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The path to predictive maintenance

June 22, 2021
Planning for a predictive maintenance model starts with up-to-date PMs, followed by the integration of vehicle telematics data with in-shop systems to streamline service.

In its most simplistic sense, there are two types of maintenance: reactive and proactive. While reactive requires managing a failure after it occurs, the various proactive maintenance approaches allow for some level of planning to address that failure ahead of time.

Proactive maintenance fosters better vehicle uptime and higher utilization; it can be categorized on a number of levels from preventive maintenance to condition-based maintenance, all the way to predictive maintenance models.

During the Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Technology (CV Tech) educational event last month, a panel of industry experts shared insights on how telematics is helping to further improve maintenance practices and optimize uptime on the path to predictive maintenance models.

The path to a predictive maintenance model starts with implementing and adhering to a comprehensive preventive maintenance (PM) program.

You need to walk before you can run, said Brian Mulshine, director of aftermarket customer experience for Navistar. He suggested all PMs be up-to-date and fleets be sure to address any fault codes on the vehicle.

“First, you have got to do your maintenance. Second, you have to fix fault codes,” he stressed. “Then we can start talking about predictive maintenance and start getting really proactive. That’s what I always look at when I work with a fleet.”

“The evolution of maintenance starts at the PM,” added Gerry Mead, executive vice president of maintenance and equipment for Hub Group. “And if you’re not doing the PM, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re going to fail anyway; you’re never going to get to predictive [maintenance].”

Once PMs are followed according to a schedule, fleets will have the most up-to-date vehicle information. Having current information allows for the most accurate picture of vehicle status. Only then can a vehicle’s telematics system share accurate data back to the fleet.

From there, continued communication between the vehicle telematics system and the in-shop diagnostic tools and maintenance software programs is key. This requires all information to be filtered into one central database. From there, algorithms help to compare data sets and provide alerts defined by the fleet.

Additionally, Mead stressed the importance of having clean data on vehicle and service history included in the database. Without that information, a fleet will not have a benchmark from which to build a predictive maintenance model.

Real-world system integration benefits

Once data is integrated into the shop, there are a number of efficiencies fleets can pursue.

Integration of that vehicle information into the shop diagnostic tool is key to ensure streamlined service from a roadside event as that vehicle makes its way into a shop, said Scott Bolt, vice president of product management for Noregon.

“Having that history and that information all rolled up into one makes a real, big difference when it comes time to repair the vehicle,” Bolt said.

That in-shop integration extends beyond the diagnostic tool to other shop management software systems.

“When you integrate these shop systems on the floor, what you end up doing is you’re able to more efficiently schedule your vehicles to come in and be [serviced]; you can coordinate when the parts are going to be there, and when the vehicles are going to be there, and when the technician [whom] is able to do the work is going to be there,” Bolt said.

Another efficiency with telematics integration to in-shop systems, noted Mead, was the improvements to technician productivity. One example is the automation of pre-populating work orders with information.

“When you think about a technician’s time, it’s all about direct labor,” Mead said. “I’m looking at direct labor, expediting through my service lanes, because it’s all about utilization to get that truck ready for the driver to get on the road. And this integration piece of that data mix in the cloud that now can be utilized to leverage and take away some menial tasks like populating work orders – that time, right there, is money.”

Willie Reeves, maintenance manager for Paccar Leasing, advised knowing the exact time a vehicle will enter for service, and prior knowledge of what the service will be, has also allowed for a more streamlined shop setup and fewer tools on the shop floor.

“A few years back, everybody had three-bay and four-bay toolboxes,” Reeves said. “Now you walk in shops, there are a lot of two-bay and single-bay toolboxes because of a lot of the communication that we receive and being a little bit more proactive with getting repairs done, about getting the vehicles in, scheduling what needs to be there.”

Mulshine noted that with the company’s International 360 service communication product, in addition to confirming dealership technician availability, the integration of the vehicle telematics within the service communication platform allows the system to check for parts availability at the location where the vehicle will be serviced.

“We’ve tied it all the way to availability of the parts by dealership with our inventory system,” he said. “It’s pretty slick, and it’s all AI (Artificial Intelligence) that we have our servers connecting technician availability all the way to parts availability, from a fault code.”

Having this actionable data can help less experienced technicians find the information needed to make clear and accurate decisions on service.

“You really do need to be able to condense this information into usable, actionable information,” Bolt said. “Having the ability to succinctly put this information together so that someone can look at it and say, ‘Okay, this is important to you, it’s going to become important to you, even though you don’t see it right now,’ based off of data.”

Ultimately, leveraging telematics data will further optimize the repair process by giving the shop a heads up – whether that’s days or hours in advance – so the service provider can prepare for that vehicle entering the shop through parts ordering, having a technician available, and ensuring the repair timing works for the driver and the fleet.

About the Author

Erica Schueller | Media Relations Manager | Navistar

Erica Schueller is the Media Relations Manager for Navistar.

Before joining Navistar, Schueller served as Editorial Director of the Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Group. The commercial vehicle group includes the following brands: American Trucker, Bulk Transporter, Fleet Maintenance, FleetOwner, Refrigerated Transporter, and Trailer/Body Builders brands.

An award-winning journalist, Schueller has reported and written about the vehicle maintenance and repair industry her entire career. She has received accolades for her reporting and editing in the commercial and automotive vehicle fields by the Truck Writers of North America (TWNA), the International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC), the Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Azbee Awards.

Schueller has received recognition among her publishing industry peers as a recipient of the 2014 Folio Top Women in Media Rising Stars award, acknowledging her accomplishments of digital content management and assistance with improving the print and digital products in the Vehicle Repair Group. She was also named one Women in Trucking’s 2018 Top Women in Transportation to Watch.

She is an active member of a number of industry groups, including the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC),  the Auto Care Association's Young Auto Care Networking Group, GenNext, and Women in Trucking.

In December 2018, Schueller graduated at the top of her class from the Waukesha County Technical College's 10-week professional truck driving program, earning her Class A commercial driver's license (CDL).  

She has worked in the vehicle repair and maintenance industry since 2008.

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