Now more than ever, transportation companies are looking for ways to improve the bottom line and keep vehicles on the road. Asset maintenance, the process of tracking your tractor and trailers' defect histories, repair statuses, and warranty information is a key component to keeping fleets running smoothly and with as much uptime as possible. It’s crucial that companies take a proactive approach to maintenance to reduce costs, maximize resources, improve customer service and ultimately, keep trucks moving.
Experts from Trimble’s TMT Fleet Maintenance team, vice president Jim Rohde and product manager Ben Hilse, shared their thoughts on the current state of asset maintenance and where it’s going, including some of the challenges the industry is facing, opportunities maintenance solutions can provide, and finally, what customers are most looking for in a solution.
Current State of Asset Maintenance
The world is still facing challenges with labor shortages, inflation and supply chain constraints. While these challenges aren’t unique to the transportation industry, given the industry’s role in moving goods worldwide, the ripple effect if things don’t run smoothly can be far-reaching.
Ben shared that he’s still seeing supply chain issues and hearing that parts are not available.
“If fleets can't get the parts they need to fix their equipment, then that equipment may not be on the road generating them money,” Ben said. “Carriers are having to get really creative in finding aftermarket parts or parts on third-party markets, to try to get their assets back up and running.”
The good news is, there are many opportunities to address these challenges with asset maintenance, such as realizing efficiencies in inventory management, improving warranty claims tracking and ROI, moving systems to a connected cloud and managing more systems electronically.
Here are several of the trends Trimble’s asset maintenance teams are seeing in the industry and what’s on the horizon:
- Fleets are increasingly outsourcing maintenance activities. While many fleets are able to manage their repairs in-house, a significant number of carriers outsource some or all of their maintenance needs to a third-party service provider. This means it’s critical to have a smooth and seamless process for tracking repair events, costs and more for increased uptime, visibility into status and fewer data entry errors. Check out another recent blog post for more information on outsourcing maintenance.
- On the flip side, companies are setting up their own service shops. Since maintenance is an unavoidable cost in trucking, some transportation companies are opening up their own repair shops to other fleets and owner-operators.
While opening service centers can initially be a costly undertaking, companies that accurately manage inventory and parts usage, as well as have the technician capacity to service other companies’ trucks, can make setting up a repair shop a smart idea in the long run.
- There is continued interest in predictive maintenance. In transportation, trucks are typically only making money when they’re on the road. Jim shared that with recent advancements in technology, there is a growing ability to predict, with a high level of accuracy, when a part is likely to fail, giving fleets the opportunity to proactively make repairs or replace parts during a scheduled service appointment, rather than risking an inconvenient, often costly and time-consuming unexpected repair.
- There’s a push to find efficiencies in a technician’s day. Time is money. Cutting down on the time a technician needs to spend logging their time, entering work orders, recording service updates and more can make that technician more efficient and productive.
In the past, a barrier to making these tasks electronic was the inability to integrate data and solutions from different systems and companies and make it accessible through one platform on an easy-to-use mobile device. Having a cloud-based system that automates these tasks in one pane of glass – particularly on a tablet or smartphone – saves time, cuts down on manual errors and is becoming an ever-more important tool in a technician’s toolbox.
- Companies are realizing one size does NOT fit all. An asset maintenance trend that’s been getting a lot of attention lately is customization, as truck usage varies greatly. Jim shared an example: a truck that’s driving up and down mountains in cold weather nine months of the year will not experience the same wear-and-tear as a truck that runs a consistent route across Nebraska and Kansas year-round. And because the level of use is different, therefore, the trucks likely don't need preventive maintenance on the same schedules.
Understanding and being able to customize repair work based on these realities is not that far off. Rather than having a standard preventive maintenance schedule based on miles alone, important usage data could soon be factored in.
Key Features and Capabilities
Jim and Ben also shared what features and capabilities customers are most often looking for when it comes to asset maintenance solutions.
- Warranty management – Maintenance teams are looking for a better way to track and submit warranty claims. Having the ability to automate the warranty recovery process, making it quick and easy, can save companies thousands of dollars, often providing immediate ROI. New software can automate the process, leading to fast, more effective claims.
- Inventory management – Companies looking to set up a service center are often looking for help with inventory management. Trimble’s TMT Service Center & TMT Fleet Maintenance solutions allow customers to manage their inventory and understand their usage, giving the ability to know exactly what they need to have on hand at any time and avoiding costly investments in unnecessary parts.
- Support for technicians – Technicians are a key component of the transportation maintenance ecosystem, so reducing turnover in this tight labor market is a priority. The Trimble Technician Portal (TTP) is a cloud-based application that gives techs the tools to do their job more efficiently, right from a tablet. “It tracks their time entry when they log in at the beginning of the day, and allows them to log in to particular work orders, charge the parts and service lines, and everything that they need to do in order to track and record what they're doing,” Ben shared.
Across the industry, trucking companies are looking for ways to connect the disparate systems and solutions that need to work together when it comes to transportation management and asset maintenance.
There are great efficiencies to be gained by connecting fleets to all of the different tech and service providers that come into contact with their assets. For example, the ability to connect directly to a service provider's system can greatly reduce the time to service, in the event of a breakdown.
Powered by the Trimble Transportation Cloud, Trimble’s Connected Maintenance puts TMT at the center of a partner integration ecosystem, allowing fleets to access everything within their maintenance environment in a single solution. To learn more about Trimble Transportation’s asset maintenance solutions, click here.
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Headed to the 2023 ATA Technology & Maintenance Council Meeting or TCA Annual Convention? Stop by the Trimble Transportation booth to learn more about all of our solutions that are bringing transportation into the future.