Is the maintenance manager’s position going away?

Telematics, also referred to as automotive telematics, is making greater and greater inroads into the fleet industry. Basically, telematics is the marriage of computers, networks and telecommunications systems to provide real-time information on a vehicle and its operating systems.

When telematics information is combined with fleet management systems, a comprehensive view of each vehicle or the fleet at-large can be had.

Using this data effectively can help improve the safety, security and efficiency of vehicle operations. It can also help ensure optimal vehicle maintenance by allowing for accurate preventative maintenance scheduling, thereby minimizing the risk of emergency repairs and downtime. The result: lower fleet operating costs.

Expanding Potential

As technology evolves, so do the capabilities and functions of telematics. As Albert Einstein remarked: “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”

A fairly recent development is equipment health management technology. It foretells vehicle problems before they become catastrophic or impact operations using a high-tech, real-time onboard engine diagnostic center.

By providing early warning of future failures, this technology allows maintenance managers to schedule maintenance and repair long before unplanned shutdowns or catastrophic failures occur. This reduces service interruption, increases equipment availability and lowers the costs associated with unexpected or major malfunctions.

Technology is also making headway in the field of vehicle service management. There are advances in the process of diagnosing a problem, having the vehicle serviced and getting it back on the road as efficiently as possible.

Service Technology

During the recent Technology & Maintenance Council Annual Fall Meeting and Transportation Technology Exhibition, I had the opportunity to gain some insight into vehicle service management technology when I sat down with Dick Hyatt, CEO of Decisiv. The company provides an advanced technology to connect fleet managers with internal and external service locations.

When it comes to vehicle service and repair, the most important things to vehicle owners and operators are uptime, consistent service processes, and well-defined and agreed to costs prior to the repair beginning, he told me. What they are getting is an unpredictable service process; inconsistent costs for labor time, parts pricing, repairs, etc.; and excessive downtime.

Typically, when a driver calls in with a vehicle problem, the fleet has to locate and call a service location. Besides this process taking considerable time, Hyatt said the fleet and service provider are “disconnected” due to ineffective communication and information sharing. Often, there’s also a lack of upfront authorization and documentation, leading to misunderstandings on billing and other post-invoice issues.

Information Storage

The problem is there are “silos of information,” said Hyatt. Everyone has different systems for repair and maintenance, parts, warranty, diagnostics, etc. Consequently, the service repair process often involves the maintenance manager, driver and service providers, and may include other decision influencers like breakdown management/call center, OE technical support, etc. Each have to collect all the relevant information and communicate back and forth.

Compounding the situation are the different OE service systems, dealer and shop business process and data management systems, onboard/diagnostics systems, etc.

Industry experts say poor communications alone costs a fleet between $280 and $330 per service event in overhead and extended downtime alone, Hyatt noted.

By using advanced technology, the problem of timely, accurate communication between all parties can be done away with, saving fleets hours per service event and getting vehicles back on the road faster.

Cloud Computing

By way of example, Hyatt referenced the Decisiv Service Management Platform - a cloud computing platform developed by his company.

Basically, cloud computing platforms can navigate a broad network of systems and data resources to retrieve relevant information using context-based intelligent search functions. The intelligence and the systems resources migrate to the “cloud” so applications like Decisiv’s do not require users to install hardware or software to use the platform.

Additionally, with cloud computing platforms the services and the intelligence travel with the asset and can be accessed from anywhere and at anytime using any device that connects to the cloud - laptops, desktops, tablets and mobile devices.

In non-techspeak, the Decisiv cloud computing platform, customized to the unique requirements of the users, combines immediate access to more complete service information with streamlined communication and regular sharing of information and status alerts and notifications, explained Hyatt. Fleets, service locations, mobile service, OEM call centers, district and regional sales, service and parts personnel can all access and respond to the same information about a service event at the same time.

All of the conversation is captured in a threaded, date/time stamped attachment.

The capability can also include warranty administrators, parts suppliers and a wide range of third-party vendors.

Job Transformation

As vehicle service management technology evolves, it will continue to improve access to crucial service and repair data and offer additional pro-active versus re-active solutions for more timely repairs and faster vehicle turnaround. This, in turn, will keep on transforming how service management is handled.

While it is unlikely the maintenance manager will become obsolete, the duties and responsibilities of the position will certainly keep changing as well.