Continental Tire’s expansive Mt. Vernon, Ill., production operation presently occupies 60 acres and employs more than 3,000 workers. It primarily serves the North American market, as it manufactures a full line of commercial and passenger tires. So, when the operation needed a telemetry solution for greater lift truck fleet visibility and process optimization, it turned to Black Equipment, its materials handling partner for nearly 20 years.
In particular, Continental Tire needed a technology-based solution to provide greater lift truck fleet visibility and drive process optimization in four key areas: OSHA compliance, operator monitoring, preventive maintenance and equipment utilization. It also required a solution with a specific technology framework and a high level of vendor support. While the location lacks GSM coverage, it does fall in CDMA range—ideal for fleet management’s first-ever mobile app, as the solution can operate on both types of cellular networks.
The mobile app provided a dedicated project management resource to guide implementation and provide ongoing support, working in collaboration with Black Equipment and Nathan Baugher, fleet and rolling stock manager for Continental Tire. A custom, dedicated matrix provides necessary digital capacity to accommodate the facility’s large workforce, while also maintaining the mobile app portal’s functionality and performance. In addition, the system can work with virtually any mobile warehouse equipment.
To ensure the facility’s different departments were up to speed, training management on basic utilization reporting and equipment monitoring (as well as building operator knowledge) was required. Baugher led the efforts internally, praising the ease with which personnel can access and understand the mobile app’s portal.
“Because the system is Web-based, getting everyone access was very easy—we didn’t have to install any client-side software to individual PCs. They can literally access the system anywhere, as long as they have Internet access,” says Baugher. “And the active filtering makes looking for specific operators or vehicles easy to do.”
The telemetry solution for Continental Tire includes fault code monitoring, as automatic alerts are sent for proactive service, based on real-time equipment status. These alerts can prevent minor issues—such as a loss of hydraulic pressure or slight controller damage—from escalating into crippling downtime. The alerts are also provided directly to Black Equipment, which dispatches a technician without burdening lift truck operators or facility management.
No operation can afford unplanned downtime, and Continental Tire is no different. While many operations purchase unnecessary trucks as a budget-busting buffer against downtime risk, the mobile app helps Continental Tire avoid unnecessary expenditures. The system analyzes utilization trends like key time, motion and idle time to provide data-driven confidence that the existing fleet was sufficient.
“With the utilization information [the mobile app] provides, we were able to prove that new process workloads could be absorbed using our existing fleet,” Baugher explains.
Finally, the system incorporates digital checklists into the interlock of each vehicle, ending Continental Tire’s reliance on inefficient, outdated paper checklists. As a result, 279,000 sheets of paper, as well as more than $120,000 in paper and clerical costs (on more than 225,000 digital checklists), are saved annually.
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