Maintenance Outlook Report

Insights into what the near future may hold for vehicle maintenance

It was physicist Niels Bohr was said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” He also observed, a number of years ago, that technology has advanced more in the last 30 years than in the previous 2,000, and the exponential increase in advancement will only continue.

Needless to say, the evolution of technology has had a significant impact on vehicles, their operation and their maintenance and repair. Technology’s influence will only continue to further drive change.

Predicting the future in an ever-changing world isn’t easy. Nevertheless, this article is going to delve into how, over the next several years, industry developments and technology may affect vehicle maintenance and repair.

For this article I contacted a range of industry companies. The result is a collection of viewpoints and perspectives.

The intent is to offer some thoughts and insight to help you better understand the forces and influences that shape our industry so you can better prepare for tomorrow and the inevitable changes that come with it.

As computer scientist Alan Kay observed: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Conditioned Based Maintenance

By Chris Doktor, Principal Analyst, Frontier Technology

Frontier Technology provides customized decision-making and sensor data software products, competitive-edge research, engineering, Information Technology (IT) services and studies and analysis. It markets NormNet, the company’s Prognostics and Health Management software tools.

Condition based maintenance (CBM) is a strategy that bases the performance of maintenance on the actual condition of the vehicle systems, and not on fixed time intervals. The goal is to reduce overall cost per vehicle mile traveled.

This strategy of CBM is made possible by the application of usage characterization, diagnostic and prognostic processes executed on vehicle data. This data can come from embedded sensors and/or external tests and measurements using portable equipment.

Usage characterization refers to the evaluation of the manner in which a vehicle system is being employed and indicates how and why things may be broken or in the process of breaking. Usage characteristics include hours run, miles driven, time at idle, fuel consumed, number of hard brakes and hard turns, vehicle speeds over specific terrains, etc.

Much of the early work on CBM has focused on the military, which has been developing onboard systems for aircraft, combat vehicles and tactical wheeled vehicles.

However, the goal of reducing operational and maintenance costs is obviously universal to all industries that depend on complex equipment, and therefore, so is the application of CBM.


Prognostics and Health Management (PHM) tools are those software tools responsible for processing vehicle data, along with usage data, to perform diagnostics and prognostics. PHM tools can be incorporated into onboard vehicle electronics and/or off-board business systems to further condition based maintenance.

PHM technology depends heavily on the existence of sensors for monitoring how the systems behave and perform. These systems can be almost anything: engines, electronics, industrial equipment, manufacturing processes, even other pieces of software.

As long as a system has adequate instrumentation, it can benefit from PHM technology.

Modern heavy duty trucks have literally dozens of sensors for controlling and monitoring their various subsystems, making them strong candidates for PHM application.


So what exactly is PHM technology? There are many ways of answering this question, but the simplest is: PHM is a way of teaching computers to “visualize” the relationships between different pieces of system data - usually sensor data. This visualization is accomplished through the use of sophisticated pattern recognition algorithms.

Once a computer can visualize these relationships, it can recognize when the relationships change - even a small amount, and thus determine if the system is starting to degrade and what might be wrong.

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