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Teletrac Navman: A call for digital unity

Teletrac Navman

Select Plant Australia’s Daniel Kelly talks to Roads & Infrastructure about how technology solutions could evolve to better serve the data needs of the civil construction industry.

With Australia’s major infrastructure pipelines staring down the double-barrel of skilled labour shortages and supply chain disruptions, the construction industry is turning to rapidly evolving technology solutions to optimise efficiency and productivity. 

Parramatta metro station site.
The Parramatta metro station site.

Telematics and fleet management technology are empowering users with the data to make better and more informed decisions, whether it’s for a small owner-driver operation, or a logistics business managing a fleet of hundreds.

Daniel Kelly, Logistics Project Manager for Select Plant Australia, has a front-row seat of how technology is reshaping the way infrastructure projects are managed. 

Kelly is currently overseeing the Sydney Metro West – Western Tunnelling Package (WTP) portfolio of projects for Select, which is part of a consortium between Gamuda Australia and Laing O’Rourke.


 

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“I manage all the logistics activities across a number of sites with my team, whether that’s traffic approvals, onboarding of heavy vehicles or construction plant, ensuring they meet the projects minimum requirements, and all of the CoR (Chain of Responsibility) duties that sit within that,” Kelly says.

A big part of managing city-spanning projects of this scale involves monitoring and tracking the hundreds of truckloads of material coming and going across these sites each day.

“The WTP projects are split across six sites,” Kelly says. “We have a precast yard in Eastern Creek, three sites at Clyde, including where we launch the road headers, and an excavation site at Rosehill where we bring the precast materials in and launch the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs).

“Clyde will also have the maintenance service facility where all the trains in the future will be maintained, as well as sites at Parramatta and Westmead, where we are excavating the station boxes for the future metro line.”

Keeping track of the vehicles moving through these sites is crucial, not only for ensuring projects are sticking to schedule and budget, but also for the safety of contractors and the wider community.

This is all driven by the smooth collection and exchange of data – assuming that everyone is on the same page. But technology has a tendency to leave stragglers behind.

“It’s constantly evolving. As a result, it’s become harder and harder for us to do what we need to do,” Kelly says. “Which has encouraged us to explore what systems and processes are out there to help.” 

Teletrac Navman’s fleet management technology is one example of a solution Kelly’s team turned to.

“We trialled the Teletrac Navman solution on the Sydney Metro City & Southwest Central Station project, which made our lives significantly easier,” Kelly says.

“It involved putting an in-cab device into ten vehicles, and building a number of forms that we would normally do on pen and paper into the system. Then, we trained the supply chain to use them – from the main contractors sitting in the office to the drivers on the ground.”

This provided Kelly’s team with a complete line of sight at any given time – where the trucks were, who was driving them, and what they were carrying. 

“With the forms we were building into that system, we could start to produce electronic dockets, waste records, spoil records, as well as ensure we were managing our Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) requirements,” he says. “This lets us create a database of information that was also tied to geofences, or to particular fleets.”

This not only reduced the labour resources that would otherwise be needed to capture data the old analogue way, but also drastically improved data integrity.

“The old pen and paper system is open to error,” Kelly says. “Lots of things can go wrong. Forms can go missing or get wet – we probably only captured 30 per cent of the information we needed. Whereas with a digital system, we’re closer to 90 or 100 per cent.” 

Though only implemented briefly towards the end of the Central Station project, the success of the Teletrac Navman trial led Kelly and his team to mandate the use of the system on the WTP project for high-risk deliveries. 

As effective as Teletrac Navman’s solution is, Kelly says having to mandate its use is not an ideal scenario – and something that could be avoided if all fleet management and telematics platforms were bound to a common standard. 

“Every client wants something slightly different – and players in the market such as Teletrac Navman are doing their best to respond to that,” he says. “But there’s such an array of different systems and processes out there.”

Kelly says technology companies need to adapt to prioritise user experience. This, he says, would require a standardised API (application programming interface) across all providers whereby critical data could be pushed and pulled to and from a common platform.

Temporary access shaft at Clyde.
Temporary access shaft at Clyde.

“There needs to be a way to use one platform that tells me all the data I need, but then my carrier or subcontractor can use whatever system they want,” Kelly says. “If every system met the same standard, and information could be fed into the same database, that would give me a holistic overview from a single dashboard – without me having to mandate this or that system.

“That’s where we need to get to as an industry – but we’re a long way off.” 

It’s an idea that Teletrac Navman’s Application Specialist James French endorses – though he agrees that there are challenges involved.

“We’ve decided recently that we’ll pull third-party data, provided it’s in AEMP format, which is what a lot of the large equipment manufacturers use,” French says.

“And we’ll output AEMP at the request of others, meaning data from our telematics can be used in third-party software packages.”

French says a shift to the newer AEMP 2.0 telematics standard is causing issues, however.

“AEMP 2.0 will give you a lot of information, but you lose some of the compliance regulations,” he says. “This means there can be more device-specific data, and pushing that data can be a bit more awkward.”

French adds that a company’s competitors can often be fairly guarded with their data, something he says is often not in the best interests of customers.  

“If we were to ask one of our competitors for an AEMP 2.0 feed and they said no, it would only be to the detriment of their customer,” he says. “That could prevent their customer from working on a specific project that’s using Teletrac Navman’s platform. We have no interest in that data ourselves.”

French says all manufacturers, at some point in time, are going to have to get comfortable exchanging data with
third parties for the benefit of their customers. 

“If a contractor is running 100 trucks and paying for an existing telematics system, then a job requires a certain data format that theirs won’t output – they’re not about to go and put a second display and run two separate systems. That just wouldn’t make sense.

“If we have a customer that’s three quarters of the way through their contract with us, and we can’t output AEMP 2.0 data for a job they’re working on, then we’re at risk of losing them. 

“So, for us, that would be something we’d want to fix pretty quickly.” 

This article was originally published in the April edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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