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Trends in Asset Maintenance: Q&A with Trimble’s Mike Keus

Maintaining assets and equipment is a core function for carriers and is becoming increasingly connected to additional areas of carrier operations. Keeping a close eye on maintenance activities can help reduce costs, maximize resource utilization and uptime, and improve customer service.

We sat down with Mike Keus, vice president of asset maintenance for Trimble Transportation, to discuss what’s new in the world of asset maintenance and how it fits into the connected supply chain.

Tell us a little about your background and work with Trimble Transportation.

Mike KuesI’ve been with Trimble for six years, currently serving as vice president of asset maintenance where I lead our TMT business for fleet maintenance software. Prior to joining Trimble, I worked in the utilities, mining and transportation space, as well as spending 15 years running professional services organizations in the semiconductor industry.

I’m really passionate about Trimble’s vision for a connected supply chain and the role of maintenance in keeping the industry moving in that direction. The industry is changing rapidly. From a maintenance perspective, for many years the focus has been on keeping the costs down for maintenance.

That is certainly a big priority, but in a new, more connected world, we’re also beginning to truly realize the value and the opportunity costs that are lost when an asset is down.

The mindset has really shifted to managing the uptime of an asset and resource utilization, and that's exciting because we have a lot to offer when it comes to the way we deliver maintenance to our customers and to the industry as a whole.

Maintenance is, of course, a big part of keeping the transportation industry moving. What are a few of the hottest topics and trends right now around maintenance?

The advancement of technology and education in the industry of how to maximize the lifecycle and uptime of an asset has really dominated recent conversations we’re having with customers.

Fleets want better information to make better decisions for their business. Historically, maintenance systems were standalone solutions with a handful of integrations – primarily functioning as a data entry system to manage the work repair or the history for DOT compliance. Now, carriers are starting to see maintenance systems as an integrated solution that is connected to the supply chain to ensure that loads get there on time, and in the most efficient way.

The discussion is headed toward how fleets can evolve their current maintenance systems to a more automated tool for managing uptime – whether you're doing repairs inside your shop or leveraging a third-party ecosystem to get that done. And today there's a gap in information when a repair or maintenance activity is done outside a fleet shop.

What are some ways that fleets can create efficiencies and/or gain additional value from their maintenance operations?

Third-party maintenance can be more expensive than in-house maintenance activities, but it comes with the expected outcome that the asset’s uptime is increased. However, recent data hasn’t shown the expected gains in uptime compared to the increase in cost. That’s where TMT comes in: until a fleet is using an application or software platform that can track repair activities effectively, it’s going to be more difficult to see the gains of managing your repair remotely.

The Trimble team is working on creating a more comprehensive communication ecosystem between fleet maintenance providers and third-party service centers to help automate the communication of maintenance information, with the goal of creating an in-shop maintenance experience, even when they're leveraging a third party.

The advent of Trimble’s Transportation Cloud already has unlocked new capabilities and connections within the maintenance ecosystem, which we are continuing to build upon. Our team is hard at work on making integrations as seamless as possible, to as many different vendors as possible, which will allow third parties to connect directly into the Trimble ecosystem for exchanging information regarding maintenance.

We recently announced an integration like this with TravelCenters of America, for example. We also have an industry-leading partnership with Decisiv through the TMT ServiceConnect module that connects to more than 4,500 medium and heavy duty service locations throughout North America, providing more seamless collaboration between fleets and heavy-duty repair shops to schedule repair and maintenance activities, track service status, record service, parts replaced and labor, and create invoices for the service performed – all of which is essential to the connected supply chain.

Expanding this ecosystem to additional service centers and providers will allow fleets to automate their relationship with their preferred third parties through the TMT application with minimal onboarding effort.

How do maintenance operations contribute to Trimble's vision for a connected supply chain?

Asset maintenance is a critical piece of the connected supply chain. If you have a roadside breakdown or need to take a piece of equipment offline, it's no longer part of the connected supply chain. This is especially true if it's an outside repair, which can become a sort of “black hole” of information because often it’s not connected to a fleet’s maintenance software, and you don't know when that asset's going to be coming back online.

So once all these integrations and connections are made in the cloud, carriers will always have an understanding of equipment health. If an asset is down, they'll have access to know when it went down and through VMRS codes, they'll have an ETA of when that piece of equipment will be back up and running, and if it's carrying the load. Dispatch and operations can understand if they're going to make their load on time and communicate that back to shipper customers.

For an outside repair, that’s not something that they could do easily without significant manual intervention today, but is of utmost importance to creating a truly connected supply chain.

Anything else you'd like to add?

We’re increasingly seeing customers open up service centers within their in-house repair shops that allow them to take on outside work to maximize mechanic resources and open bays. This creates a huge benefit to the industry because it allows work to be done more quickly and efficiently, getting trucks back on the road faster and maximizing resource utilization for all parties.

Trimble is committed to offering a blend of solutions that cater to both service centers and in-house repair shops, allowing businesses to manage maintenance activities and build connections that drive value and get the load to its destination on time.

We’re excited to continue enhancing our maintenance solutions to meet carriers’ needs in the current transportation landscape.

Thanks, Mike!

For more information about Trimble’s maintenance solutions, visit