The repair order is the key to managing fleet maintenance. This familiar maintenance document has come a long way since its paper days, and has made the greatest strides as a cost-trimming management tool in just the last 10 to 15 years.
A good repair order begins with identifying the unit in need of attention, usually the unit number of the vehicle, as you can’t track anything without it.
Next in importance is a meter reading. The meter can be mileage or hours of service, or whatever unit of measurement tells you how much that piece of equipment has been used.
The meter reading is essential because it is the primary usage measurement metric. Without it, there is no way to measure the costs of operation, periods of maintenance and so much more.
A unit’s performance measurement information is usually expressed in terms of cost per mile or cost per hour.
Once this repair order heading data is entered, the unit’s repair order history should be reviewed to identify possible rework or available warranty. Then, depending upon the fleet’s requirements, the repair order can potentially include a lot of additional information, such as a description of what’s wrong with a unit, who’s fixing it, what parts the job requires and a description of the work performed.
The repair order history may show when a repair or maintenance job was assigned and how long it took a technician to complete.
Ideally, your repair orders record all of these things and more using VMRS (Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards). These codes were established by the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations as the standard method of identifying equipment specs, costs, components, reasons for repair and reasons for failure, all of which facilitate later analysis of both the fleet and maintenance efforts.
The information gathered on repair orders can help establish benchmarks for a fleet, cost per mile for individual units and for the fleet as a whole. Other repair order information can indicate if a maintenance shop and its individual technicians are working efficiently or not.
Repair orders are critical for outsourced work as well.
Where is truck number 44? Without a repair order you might forget that it’s at Joe’s Garage in Peoria, IL, where it has been sitting behind the shop because Joe’s Garage forgot it too.
A fleet without repair orders is probably a fleet with little order or control at all.
For many fleets, the classic paper repair order - with check boxes, fill-in blanks and carbon copies - migrated to computers in the 1980s and 1990s. Those AS/400 and DOS-based computers took the basic repair order to a new level. The overall quality of fleet management rose along with it.
Those old-time green screens and command prompts could be intimidating. They came with a steep learning curve and unsettled more than one old-time fleet maintenance manager.
Computers themselves were new to most shop employees. It took time to learn how to navigate the system, which key combinations to press and how to get the program to reveal what you needed to know.
That has all changed dramatically in the last decade or so.
Most technicians on the shop floor today grew up with computers. Using software comes naturally, and they know where to look on a menu bar for the program function they need. Point-and-click is second nature to them.
That familiarity has greatly eased the training time and burden. For example, it can take a few days to implement a new maintenance application for an average-sized company. Yet in my experience, training for an individual technician can be as little as two hours.
The repair orders of today’s maintenance software applications are significantly better at gathering critical information without computer overkill.
Many programs allow the fleet to decide what information they want to require, and then your technician can’t simply skip a required dialog box. He must enter all of the required information in order to move forward with his data entry. Data does not fall through the cracks.
Today’s digital repair order gathers a wealth of information at the start of a repair or maintenance process. This data enables you to track a job, order parts, identify possible warranty and account for shop time.
But that’s just for starters. Once the detailed information is entered it can deliver substantial long-term benefits.
Upon analyzing that maintenance information you might realize that every three weeks a specific unit has a certain reoccurring transmission problem. That could reveal a problem vehicle, a problem driver or perhaps there is an issue with the way transmissions are serviced. Or, it might show that the wrong transmission was spec’d in the first place.
There is virtually no end to ways in which properly analyzed fleet data can help to reveal problems you might not otherwise see, and help trim operating costs you didn’t know you had.
A good maintenance management software application can help increase technician productivity, maximize shop efficiencies, reduce parts inventory, show best and worse performing components and more. It can even help you decide which manufacturer’s nameplate you should spec on you next equipment buy.
And it all begins with, and is controlled by, the repair order.