Maintenance Outlook Report

Insights into what the near future may hold for vehicle maintenance


All of this activity, along with the addition of a number of telematics offerings, has brought an additional state of confusion and chaos to the marketplace.

DIAGNOSTICS ENABLER

The telematics market continues to consolidate and seeks to create value for the fleet and OEM. But, aftermarket repair groups or organizations have yet to release or partner with a telematics platform for potential use.

Telematics platforms produced by the OEM are available in the marketplace today. Onstar – a General Motors product – offers a remote diagnostic application within its feature set. Also available is Daimler Trucks of North America’s Virtual Technician – a reporting system that offers real-time vehicle system data through remote telematic diagnostics.

It should be noted the telematics platform, though potentially fully capable as a diagnostic tool, is still used as an ancillary or complementary product to the OEM-produced diagnostic tool.

In due time, telematics will become more capable from a diagnostics standpoint. As to when, exactly, will depend on the market. However, the capability is there. The software requires to be developed.

CURRENT CONFLICTS

The current conflicts between OEM and aftermarket repair facilities will not change, despite the requirements of the Service Information Requirements Act. The OEM dealer has access to software, training and special service tools that are unavailable to the aftermarket facility, and in most cases, will remain so.

The Act covers emissions-related data and special service tools to accomplish repair of emissions-related systems. The number of controllers available on the network far exceeds the emissions aspect of engine management. This would exclude transmission, brakes and chassis items.

The aftermarket will be somewhat enabled with additional information available in 2013. However, similar to the automotive industry, the OEMs have a plan. Software tools will enable events and authorization as most of these repair events will be required and will most likely be limited to trained dealer or fleet technicians.

FORGOTTEN ELEMENT

Unfortunately, with all of this background noise, the individuals left out and forgotten by all of this change are the technicians. The industry has failed to simplify diagnostics and vehicle repair.

After all, the technician is the skilled individual diagnosing and completing the repair.

A great number of current diagnostic products leave out the efficiency aspect. The tool should assist in actually providing efficiency for the technician in repairing the down vehicle.

A commercial vehicle technician has a great number of diagnostic applications to learn and maintain. Each manufacturer may have a variety of applications with different user interfaces and log-ins, and these small features, along with a suggested vehicle communication interface (VCI) adapter, further complicate matters.

WHAT’S AHEAD

This environment is complex and not getting any easier. The gap between the technicians’ skill set and the product features’ set will need to be balanced.

New product development, innovation and ongoing technical support will be the challenge as the market transitions toward a more efficient “technician-based” toolset.

New products that use an efficient architecture that enable platform variety, and will provide more efficient use by technicians of varying skill sets, will be the requirement.

Developed software will be more specific for tasks, such as preventive maintenance. The desire is reprogramming and diagnostics, all available on a variety of platforms.

Another want is the sharing of this information across the repair network - at the dealer, OEM, aftermarket facility network and the fleet.

Information is knowledge in any business and leads to efficient decision making. This should not be any different for the technician.

We, collectively, need to share in this continuing battle.

Maintenance Software Technology

By Charles Arsenault, Chief Executive Officer, Arsenault Associates

Arsenault Associates is a recognized pioneer and prominent national player in the fleet maintenance management software industry. Its Dossier software is available in a variety of editions to meet the many varying needs of different fleets. www.arsenault.com.

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