Fleets that utilize the cloud to capture data with help from telematics systems can successfully achieve data-driven predictive and streamlined maintenance.
In a time when fleet managers are trying to save as much money as possible, an introspective look at maintenance habits can reveal an opportunity for major savings.
Over the years, sensor technology has become a stalwart ally in keeping up with the maintenance needs of a fleet, but for how far this tech has come, there will always be some parts of a vehicle that simply aren’t capable of announcing that they need attention. Fleets have adopted different strategies to address this gap, often leaning towards either rigid scheduling – similar to the sticker a mechanic leaves on your car to schedule your next visit – or pure reactive maintenance when something goes wrong.
While both of these practices ultimately solve problems and keep the fleet running, these approaches have major drawbacks that shouldn’t be overlooked.
In the case of rigidly scheduled maintenance, management should consider how much is being spent on parts, fluids, and other necessary materials. It’s entirely possible that the vehicle in question could have continued operating at peak performance for a much longer time – overservicing can result in wasted money and resources on overzealous maintenance that wasn’t required yet.
Purely reactive maintenance – waiting to fix something until a problem is evident – is also a flawed approach, as it often results in comparatively more expensive fixes while also having the added impact of unplanned downtime that can, at best, cause a scramble for management or, at worst, levy a heavy opportunity cost on the fleet.
The ideal middle ground, dreamt of for decades, has in recent years become much more achievable thanks to advancements in cloud technology and data gathering. Fleets that utilize the cloud to capture data with help from telematics systems are able to successfully thread the needle between over-scheduled and reactive maintenance – both of which have their own shortcomings – to achieve data-driven predictive, and streamlined maintenance.
Telematics is most commonly associated with the wide range of sensors it draws data from, tracking things like GPS location, temperature for refrigerated trucks, live video feeds, and even troubling driver behaviors. However, a largely underestimated benefit is the support that telematics can provide beyond sensors.
By utilizing electronic tracking, fleet managers can automatically track and record digital inspection reports, machine hours, mileage, and even fault codes. This avoids common errors that can arise from relying on drivers and operators to record information using paper records, but it has the additional boon of providing an easy way to track large amounts of historical data.
With a full view of the fleet’s historical data, fleets can use prior incidents as a roadmap to create a long-term forecast of expected breakdowns and malfunctions. This allows managers to schedule maintenance both proactively and intelligently, avoiding the problems of both extreme approaches to upkeep.
Possible predictions include the necessary times for brake inspections, oil changes, tire rotations, wheel realignments, fluid checks, and much more. None of these parts are able to be directly equipped with sensors that can announce it’s time for a tune up, but data is able to fill in the gaps and pave a road to predictive maintenance. Fleets that take data seriously and commit to laying the groundwork for this approach now will see cost optimizations in the short term and reap significant savings in the long term.