ZTR, London, Ontario, Canada, and Trackunit, Aalborg, Denmark, agreed to unite the companies in September 2021 to better meet the growing demand for telematics in the construction and equipment rental industries.
The combined entity aims to create offerings to enhance equipment utilization, increase fleet availability, improve safety and reduce equipment loss. In addition, a goal is to help customers in collecting data and translating it into actionable intelligence to improve daily operations.
Sam Hassan, ZTR president and CEO, and Jeff Cohen, Trackunit president based in New York, recently spoke with Rental Management about advances in telematics and the combined company’s goals moving forward.
Rental Management: Do you feel there has been a change in attitude toward the adoption of technology and telematics by equipment rental companies compared to a year ago?
Sam Hassan: Without question. This industry is starting to look at where technology is taking it. There have been people who have taken charge with complete equipment installs and telematics solutions across their fleet and now everybody is seeing what they are doing and want to make the investments as well. The industry is calling for it and contractors are looking for rental companies to supply them with a better rental experience. A better experience comes from knowledge and understanding of how they are using the machines. We are enabling them to think differently about
rental, the rental experience and how they manage it. The manufacturers also are thinking differently about how they follow the life cycle of their machines from the cradle to the grave. We are enabling them to do that. It’s an exciting opportunity.
Jeff Cohen: A lot of the trends are following the pattern of how telematics has been used for on-highway machines. First, the idea is to learn about the vehicle and then learn about the behavior of the driver. The same things are happening here with off-road equipment. The initial use is to know the location of the equipment and have connectivity, so you don’t lose it. Now, people are looking at being proactive with service and maintenance by using the data from telematics. This helps make sure job sites and infrastructure projects don’t slow down. When there is a labor shortage like we have now, you need to make sure the right people are able to work on the right equipment and keep safety as the highest priority. There is a confluence of events all coming together.
Rental Management: How do you help equipment rental companies make sense of all of this data they now can get via telematics?
Hassan: We are keenly aware of the need for better control of data and what that data can do for our customers. Our customers and the industry are going through the connect phase and we’re still in that phase ourselves. Next is to assess and grow to understand how to turn the data in a return on investment to provide better service to rental customers. We have data teams that do nothing but focus on that. We will partner with rental stores to identify where this is going and how to move it forward. Manufacturers know machines better but want help in analyzing that data and coming back to event-based solutions that can drive value in their businesses. Our customers are looking to us to help them identify operational improvement in the rental cycle; above all, safety.
Cohen: We are in a position to help eliminate downtime and some of the inefficiencies so that our customers can focus on revenue, productivity and utilization. All those issues now are at the forefront for rental companies and extending out to construction contractors. Without visibility into what is going on in the machine, and without technology to do that, it is an administrative nightmare. People also are realizing that just one or two components will more than pay for the investment in telematics.
Rental Management: How do you aggregate data from a mixed fleet? Aren’t there differences in what manufacturers track?
Hassan: We have developed a program with manufacturers where we do factory installs of our solution, so equipment is coming out enabled with telematics. We can also integrate data from independent manufacturers and bring that into the back office so there is a single-source view for our customers. We do play as an intermediary. We provide manufacturers and rental customers with information to feed into their systems to ensure their contractor customers have the information they need. I would say the mixed fleet problem has largely been solved. The bigger problem is how do we share that data and bring it to those constituents in a way that makes the most sense to them and allows them to be effective with each other?
Rental Management: Why did the two companies decide to join forces?
Cohen: We have been working on parallel things to service similar customers. Together, we can accelerate the delivery of those services. Personnel and talent do not come at an easy clip these days, so it is great to be able to consolidate, enhance and expand our roadmaps to deliver what we want to deliver to the industries we serve.
Hassan: This industry has been going through change over the last five years. Customers are looking for technology partners that can move forward with them. Doing things independently would have taken a little longer. This accelerates our ability to deliver what our customers want and need. We like to think we are two large organizations that have come together that provide a lot of strength and capabilities. I think that our ability to confidently get them there faster is really important.