring programme that can include in-field machine inspections, and fluid analysis via the Cat S.O.S SM Services programme.

Level 4 Support builds on Level 3 and caters for larger fleet owners, entailing the outsourcing of fleet maintenance, parts or repairs to a Barloworld Equipment technical services team, backed by the full EMS and SOS suite, plus a dedicated condition monitoring adviser.

For mining customers, Level 5 Manage is in turn a negotiated maintenance and repair contract option where Barloworld Equipment has sole responsibility within predetermined maintenance pricing structures for agreed machine rolling availability targets.

Cat S.O.S Services fuel and oil analysis programmes are either optional or inclusive depending on the EMS level selected. The Cat S.O.S Services laboratory for the southern African region is housed at the Barloworld Condition Monitoring Centre. "Cat S.O.S Services are an essential component in machine life cycle costing, predictive and preventative maintenance strategies," Parsons stresses, adding that VisonLink enables users to view machine health data and Cat SOS sample results through the same portal.

"Level 1 has been well supported, with Level 2 proving popular as customers appreciate the bottom line benefits. Remote fuel burn monitoring has been one of the more popular areas, as customers seek to reduce consumption. VisionLink, for example, highlights idle time and unnecessary diesel wastage."

So far, over 2 000 Cat machines are EMS registered.

E-mail for information and assistance in registering machines onto one of the EMS programmes.