DAILY NEWS Jan 10, 2013 11:51 PM - 0 comments

Remote diagnostics is proven way to reduce downtime

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By: Lou Smyrlis
2013-01-10

NASHVILLE, Tenn – Being able to access and transmit critical truck engine data from trucks on the road  to key decision makers responsible for their maintenance in a manner timely enough and accurate enough to allow smart decisions to be made is key to reducing down time, Volvo Trucks North America executives believe.

After listening to several motor carrier executives speak openly about the downtime plaguing the industry due to premature engine failure (an issue experienced by all engine brands) at a Volvo press event today, David Pardue, vice president, aftermarket sales,  was one of several Volvo executives who said they are working hard to be part of the solution.

“The need for information is quicker and more thorough and what we are satisfied with today we won’t be satisfied with tomorrow,” Pardue said.

Volvo believes part of the answer lies with its Remote Diagnostics service, now a standard feature on every Volvo-powered VN model highway truck. The service provides proactive diagnostic and repair planning assistance with detailed analysis of critical diagnostic trouble codes. It’s the first service being offered under the new Connected Vehicle Services category of the Volvo Trucks Support Services bundled aftermarket offering.

The remote communication platform facilitates live dealer and customer communication through Volvo Action Service, Volvo’s 24/7 support team. Proactive diagnostics streamline service procedures with confirmation of parts on-hand before a truck arrives at a service location, increasing uptime, the company says.

But Conal Deedy, product manager, communication and electronics, cautioned against the trap of “technology for the sake of technology.”  There are thousands of fault codes on today’s commercial trucks that can be monitored and quickly reported – but that doesn’t mean they all should. Rather the focus should only be on those critical to keeping the truck on the road.

“It has to be about using technology to improve service and uptime. Our customers want actionable data that is accurate. They don’t want to be overloaded with fault codes,” Deedy said.

Deedy also pointed to some impressive statistics racked up by the Remote Diagnostics program since its launch last May (it was tested for a year prior to that with over 1,300 Volvo VNs being part of the field tests. Challenger Motor Freight was a test fleet in Canada). There are now more than 5,000 Volvos equipped with Remote Diagnostics and so far the service has managed to:

-          Reduce average diagnostic time for targeted fault codes by 71%

-          Reduce average repair time for targeted fault codes by 25%

-          Improve average uptime by 1 day per event

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“Remote Diagnostics is streamlining the service procedure. It’s getting the right information to the technician,” Deedy said.

Remote Diagnostics comes free of charge for two years with the purchase of all new Volvo trucks.

Another wrinkle soon to be added to help streamline the service procedure when the truck comes into a Volvo dealership is a QR code label and reader capable of capturing all the vehicle information encrypted on the QR code label, such as the vehicle identification number, mileage, etc and create a registered case number before the vehicle is assigned to a technician.

This application, which will be made available on every Volvo coming out of the factory by around the end of the first quarter, will also capture the entire inspection and maintenance process, date stamp it, and maintain it as part of the vehicle’s history on a secure server. Customers will be able to log in and read up on the history of their vehicles. The truck’s file can also be assigned to other Volvo dealers should the truck require service beyond its home dealer.

Those are the latest efforts Volvo has made to boost uptime  and fine tune service performance but, as Pardue pointed out, the company has been focused on these goals for several years. Back in 2005, after listening to its customers, it came up with a 10-point Service Commitment; a year later it introduced its triage strategy to better and more quickly diagnose repair issues; in 2010 it provided 24/7 Internet parts purchasing so parts could be ordered after the parts department had closed for the day; and last year, in addition to Remote Diagnostics, it issued a 10-point Dealer Support Commitment to help support Volvo dealers in living up to their service commitments.

Volvo Trucks’ dealer network is also expanding, resulting in additional truck service bays, Volvo-certified technicians, and larger part inventories. For example, the new Nacarato dealership, which hosted the press conference, keeps $2 million worth of parts inventory on hand and is capable of servicing 30% more trucks at its new 80,000 square-foot facility with 28 service bays.


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