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Rental, Meet Big Data: Getting Ahead Of The Curve

How much did your last engine incident ended up costing in technician hours, spare parts, and unscheduled downtime? What if you could prevent such incidents and simultaneously identify machines that swallow huge chunks of your budget in under-utilization and excessive wear?

In fact, you can.

Today, many industries are making the most of the big-data revolution by collecting terabytes of data every day. A terabyte numerically looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000. That’s a lot of data. All this data enables analytics, which is an umbrella term for the practice of discovering and communicating meaningful patterns in data that can help businesses improve. Analytics drives better decisions and ultimately differentiates winners.

Companies that use analytics to change the way they operate or to improve their services are enjoying higher financial performance and faster decision making.

Rental companies within construction equipment are lagging far behind other industries in unlocking the many benefits of digitization and analytics. Unlocking these benefits require rental companies to start recognizing the value of data. Despite my obvious bias of being a data scientist I honestly believe that data is as an important asset for rental companies as their machines. Rental companies should therefore be serious about their data maturity, which is a concept that represents how much data you collect from your business and for how long time you have collected it – the more data you currently collect and the more historical data you have collected, the higher is your data maturity. The higher data maturity, the more insights you can gain from analytics and the more value you can create in your business.

Among rental companies, we can distinguish between three levels of data maturity. Companies with a low data maturity do not collect very much data from their business and they do not store it. These companies often discuss the value of data but it is not reflected anywhere in the business strategy in which use of data extends simply to regulatory or reporting purposes. At this level, data is mostly used to answer questions that go back in time. In the other end, companies with a high data maturity collects data from almost every thinkable business process. In addition, they collect and combine different kinds of data sources. This could be data from the machines, repairs, maintenance and customers. High-data-maturity companies store all collected data to enable extraction of meaningful insights into their business. They use data as a strategic asset that drives continuous business model innovation.

Why should rental companies care about boosting data maturity?

First, rental companies can easily access mountains of data that is produced by their machines every second. Most of this data is advanced sensor data that measures everything from the temperature in the hydraulics to the pressure on the front axle. By failing to collect this data rental companies miss out on a huge opportunity to extract valuable insights about their machines, which can help them to make smarter and faster decisions about their business.

Second, many rental companies have many machines. Many machines makes it difficult to identify systematic patterns across the entire fleet. Are certain groups of machines systematically worn down quicker or maybe being under-utilised? With a low data maturity, answers to these questions are at best extremely time-consuming to find and at worst impossible. A high data maturity enables analytics, which acts like binoculars and identifies patterns in the blink of an eye.

Third, machines are being operated by humans. Humans make mistakes. Mistakes can be very costly. Identifying and correcting vital mistakes before they even happen can increase the operational performance of your fleet significantly by providing real-time feedback to the operator when detecting abnormalities.

Data can solve all these problems. How much data are you collecting?

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