When was the last time you selected your new fleet maintenance system? If it was a few years ago, then you probably used standard criteria for evaluating the new system among tens of available options. These standard criteria used to be:
• Work order management
• Parts management
• Inventory management
• Barcoding and Scanning
• OEM / after-market parts warranty support
• Standard reports for compliance and productivity
But these features are no longer the differentiating factors for a good fleet maintenance system. These have become table stakes to just be in the game. The transportation industry is changing at a rapid pace and so is the future of maintenance practices. In this age of autonomous vehicles and IoT devices, customers want to perform vehicles checks when needed and make repairs before the breakdown happens.
Hence, if you want to be ready for the future, you MUST look for the following five things before choosing or upgrading your Fleet Maintenance System.
1. Telematics Integration
Per an STN customer survey, 60 percent of school buses are equipped with GPS devices. Customers are looking for various ways to leverage the power of data from these devices to improve their operations and fleet reliability. If you are still manually entering the mileage in your maintenance system or doing a PM (Preventive Maintenance) or oil changes based on only time-period, you are losing a huge opportunity.
Your maintenance system must have the ability to automatically import miles driven and engine hours from your GPS provider. And your PM cycles should not just be automatically scheduled based on elapsed time, but they should also take into account miles driven and engine hours. No other maintenance practice is more important than doing a timely PM. So, don’t miss out on this opportunity if your fleet is equipped with telematics.
2. Fault Codes Diagnostics Integration
How many times has your vehicle broken down on the road? No operations or maintenance supervisor wants to deal with unplanned breakdowns. This leads to customer inconvenience, possible safety hazards, daily crises and of course unplanned costs. You can avoid these situations if your fleet maintenance system can integrate with telematics data and import fault code diagnosis.
Until a couple of years ago, the only option technicians had was to connect the diagnostics laptop and identify possible issues. In my experience, there is very low compliance and it only gets done if the ‘check engine’ light is on. Nowadays, companies like On Command Connection (OCC) by Navistar and the ‘Insite’ online diagnostics portal by Cummins have the ability to integrate with your fleet software. The OCC platform comes with a strong diagnostic analytics engine to interpret the diagnostics codes. The outputs from OCC can easily create automatic work orders based on severity, which requires technicians to close the issue, hence avoiding the unplanned breakdowns.
3. Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) Integration
Pre-trip inspections are a very important part of fleet safety and reliability. In the past few years, tons of progress has been made in going from paper-based DVIR processes to electronic DVIR (eDVIR).
But in most cases, these defect reports stay open for a long time, resulting in safety hazards or unplanned breakdowns. Ideally, the output from an eDVIR system should feed into the fleet maintenance system and automatically create a work order. This will ensure that technicians act on a timely basis to close these defects, hence keeping the buses safe and reliable.
4. Mobile Application
With evolution of smartphones and tablets, mobile technology has become a part of our life. So why not in fleet maintenance? How many times must technicians walk away from the bus to the shop computer or parts room to check on vehicle history, other work orders, or parts availability? This not only results in loss of productivity but can also be frustrating for technicians.
There are ton of rugged tablet / phone options available now which allow technicians to have real time access to all needed information at their fingertips. In addition, you can also use these devices as a mode of alerts and notifications. If you want to make sure that your Fleet system is going to be useful for next 10 years, you can’t ignore this need.
5. Business Intelligence
And last but not least, you cannot ignore the power of data. Even with a solid fleet maintenance system, there are so many data points to capture and measure: Assets, miles, parts, work orders, cores, purchase orders, etc. And if you have more than 10 locations to manage, your problem becomes 10-fold. There is no effective way to manage the daily operations without exception based data analytics module. The business intelligence from fleet maintenance allows you to effectively monitor your operations, handle exceptions and make process changes to improve the overall efficiency, reliability and safety of your fleet.
In summary, if you are looking for a fleet system for the next 10 years to proactively manage your fleet and avoid unplanned breakdowns, you must look beyond standard functions and add these 5 MUST HAVE criteria to your list.