Connect: also integrates older forklifts

The new generation of fleet management solutions from Linde Material Handling: modular design, wireless data transfer, integration of existing vehicles

Last year, Linde Material Handling established its Connected Solutions business unit, designed to combine their expertise in the fields of fleet management, logistics IT and connectivity in a centre of excellence. At the World of Material Handling, the unit now presents the latest generation of fleet management solutions from Linde. The connect: product family consists of a local database and a cloud-based data portal, new management and analysis software, and a suite of software modules that can be combined to form individual functional packages that are tailored to the specific customer requirements. The key hardware components of the fleet solution are the connect: access management unit and the connect: data unit that interlink forklift trucks or warehouse handling equipment via Bluetooth or wireless with the local database or the servers of the Linde Data Cloud. Linde Material Handling places a special focus on integrating existing vehicles and even third-party vehicles in the connect: fleet management system and is therefore offering the connect: hardware components also as retrofit solutions.

The new management and analysis software connect:desk serves to organize and assign drivers to vehicles and manage driver authorization, driving licences and trainings. Maintenance planning, usage analysis, fleet optimisation, shock reports, driver and vehicle reports are also managed via this decentralized platform.

“The ongoing digitisation of industrial processes – keyword Industry 4.0 – requires an ever more flexible and efficient use of machines, and this also goes for the field of intralogistics,” says Maik Manthey, who is in charge of the Connected Solutions unit in his capacity as Vice President New Business & Products. “We have developed our software and server capacities further in order to effectively support our customers in managing their fleets efficiently, and help them to improve the goods flow control in their factories and warehouses and integrate their vehicles into the necessary IT business processes.” The connect: product family includes six functionalities – connect:ac (access) for driver authentication, connect:dt (data) for the collection of vehicle data such as hours of operation, sensor data, error codes, etc., connect:an (analysis) for the creation of reports and evaluations, and connect:in (integration) for interlinking the connect: platforms with higher-level enterprise resource planning systems. Vehicle control systems and solutions for partially autonomous driving are in the planning stages with the connect:tr (tracking) and connect:at (automation) modules. The functionalities are implemented by a combination of various software modules and are continuously being expanded with new software tools.

The connect:portal online platform gives the user access to all technical vehicle data collected by means of remote transmission access via a computer or mobile devices, regardless of his or her location. The new management and analysis software connect:desk that is installed locally at the respective fleet operator, serves to organize and assign drivers to vehicles and manage driver authorization, driving licences and trainings. Maintenance planning, usage analysis, fleet optimisation, shock reports, driver and vehicle reports are also managed on this decentralized platform. The functions of connect:desk are scalable according to the customer’s requirement and the platform also enables the vehicle data stored in the Linde Data Cloud to be accessed and processed.

The connect: Data Unit transmits control and sensor data over the mobile network to the Linde Data Cloud. The retrofit kit is installed and connected on site by a service technician. He mounts the components with the included mounting material in an easily accessible and secure position, installs the wire sets and connects the device to the CAN bus and power supply. The system is immediately ready for operation.

“In general, not all the vehicles in a particular fleet are replaced at once, and occasionally there are also vehicles from third-party manufacturers in use. This means that the technical requirements for wireless data transfer are usually different or exist only partially,” explains Maik Manthey. “To cater for such cases too, we have developed retrofit solutions for the wireless networking of such existing and third-party vehicles.” Both the connect: data unit and the connect: access management unit with PIN-code or RFID reader are available as upgrade kits. The connect: data unit is loaded with updates or new software over the mobile network and can thus record and transmit additional control and sensor data without intervention on the vehicle. A Bluetooth retrofit kit is offered for the decentralized integration of forklifts and warehouse handling equipment that can so far communicate only via cable.

“Soon we will also use the vehicle details in the Linde Data Cloud to make our own service processes much more efficient,” Manthey says in conclusion. “For example, we will automatically capture and transmit error codes so that the service technician does not necessarily have to be on site for fault diagnosis. Moreover, we will also know when to bring forward scheduled maintenance on the vehicle in order to prevent more severe defects, and we will automate the ordering of spare parts. That means more transparency, faster processes and enhanced vehicle availability for the customer.”