Information = Power

Diagnostics expert offers a glimpse at how vehicle service information will be used in the not-too-distant future


Looking Ahead

"Let's look out a little bit further," Arsenault says. "As computer software like mine, and others, come forward--and we estimate that of the ‘sold market,' we represent about 10 to 12 percent of the marketplace--we can see the day when government will be requiring cumulative data to be presented to them in audits in other areas, such as fuel consumption rates, both on a category basis and on a fleet-wide basis. The purpose of this is that we're trying to reduce our fuel consumption, and if the government is going to set mandatory miles-per-gallon values on automobiles, you know that behind that it's going to be coming for commercial vehicles, and you're going to have to document that.

"Increased vehicle information will allow you to gather the documentation and information that is needed without additional work on your part. We work with telematics systems and on-board computers, starting with Delphi's Mobile Aria back in 1999. We had an interface with an on-board computer; the on-board computer sensed issues such as engine overheating, low oil pressure, transmission heat, high RPMs, axle issues, brake pressure issues, things of that nature. It then, via satellite phone or wi-fi, when it drove through the gate, pushed that information down automatically to our program, basing it on VMRS codes. Of course, VMRS is the world standard for identifying componentry, and with that, with one click of the button, we can convert it to a repair order. So that when the vehicle hits the door, we're ready, including knowing whether we have the parts on hand or not. So I'm ahead of the game, not behind it.

"Then, in terms of the vehicles out on the road, we internally can send a message back through our system to the driver's on-board computer. In those days we could turn his radio down and say, ‘John, you have a message from the shop. Please stand by: ABC tire company will be out to fix your flat in 30 minutes.' And, by the way, the head office is going to pay ABC Tire Company with a Comdata card, or an on-road Dossier fuel card. So, the vendor's paid, the driver's back out on the road, and the issue, that came in as an automated complaint, has been dealt with. And now we've added a repair order, the repair order has been closed the issue, and has closed the loop on this process electronically. So when the DOT auditor comes in, he'll see the complaint, he'll see the repair order that handled it, and they're all linked together.

"So, we've done several things: we've shortened the downtime significantly, because we can look up and find the closest vendor, because we knew by way of the on-board computer and GPS where he was, our computer looked up the closest vendor that could handle that issue, based on VMRS code and relevant zip code, and we've tracked the entire process with limited human intervention."

Beating Your Best Score

"Now if we move that out a little further, one of the hardest things to do is to gauge yourself," Arsenault says. "We hear this question all the time: ‘How do I know if I'm doing well?'

"I like to use the analogy that maintenance is like golf. Golfers don't play against an opponent. They play against their last best score. The problem with that is, you have to know what your last best score is! In our software, it automatically benchmarks every repair for every vehicle, every combination of vehicles or groups of vehicles, giving you total number of parts used, total hours of downtime, total repair orders, total costs of parts and labor, and/or taxation, total number of times the vehicle has been down, the number of mechanics involved, the number of mechanics' hours, the number of outside vendors involved, cost per average repair for inside repair versus that same repair being done by an outside vendor. This shows you, by exception, which vehicles are outside of the average parameters, the highest and the lowest.

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