Fleet Management & Forklift Safety Blog

The CAN Bus dilemma: Will there ever be a standard?

Posted by Neil O'Connell, SVP Technology, Innovation, & Product Development on Feb 4, 2016 4:00:00 AM

rage-pondering.pngThe lack of a uniform standard for CAN Bus (controller area network) in the material handling industry is hurting owners of mixed fleets.

Specifically, the issue applies to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) which use and implement CAN Bus devices in a proprietary way. Although some OEMs view this ability as a competitive advantage, the practice makes data collection across a mixed fleet unnecessarily laborious.

Rather than evaluating one set of fault codes, fleet owners are faced with sorting through different data sources from different forklifts, rendering the information that they do collect less effective and harder to interpret.

 As a fleet owner, you may have heard your OEMs tout their ability to provide granular reporting, maintenance scheduling, and cost reductions by reporting on fault codes – engine overheat, low hydraulic fluid, broken seat, etc. – via CAN Bus access. But there is also a less publicized catch: a telematics solution by X can only provide, for example, engine overheat data on X’s trucks (through its CAN Bus); it does not work on the trucks of any other OEM.

Other than OEM specific fault codes, proprietary use of CAN Bus also results in different table values for individual functions as well as other blocks that prohibit third parties to work across a variety of OEMs. If you are a mixed fleet owner, you would likely benefit from a telematics solution that is not specific to each OEM but works on all trucks. Only then can you ensure that the data and metrics that you receive is consistent, allowing you to take immediate action to improve your operation rather than wasting time consolidating different fault codes.

The development of CAN Bus by Robert Bosch eliminated the need for conventional multi-wire looms, allowing devices and microcontrollers to communicate with each other without a host computer. Officially released in 1986 by the Society of Automotive Engineers, CAN Bus gradually became available in the industrial arena while protocols and their ensuing programs/code grew increasingly prevalent.

Although an official CAN Bus standard was published for the material handling industry, there is currently no known initiative to change the OEMs’ proprietary use of the technology.

Will the industry ever get there?


Topics: market trends, material handling equipment, warehouse technology, CAN Bus