In the world of fleet management, uptime is a key business success metric. Unscheduled downtime disrupts the supply chain, resulting in lost revenue and other negative business impacts. To make matters worse, repair times are often measured in weeks due to the time it takes to diagnose a problem and obtain the needed parts. Not only does this affect the fleet owner, but manufacturers must manage growing warranty costs due to these inefficiencies.

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When a vehicle encounters a mechanical problem, it is difficult for the driver, engineer or pilot to know the severity of the problem and the best course of action. A wrong decision can jeopardize safety or risk additional damage. At the same time, a minor problem can unnecessarily take a vehicle out of service. Those who manage service centers also need ways of maximizing the productivity of their technicians in response to the increasing complexity of modern engines and manufacturers need better methods of validating warranty compliance.

This is a market where smart management through an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy holds great promise for maximizing uptime and keeping trucks in service. A combination of remote diagnostics, an optimized repair process and advanced data analytics can virtually eliminate unscheduled downtime by proactively monitoring sensors on the truck, automating the diagnostic process, and identifying service facilities best equipped to solve the problem quickly.

There are several ways in which IoT systems benefit not only the truck manufacturer but also fleet managers and service centers.

Increased Uptime

Equipment downtime is the enemy of all participants in the transportation supply chain and there are several IoT strategies that improve this situation. Real-time monitoring of data transmitted from truck telematics instantly detects Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) faults as they happen. Since most failure modes trigger multiple DTCs, an IoT system is able to analyze all of the active fault codes along with current operating parameters and assign probabilities highlighting the most likely root cause. If needed, the system can ask the driver for information that is not available from sensor data such as visual inspection items. By understanding the most probable cause of a fault, parts inventory databases can be queried to determine which service center in the area is best equipped to quickly remediate the problem.

Benefit: increased production efficiency, reduced mean-time-to-repair.

Reduced Warranty Costs

Warranty costs represent a very significant expense for truck manufacturers, frequently two to three percent of total sales. This means, for example, that as much as $4,500 could be accrued for anticipated warranty costs on the sale of a $150,000 truck. This expense, while necessary, adversely impacts gross margin and, ultimately, profitability. Correctly designed IoT systems can reduce warranty costs in a number of ways. First, the real-time remote diagnostics analysis determines the severity of a fault, which is information drivers do not have today. Depending on severity, continued use of the truck can lead to additional damage, increasing parts and labor costs. IoT can take immediate action by sending commands to the appropriate electronic control unit (ECU) in order to minimize further impact.

 

IoT systems also have the ability to create an optimized repair plan, which summarizes all of the diagnostic work already performed while the truck was on the road, including which possible causes have been eliminated based on the available telematics data. The plan assigns probabilities to potential fixes, eliminating guesswork and reducing repair times. This information allows service managers to assign a technician with the correct skills and ensures that only necessary parts are used.

Finally, IoT systems can keep track of what work was actually performed, minimizing erroneous or fraudulent warranty claims.

Benefit: increased production efficiency, reduced service costs.

Device Optimization

Commercial truck manufacturers strive to maximize the performance of their products, whether to improve engine output or increase fuel efficiency. IoT systems can aggregate information from the entire fleet of trucks, identifying those that are underperforming and providing prescriptive, corrective actions. This information can be used to automatically modify calibration or configuration settings immediately, and can serve as input to the R&D process.

Asset Utilization

Manufacturers of commercial trucks, as well as fleet owners and independent owner/operators, are often challenged with locating assets in the field and understanding how effectively they are being used. IoT systems can create geo-fence zones and apply unique logic per zone or asset. This can be used to reallocate underused assets or enforce business policies.

Benefit: increased asset uptime, increased production efficiency.

The Bottom Line

IoT technology is finding it’s way into many businesses around the world. But for industrial applications such as commercial trucking, IoT has been proven to provide tangible financial benefits to manufacturers while at the same time delivering superior products with greater uptime characteristics to their customers.

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