Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks, both subsidiaries of the Swedish Manufacturer AB Volvo, have deployed remote diagnostic and preventative maintenance services based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology to tackle the problem of unplanned downtime which hurts company profits and driver income.

Using analytics and artificial intelligence Volvo says it can help their customers maximize a vehicle’s time on the road and minimize the costs of service disruptions by servicing connected vehicles more efficiently, accurately and proactively.

Unplanned downtime can exact a tremendous toll on any fleet operator and their customers who depend on timely deliveries. Operators can be out thousands of dollars a day when a truck with scheduled hauls unexpectedly breaks down. The impact on smaller regional owners can be even greater, because they’re less likely than larger operators to have spare vehicles on hand.

Conal Deedy Director of Connected Vehicle Services Volvo Trucks North America

Remote diagnostics as a service

Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks use telematics to deliver unparalleled support services with the purchase of each truck. Volvo Trucks launched Remote Diagnostics with about 4,000 vehicles in 2012, with Mack Trucks offering a similar service called GuardDog Connect in 2014. Today, more than 175,000 trucks are supported with the always-on service that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“One of the reasons customers buy Volvo Trucks is for uptime,” says Conal Deedy, Director of Connected Vehicle Services for Volvo Trucks North America. “They have a job to do. It’s important to keep the truck running to complete their mission – or ensure the least disturbance to the business if something happens on the road.”

Volvo Trucks’ service monitors data from each truck for fault codes triggered when something is amiss with one of the vehicle’s major systems, such as the engine, after treatment or transmission. Thousands of sensors on each truck collect streaming IoT data in real time to provide context. This data includes where the event happened and what conditions were present during the fault, like altitude, ambient air temperature, truck gear, RPM level and torque load, to give the information context for diagnosis.

Deedy said the company publishes a large amount of information through the platform which is supplied by SAS. “We quickly diagnose the fault and its severity with detailed information and a recommended action plan. Our agents in Mack’s 24/7 Uptime Center explain the results to the customer and develop a plan for addressing it with the least disturbance.”

Agents may send detailed repair instructions to a local repair facility to help it complete the repair more efficiently and effectively. If the customer performs their own repairs, the detailed information can be sent directly to them. If an issue is software-related, the truck can be updated remotely – without disturbing operations – and quickly returned to its mission.

As the service has expanded, says Deedy, the new system not only allowed the company to deliver diagnoses accurately and efficiently at scale, but also has allowed it to address more parts and failure modes than they could handle earlier.

Similarly, Mack Trucks’ GuardDog Connect helps customers evaluate the severity of issues and manage repairs. The telematics-based service currently looks after more than 70,000 connected vehicles. “Our service lets us keep ahead of any issues on the vehicle before the driver has an in-cab experience,” explains David Pardue, Vice President of Connected Vehicle and Uptime Services for Mack Trucks.

GuardDog Connect remotely collects data from the vehicle in the form of fault codes and other parameter data and ranks them based on severity. If the fault requires immediate action, an agent contacts the customer and explains the situation in detail and the recommended action. If the truck requires service, the agent informs the repair facility of the issue, including parts needed, so technicians are ready when the vehicle arrives. Agents track the vehicle at the dealer to make sure it is back in service at the committed time. If the fault is less time-sensitive or does not involve a potential injury, agents inform the company’s decision maker so they plan the repair when it makes the most sense for the operation.

While these services help customers recover from problems faster, analytics also keeps problems from arising in the first place.

The company helps customers understand how the equipment should perform based on its specification and uses analytics to determine patterns based on actual equipment usage. “This allows us to give a customer a more dynamic or optimized maintenance plan rather than a traditional calendar plan,” Pardue says.

Analytics is also applied to examine common traits of trucks in the field so improvements can be made in the design of the truck. The analysis identifies emerging issues across an engine type or model year much quicker with real-time streaming data and communicates these findings to the engineering group. “Our engineers can now see issues before they impact customer operations and change the truck’s design, so we have the best product on the road,” Deedy says.

A stronger analytics culture

Both Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks say they have developed a stronger analytical culture. “Analytics has become part of our culture. We’re using analytics to rethink the way we do business,” Deedy says.  He said they use analytics to take their internal knowledge and leverage it fully to her their customers.

IoT technologies paired with analytics have delivered impressive results.  “For monitored faults, we’ve reduced diagnostic time 70 per cent. He also said repair time was reduced 25 per cent when using the solution to process millions of records in real-time, and point the agent to what needs to be done,” Deedy says. “That’s a huge savings for customers who want to have a truck serviced quickly and accurately.”

Mack Trucks points to benefits for all stakeholders. Dealers experience a more efficient process. Mack Trucks can see how the vehicle and its key components are performing, leading to greater uptime. And greater uptime has made customers extremely happy. “We have a very high Net Promoter Score,” Pardue says. “We’re consistently getting very strong feedback like, ‘this is a service we can’t live without.’”

By using learning and automation capabilities that are integral to artificial intelligence, both companies’ analytically driven services will keep pace with the changing needs of their customers, keeping them happy for a long time to come.

The company is putting a lot of emphasis on “Machine learning at the moment, says Deedy says. “We are uncovering hidden insights in our data and merging that with the truck knowledge from our engineering group. Together we are in a much better situation to understand exactly what the data is telling us. The future is extremely exciting, and the sky’s the limit.”

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