Focus On: Toyota Core Electric ForkliftJuly 12, 2021
National Truth and Reconciliation DaySeptember 29, 2021
August has seen us through a record breaking heatwave here in Manitoba, so to beat the heat we're back to tell you about some cool technology from Crown. Today on "Focus On" we're going to be taking a step away from big, heavy machines and talking about a tiny little box you plug into them. By that of course we mean the Crown InfoLink Fleet Management & Operator Management System.. That's kind of a mouthful so the low-down is that it is a combination of equipment and digital infrastructure that lets you track a lot of different metrics. You can read more from Crown here, but if you keep reading we'll probably give you slightly more information than is on that page.
Putting "Big Data" to work for youCrown has been talking about the InfoLink System a lot recently. As of this writing, 9 of the last 10 of their blog posts has at least mentioned it, if not been entirely about it. You may have heard about "big data" in the news or even around the lunch table (in those places we're allowed to sit at lunch tables anymore/again anyway), and usually that mention goes something like "My phone figured out where my house and work are. What else does it know?" (the answer is "everything" but this isn't that kind of blog). You'll see stories about everything from predicting teenage pregnancy to "ghost pixels" that track everything, but at its heart big data is essentialy a bunch of numbers in a hard drive somewhere that are being analyzed in different ways. Amazon uses it to try and show you ads for stuff it thinks you'll buy. Google uses it to try and sell ads that you'll click on. Your grocery store uses it to figure out how to get you into the store and walking down those expensive impulse aisles. It sounds like a lot of "used to make you buy," but that isn't the only way it can be used. That's where the Crown InfoLink comes in. You can actually wire it up to almost anything from a trash compactor to a Turretted Stock Picker (and everything in between). The Crown InfoLink will of course do its best when hooked up to a Crown forklift because both the sytem and the forklifts are built to talk to each oher, but you can attach the module to almost anything electrical. Once installed and configured, the Crown InfoLink module starts recording basically everything. Starts, stops, accel/decelerations, X&Y axis impacts, key on time, travel time, lift time, the dreaded idle time, it can even track power usage with a couple of battery-side upgrades... there's a reason it's called BIG data. All of that gets transmitted through your local wifi to Crown's servers and comes back to you in the form of handy graphs and reports that you can configure to best suit your business needs. Don't care about lift time but hot damn do you want to know about impacts? You can have them emailed to you in real time. Want to know which operators maybe need a little time re-training? Crown InfoLink can help you figure that out. It may be that you need more or fewer forklifts in your operation; this kind of usage data can help you make those decisions! All the sections shown below in the Dashboard sample lead to a variety of data and reports. This particular customer isn't using InfoLink to track power usage or service so those options aren't colour coded.
What goes on the truck?To pull and communicate all that data from the truck, Crown's InfoLink packs most of the software and hardware into a handy little box, usually mounted on a Work Assist pole on the lift truck and plugged into pre-existing harness connection. Like always Crown likes to give you options when it comes to working with something. At the basic end of things is the InfoLink 3" Display (pictured to the left below). This 4-line, monochrome display comes with 5 button navigation and a numbered keypad for access by operators. Upgrades include options like a plexi-glass cover for added impact resistance, and a proximity reader (especially handy if your facility already uses them for access control). You can have the system run through inspection questions before starting the unit for the day (and even randomize them so the operator can't just hit the same button for "yes" all the time), and set it for several other languages if your facility is particularly multi-lingual. If you want more versatility and options for your operators, you can opt to install the InfoLink 7" Touch Display. The screen is not only larger but in full colour as well, allowing options like picture-guided operator checklists, safety reminders, and customizable widgets that vary by truck. This version of the display includes a proximity reader by default, and also incorporates physical navigation buttons for use in environments where your operators are wearing gloves. It also incorporates features like Crown's Dynamic Coaching system to provide each operator with an on-board digital safety coach to remind them of important safety tips like "Don't step off until the unit is stopped."
Easy as 1-2-3Crown's Access123 system is at the heart of all their machines, and the InfoLink system plugs right into that. Helpful guides, metrics, and feedback right at the truck can help operators better understand how they're using their machines. Because we all like a bit of competition, this kind of instant feedback might even spur some one-upmanship among drivers as they try to outdo each other's stats. The 7" Touch Display especially makes this kind of information easy and intuitive to use and access, as well as allowing two-way messaging right from the truck. This can be especially useful in operations with large or complicated floor plans, where dispatch can directly communicate with a driver instead of cluttering up a radio channel that everyone shares.
How does this make my life easier?Now we're asking the real questions! InfoLink does a lot of stuff; there isn't really another way to put that. How it helps your operations in the most direct way is by building things like operator checklists right into the start-up sequence for the truck. The system won't even let the truck activate until the operator has gone through all the safety check items. With the 7" Touch Display this process can even include pictures to guide them. Ever had safety & health drop by and ask to see your inspection logs (because you're supposed to have them!)? Now you can print them out on demand! InfoLink even tracks how long it takes to do the checklist, so you can tell who is just flipping through it and who is using it to pad time. Like the inspections, all operators are required to be certified as trained on the forklifts they use, and periodically recertify. Keeping track of this kind of thing tends to be kind of awkward, so InfoLink builds it into the sytem. Operators can be set up individually with training records and expiry dates tied to their profiles in the program. Who's coming due for recertification? There's a report for that! Not currently certified, or maybe not certified for that particular type of forklift? The truck won't let you drive it!
I like it. Keep talking.Crown's InfoLink has been built to simplify some of the most tedious parts of managing a fleet of forklifts and operators, and it does that through simply having access to piles of data. You probably have a "pretty good" idea of what your trucks are doing at any time of day. Walking the facility, talking with people and other such hands on methods are great at generating anecdotal evidence of things. Maybe you feel like you could use another couple of trucks, or need a seasonal rental. Making the case for this to "upstairs" can be a hell of a fight, as anyone who has tried to expand their fleet can tell you. What if you had hard numbers that nobody can argue with? InfoLink can supply you with those numbers and even better, easy to understand graphs about uptime and usage. You can see and show exactly how hard those machines are working, how your safety stats drop whenever things hit the fan, and just how tight some of those battery charge cycles are getting. Or maybe you find out you need to have a chat with Jerry who keeps parking his truck at the far end of the warehouse and sitting there dead-heading his lift and cooking his hydraulic fluid to generate downtime. Such is the magic of Crown's InfoLink and "Big Data."
If you're thinking about introducing Crown's InfoLink to your business, they have a a pretty comprehensive look at how to bring your facility into the connected world. It gives a nice overview of the system, as well as some of Crown's other offerings for digital services.