Taking advantage of equipment telematics

Updated Mar 9, 2021
Photo: BobcatPhoto: Bobcat

If you have a fleet of trucks, you’ve probably invested in a telematics system to keep up with your crews, but telematics is a tool you should be taking advantage of for your compact equipment as well.

Just like how telematics for your vehicles can let you know where certain trucks are and when they are due for maintenance, machine telematics can provide owners greater control over their equipment.

“Those who are using compact equipment telematics see value in the technology through support to help contractors manage planned maintenance and overall machine security,” says Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager, skid steers & compact track loaders, John Deere Construction & Forestry. “Contractors that are using compact equipment telematics will receive maintenance and DTC (diagnostic trouble code) alerts so they can be proactive in scheduling machine health reviews and check-ups with their dealers and improve ease of communication between contractors to help schedule check-ins with dealers.”

John Deere’s telematics system, JDLink, is now optional on all John Deere skid steers and compact track loaders. Customers who opt to have JDLink on their machine can receive up to five years of connectivity. The JDLink telematics solutions kit can also be installed on any brand of equipment.

Christian Albertson, aftermarket marketing & LiveLink manager, says the number of landscapers taking an interest in telematics is growing, and if landscape contractors are not using telematics, they should be.

“It is actually a really good tool where they can monitor their machines,” Albertson says. “It helps with their bottom line. It’s a security system as well. So, there’s a lot of different little factors where these guys are looking to have their machines monitored and looked after.”

Photo: JCBPhoto: JCB

For JCB, every machine manufactured comes with telematics installed and the first five years of LiveLink are included and transferrable with the sale of the machine. Landscapers can also install LiveLink Lite on any machine that has a motor on it.

“It takes four wires to hook it up, and you’re done,” Albertson says. “And as soon as you do that, you have a limited amount of telematics, but you still have when the motor is running, when it’s parked, security issues, your hours on your engine, things like that. So, it’s a limited version, but yes, you can put it on anything.”

Bobcat Machine IQ is Bobcat’s telematics service and comes on the R-series compact excavators, M2-series skid steers and M2-series compact track loaders, which is then viewable on the Bobcat Owner Portal.

“Bobcat Owner Portal takes the information collected from the electronic sensors in the machine and organizes the information,” says Britta Kopp, marketing manager for Bobcat Company. “Electronic sensors in Bobcat equipment monitor important information, like the triggering of critical service code, fuel usage, the number of hours the machine has been operated and the machine’s location. Sensors collect this information and send it via a wireless cellular network to an internet-connected computer or mobile device. With telematics, equipment owners have greater access to information about their equipment than ever before.”


Equipment telematics have several main benefits including improved productivity, proactive machine maintenance and protection from theft that all equal a better bottom line for landscapers.

Productivity can be improved with better visibility on machine uptime metrics.

“To help understand their bottom line even further, contractors can view the machine’s hours of operations on a daily basis, and get immediate alerts for machine diagnostic trouble codes, prevent failures and unscheduled downtime,” says Ana Mallia, product marketing manager, JDLink, John Deere Construction & Forestry.

Kopp says with the Bobcat Owner Portal, landscape owners can see details such as fuel usage and view reports on equipment idle and working times.

“With this information, they can have a clear idea of how owners or operators are using the equipment and how that may factor into the ownership costs associated with running Bobcat equipment,” Kopp says.

Photo: John DeerePhoto: John Deere

“With the proper use of telematics, you can monitor how often your machine is running, when it’s idling, when it is in use, when it’s not in use, where it’s at, which job it’s on,” Albertson says. “So, there’s so many different little items that you can use it for so that they can schedule it properly to protect that bottom line again.”

Albertson says some customers even use their telematics to charge by the hour that the machine is working. End users can look at the idle time versus the work time, as heavy idling affects the bottom line as well.

“Every minute that your machine is running is a minute that counts towards your warranty time,” Albertson says. “So, if your machine is running when it’s not used, you’re burning your warranty hours.”

Keeping track of maintenance hours is another element that telematics can streamline. Aside from scheduled preventative maintenance times, it will also notify contractors and dealers of any diagnostic trouble codes.

“The Bobcat telematics system wirelessly transmits Machine IQ data to an authorized Bobcat dealer,” Kopp says. “So, if a machine registers a critical code, a dealer will know right away and can dispatch a field service technician, if needed.”

Telematics can also minimize the likelihood of expensive equipment being stolen.

“JDLink telematics can help contractors track the location of their equipment to ensure its security, as machine loss due to theft can erode a company’s bottom line,” says Mallia. “JDLink telematics can also help to deter theft and in some cases has helped contractors find and recover stolen equipment.”

Kopp says with Bobcat Owner Portal, landscape owners can protect against unauthorized usage or machine theft.

“Thanks to the GPS tracking system, they can log in to see their equipment’s exact location,” Kopp says. “Then, it draws a virtual fence (geofence) around the jobsite. An email notification is deployed if the machine leaves that area. Landscapers can also set a curfew for the geofence, which sends out a notification if the equipment is operating somewhere it’s not supposed to be at a specific time.”

What to do with the data?

If you’ve stayed away from telematics out concern of having to deal with information overload, here are some of the actionable options that telematics provides.

Photo: John DeerePhoto: John Deere

“When a contractor begins to use compact equipment with telematics, it’s important that they first establish a geofence and/or curfew that provides instant alerts if a machine is started outside of its defined operating hours or moved outside of its geofence location,” Zupancic says. “Contractors should also enroll the machine in a custom or factory-recommended maintenance plan to support tracking scheduled maintenance intervals, repairs, and part replacements, as well as help boost the machine’s value.”

John Deere dealers have machine health monitoring centers so they can work with landscapers to plan for downtime with a machine for maintenance or repairs during off-hours to maximize their productivity.

Albertson says he’s seen a lot of users take advantage of their telematics to stay on top of their scheduled maintenance for their machines, rather than depend on their operators to accurately track the machine’s hours.

Kopp says Bobcat owners can subscribe to emails that will tell them when maintenance is due and give detailed information and the parts needed and how to perform the maintenance.

Telematics can also help landscapers determine if they need a larger or smaller machine for a job, by looking at if the machine is working on the low or high powerband for the majority of the job, according to Albertson.

The Attachments Idea Book
Landscapers use a variety of attachments for doing everything from snow removal to jobsite cleanup, and regardless of how often they are used, every landscaper has a favorite attachment.
Attachments Idea Book Cover