Transitioning from Analog to Digital Technology and the Worth of an Association
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Posted by: AEMP
by Sharon Anderson Young, MBA
My background is not originally in heavy equipment or non-profit associations, nor have I ever been particularly focused upon computer technology. The first computer class I attended consisted of a group of 5th graders watching a high school boy “program” our elementary school library’s PC. He was typing tiny green numbers and letters in a sequence only he seemed to understand on a black 13” screen. I stood near the back of the group, and as far as I could tell, nothing was happening. I lost interest and began reading the Encyclopedia Britannica.
In high school, I took a typing class on an electric typewriter and got a position with a local newspaper as a writer, copy-editor, typesetter and layout editor. The typesetting was done on an electronic machine with no monitor, only a 4” screen that showed one line of type at a time and printed out 3” wide strips of text. We coated the back of those strips with wax and laid them out by hand onto “print master” sheets to create the final layout of each newspaper page. Just after I left for college, the newspaper bought a Mac to replace the typesetter and layout team.
Since then, the world of work in every field has changed dramatically. We’ve all had to become familiar with computers, email, spreadsheets and databases. We’ve all learned new telephone systems and gotten comfortable navigating the internet. Most of us carry smart phones with more memory and capacity in our pockets than that PC in my school’s library. I’d bet that library’s copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica have long been supplanted with tablets connected to the “cloud.”
A similar transition is happening in the heavy equipment industry. While heavy machinery may not look much different on the outside than it was 10 years ago to someone like me, the changes taking place are as profound as a single Mac replacing a whole newspaper layout team. Equipment managers must become familiar with a whole new field of technology or be left behind. Computers in the engines and sensors throughout each machine are connected via satellite or cell-signal to central data collection systems recording location, engine performance, oil pressure, tire pressure, fuel use, emissions, and even run time/idle time. Remote and programmable controls make it possible to run some equipment without human operators while gaining more precise results and improved job-site safety.
This transition has not happened automatically, however. Every manufacturer invested extensively in this new technology and developed proprietary data processing systems. Every customer had the opportunity to use the data collected from each machine to improve their company’s maintenance records, fuel efficiency, operations and billing. However, machines from different equipment lines and different manufacturers all had different data feeds, leaving fleet managers frustrated and reluctant to bother using the new technology, just like 5th-grade me in the library.
Fortunately, equipment managers had more options than reading the encyclopedia. Professional associations originated to improve industry cooperation and solve problems across competitive boundaries. In 2007, AEMP asked its members to identify and discuss the toughest problems they were facing, the worst pain in their day that no one could solve. Their responses set the association on a course to create a telematics data standard that transcends proprietary data systems from various manufacturers and streamlines the implementation and use of this new technology.
Since that time, AEMP members, both end users and manufacturers, have participated with AEM in a remarkable process to create ISO 15143-3, which at first sounds about as interesting as the green type on that little PC screen. But this is a tremendous story of understanding and cooperation between people who wanted to improve their industry and serve their customers. No single person or organization could have accomplished this improvement alone. The process required engaged listening, attention to detail, patience and persistence from all sides of the Equipment Triangle: manufacturers, dealers, and end users.
I joined the AEMP staff rather late in this process, and am still just beginning to understand the profound impact the international telematics data standard will have on the heavy equipment industry (and potentially other industries as well). I’m still just beginning to understand the value of professional associations too, but this story is a clear example that an association can do a lot more than just offer conferences or publish blog articles. AEMP has successfully led a global industry to voluntarily standardize a vital technological tool, making it easier and more effective for customers to use.
It would be easy to just say “mission accomplished” and move on to the next task, and there is more work to be done, particularly to develop a telematics data standard for cranes and aerial work platforms. However, it’s important to look back at how AEMP got this far. Recognizing the value of the process as much as the result, Stan Orr, AEMP’s President and Chief Staff Officer, has written an e-book describing almost a decade of industry cooperation made possible by AEMP members. He has honored me with his trust to help edit this story and get it ready to publish. In the process, I have learned more about an amazing industry full of dynamic people who get big things done and demonstrate how to make the world a better place in ways they probably didn’t expect when they started.
AEMP is making this e-book available for free on our website. Read it to understand where all the fuss about telematics started, why it matters, and who was involved. Read it to gain a better understanding of why it is so important for you to participate as a member of AEMP or, for readers not in the heavy equipment industry, whatever professional association is working to improve your industry. It’s much more interesting than the Encyclopedia Britannica.
You can download Stan’s e-book “The Pain in Their Day” here >>