Knowing where your machines are located and the number of hours on them are critical pieces of information when maintaining a fleet. Those capabilities were the original features of Komatsu’s remote monitoring KOMTRAX telematics system, which celebrates its 20th birthday in 2020.
“After all of these years, those are still two important functions, although KOMTRAX has considerably more capabilities now,” said Steve Day, who served as Komatsu’s Director of Service in 2000, and was instrumental in the adoption and implementation of KOMTRAX. He recently retired from Tractor & Equipment Company where he was Executive Vice President/General Manager-Product Support. “It evolved into a tool for monitoring equipment health, idle time, fuel consumption and much more. The information can be used to address changes that lead to better practices, which reduce owning and operating costs.”
Depending on the machine, today’s KOMTRAX can deliver information on cautions, abnormality codes, actual working hours versus idle time, hydraulic relief hours, load frequency and digging hours, among other critical data. The latest version, KOMTRAX 5.0, is standard on Tier 4 construction machinery and includes Komatsu Diesel Particulate Filter soot count, active regeneration time, operator identification and diesel exhaust fluid level.
“Early on, we recognized how valuable the data could be to customers, our distributors and to Komatsu as a manufacturer, and each has played a significant role in its evolution,” emphasized Komatsu Director of Parts Marketing Chris Wasik, who also worked on the initiative that eventually led to KOMTRAX. “There was some discussion in the initial stages about what to charge for the service. However, we quickly saw such great potential benefit that we decided to provide it complimentary, and we still do.”
Beneficial to all
Wasik said that Komatsu now monitors hundreds of thousands of machines equipped with the technology to analyze trends and assess data, which may determine manufacturing levels and inventory. Distributors keep track of equipment in their territories to determine when to perform service intervals, what parts to stock and to remotely diagnose error codes and more.
“The customer benefit is better support,” said Wasik. “For instance, when a machine has a fault code, KOMTRAX sends an alert. Before driving to a customer’s site to check the machine, the technician can pull the parts that may be needed and take them along. In the past, the technician may have needed to assess the machine, determine the required parts, then go back to the shop and get them. KOMTRAX reduces downtime, and because it shows where a machine is located, the tech can drive right to it, which saves time and travel expense.”
Customers can keep an eye on their machines through a secure website via desktop and laptop computers, tablets or with a smartphone using the KOMTRAX app. McManus Construction, LLC Fleet Manager James Bedgood utilizes the service to research error codes as well as to track idle time and hours.
“If I’m out of the shop, I check it through the app on my phone,” said Bedgood. “It’s a great tool that allows us to be even more proactive regarding service.”
Dorado Construction Group Fleet Manager/Equipment Manager Clay Butler consistently uses KOMTRAX to track how his company’s Komatsu equipment is running.
“The increases in productivity and efficiency we get across the board with Komatsu are fantastic,” said Butler. “I see it every day when I look up the machines through KOMTRAX on my desktop computer or tablet. If a code pops up, it alerts us so that we can address it quickly.”
Rizwan Mirza, Komatsu Manager, KOMTRAX – Technical Support & Production Quality, Products & Services Division said that this kind of end-user adoption has always been one of Komatsu’s goals.
“We want customers to utilize it to its fullest and reap the benefits of what’s available,” added Mirza. “Whether it’s basic hours and location or more advanced data, such as idle versus production time, economy mode versus power mode functionalities, unnecessary travel or something else, it’s beneficial to their operations. Komatsu and our distributors can consult with customers to use the information in a way that maximizes production and efficiency.”
Total solutions tool
KOMTRAX has exceeded the initial development team’s expectations. “Telematics were being used in the trucking industry, and someone had the foresight to see its applications for construction equipment,” Day recalled. “We started with a box and put it on one excavator to do some field testing and see what we could do with the information.”
“It was introduced on four machines, and the benefits were so great that we expanded it,” added Wasik. “KOMTRAX was so well-received, that we manufactured retrofit packages for older models. Some customers put it on their competitive brands and other types of equipment to track them as well.”
Mirza said predictive analysis could be the next step in the evolution of KOMTRAX. “A machine may tell the customer that it’s nearly time to replace a component, for instance. We are working to marry it with our MyKomatsu website and other business aspects as part of our total solutions package.”