A 20-year veteran of the software industry, Dave McCarthy currently serves as director of products for Bsquare Corporation. His “passion” is solving complex business challenges through the use of technology – and trucking is one industry he believes offers him a big opportunity to fully engage that passion. In this guest column, McCarthy explains how the emergence of the “Internet of Things” or IoT highlights how truck operators can better integrate device and sensor data with enterprise resource planning (ERP) to improve business outcomes.
Truck owners and manufacturers alike have a history of embracing technology. Telematics systems are a prime example of the industry’s willingness to think ahead of the curve, and foresight to recognize the value of capturing and then transmitting vehicle data. The resulting visibility into how vehicles are performing and where they are was game-changing information with massive benefit potential, limited only by the capacity of people to analyze and interpret all the data coming in.
Now, as Internet of Things (IoT) technology continues evolving, those limitations of the human mind are no longer insurmountable.
So when discussing IoT advances – as well as the resulting real-world applications and benefits – for the transportation industry, the conversation logically centers on fully utilizing the telematics data already collected from trucks.
And rightly so, for the real-time intelligence on the performance of the truck this data provides, if used correctly, can deliver an extensive return on investment (ROI) for truck owners.
Unplanned Downtime: A phrase that inspires a special level of anxiety in fleet operators, downtime is the real fleet expense of truck maintenance. Whereas manufacturers’ warranties generally cover the price of repair, the opportunity cost of lost time and productivity while a truck is down affects operators and drivers substantially. And when that downtime is unplanned, the price tag can grow exponentially.
Unforeseen events like a turbo failure at the wrong time or place can translate to hours before a truck even makes it to a service station or extra days to find the necessary repair parts once it arrives. In this case, time really is money, and until that vehicle is up and running, no one is making any of it.
This is where predictive and prescriptive capabilities of IoT come in. The right solution can take the historical, telematics, and diagnostic data for a truck and determine indicators of a failure event. With this baseline information, it will then monitor environmental and truck data sources – such as the engine, the exhaust emission aftertreatment system, and transmission – and identify potential problems as well as indicate which error conditions require immediate attention versus the diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that can wait.
This allows truckers to automate workflows to perform condition-based maintenance (CBM) instead of maintaining trucks based on arbitrary time or mileage benchmarks. The result is a significant improvement in first-time repair rates, and reduction in mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) metrics.
IoT for Fleets: The potential business use cases – and there are many – for telematics and IoT offer considerable value for trucking companies, larger and small alike.
However, there are a variety of factors unique to fleet management that can affect deployment strategy or benefit potential. And these quirks can make IoT implementation seem intimidating in scope, or discourage companies that have not deployed a lot of software before.
The relationship between operators and manufacturers is an excellent example. OEMs control access to telematics data, and different brands provide different levels of data visibility. Since many fleets consist of multiple types of trucks, they face the challenge of trying to unify and coordinate a unique mix of disparate data into a single system.
That is why it’s important that truck operators do not attempt to take on too much of this task too soon. Under these circumstances, achieving a united data overview – and realizing the potential benefits of IoT – takes time and a strategic approach.
This includes taking small steps to put your operation in a position to deploy an IoT solution over time, and looking for little ways to improve along the way.
Saving a little time on processes, reducing costs by a few dollars, or improving productivity by a small percentage each year can add up to significant progress.
Interactive repair manuals: In the case of vehicle owners and operators, there are only a few very accessible IoT opportunities that often go overlooked for truck owners and fleets have access historical repair data that OEMs lack, along with mountains of “static information” like repair manuals.
Simply inputting manuals to make them interactive and automate repair processes can produce significant value. The easy access to information allows mechanics to diagnose issues faster, combine duplicate repair steps, and effectively troubleshoot multiple problems at the same time.
Paired with historical maintenance data, it’s possible to synthesize the missing elements to infer trends that will improve decision making, productivity, and business management.
In the end, by figuring out what it is possible to accomplish today, and taking action on those findings today as well, will allow truck owners to cultivate more proactive operations and make meaningful organizational improvements in the short term, while setting themselves up for long-term success.