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Could Implementing IoT into Heavy Equipment Design Create Safer Operating Conditions?

These IoT features may make heavy equipment safer.

Emily Newton

November 27, 2023

4 Min Read
heavy equipment IoT
IoT could allow equipment managers to better track machines in the field.Juan-Enrique/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

At a Glance

  • The Internet of Things is known for adding visibility to items
  • Heavy equipment visibility could improve safety, efficiency, security

The Internet of Things (IoT) allows people to enjoy better oversight of their connected products and those using them. Focusing on IoT in heavy equipment could enable site managers, safety specialists, and others to notice dangers and violations sooner than they otherwise might. 

Here are the features you should emphasize — and why — when designing IoT-enabled equipment for improved safety. There are myriad benefits to be had by implementing these capabilities.

Access Control Prevents Unauthorized Usage

Heavy equipment poses inherent dangers, which become more severe if unauthorized users operate the machinery. However, IoT technology can make equipment unusable unless people have the correct badge or other identification. 

For example, someone might need to swipe their ID card in a reader to unlock and use equipment. Site authorities or training leaders could update a worker’s permissions once they pass an educational module, receive a new certification, or otherwise prove their ability to use a machine safely. 

Integrating IoT in heavy equipment could also be a theft deterrent. Equipment owners can set up geofencing and be alerted when assets leave or enter specific zones. Those alerts can help stop attempts to steal, and the IoT sensor data could aid law enforcement in tracking the perpetrator. 

Related:High Tech Helps Farming Improve Yield and Bottom Line

Real-Time Visibility Allows Proactiveness

Even the most conscientious supervisors can’t be everywhere at once. That opens possibilities for people to behave unsafely, putting themselves and others at risk. The situation becomes even more problematic when companies spread heavy equipment across multiple sites. Fortunately, IoT can help. 

In one case, company leaders deployed IoT to monitor 20,000 pieces of equipment across 1,000 sites. The chosen solution included a virtual map showing all assets' real-time locations, making it simple to track what machines are being used where.

Users could also see details such as equipment turnover and utilization rates. Those particulars help decision-makers verify statistics are as expected and take action if not. This creates safer sites by enabling people to spot anomalies and investigate their causes. 

Consider if a safety manager looked at IoT data and realized one operator had run a piece of equipment all day without taking a lunch break. They could use that information to meet with the employee to get to the bottom of the matter and remind them that operating machinery without taking breaks can become a safety hazard. 

Accurate Statistics Support Troubleshooting

Related:Preventive Maintenance Is Improved Through Predictive Analytics

Failing to repair or service heavy equipment can keep people much safer while making the assets more cost-effective. That’s why leaders frequently invest in IoT sensors to detect when heavy equipment requires maintenance, knowing unexpected failures elevate risks.

Connected sensors can also help people pinpoint problems faster once operators report particular symptoms. For example, a worker might mention that a piece of equipment won’t start. The battery must have a cranking voltage of 9 volts if it has a diesel engine. IoT sensors can measure a battery’s voltage and current, helping technicians determine what’s wrong. 

Many use cases for IoT in heavy equipment also allow users to access historical data. They can use it to determine if a problem started recently or has gradually worsened and has just become noticeable. That can help them implement the most effective preventive maintenance plan.

Operational Data Reveals Potential Concerns

Applications of IoT in heavy equipment should also allow people to take a problem-solving approach when analyzing data from connected sensors. People designing assets for IoT compatibility should ideally explore ways to feed the information into an interface for easy analysis. That makes it easier for users to find the causes of worker safety threats. 

The Indiana Department of Transportation started using IoT sensors in its work zones and discovered an increased risk to road construction workers owing to hard braking from drivers. People didn’t have enough warning that they were about to encounter construction equipment, forcing them to stop abruptly. The research found that equipping a queue truck to process connected vehicle data could halve hard-braking events, decreasing worker accidents and fatalities. 

Some IoT sensors can detect whether an operator uses heavy equipment at higher-than-advised speeds or turns corners too sharply. These activities can increase collision risks and the likelihood of tipping over. 

Relatedly, the sensors may show whether these events happen regularly or were one-time occurrences. Those details can encourage safety specialists to update training programs, take individualized disciplinary action, or use other methods to curb undesirable usage trends. 

A Customer-Centric Approach to the IoT in Heavy Equipment

These are some of the primary ways that bringing IoT into equipment design can make things safer for everyone involved. However, regardless of which options engineers, designers, and other parties consider, they should remain mindful of what customers want and which capabilities would make their lives and workflows more convenient. That will help their products become marketable and show people the potential of using the IoT in heavy equipment.

About the Author(s)

Emily Newton

Editor-in-Chief, Revolutionized

Emily Newton is an industrial journalist with more than five years’ experience writing articles for the engineering and manufacturing sectors. As editor-in-chief of Revolutionized, she also discusses how tech innovations are changing many industries around the world.

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