Many things to consider when trying to avoid information paralysis

TORONTO, Ont. – Kirk Altrichter, vice-president of maintenance for Crete Carrier Corporation out of Lincoln, Nebraska provided a solid launching point during the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Summit (CFMS) April 13 at Toronto’s International Centre for how fleets can avoid information paralysis when looking for the right software package for data collection.

Altrichter said that with current technology, the amount of information companies can receive in real time is amazing, but admitted that it can be overwhelming if proper steps are not taken to narrow down what is important to the company when it comes to analysing fault codes.

“Everybody in this room could look at the same data and see something different,” Altrichter told a CFMS audience of about 200, adding that maintenance professionals must pinpoint what needs attention, what’s important and what is actionable. “Take three to five items and work on them.”

Altrichter said that if an item is determined to be actionable, it must also be established whether that item is one the company needs to take action on, and if there is adequate personnel and money to do so.

Choosing the right software is an important starting point for any company looking to collect data, as there are several different products on the market.

Warranty capture and recovery was another key aspect discussed during the CFMS, and Altrichter said part of it is understanding what the warranty actually is and what a bumper-to-bumper warranty really covers.

“Does it cover oil changes, does it cover belts, does it cover tires?” he said. “What are your expectations around that warranty and are you recovering it?”

Altrichter said a preventative maintenance schedule is also important, as is asset tracking.

“What are you actually hauling and how many tracking systems do you have on your truck?” Altrichter asked, saying varying tracking systems can be synced to provide more accurate and cohesive data.

When it comes to tire management, Altrichter said this normally is the third highest expenditure for most fleets.

He added that proper software is needed to track things like tire pressure and scrap analysis, and that hopefully later this year there would be new technology to help companies monitor this data.

Chronic repairs were another issue Altrichter said fleets must look at.

“How do you even know if you have a chronic repair? How do you know that you even have a problem?” Altrichter questioned. “And how well do we do at identifying them before they become problems?”

The collection of data is something that is done and seen differently from one fleet to the next, Altrichter said, adding that companies should set up a standard for data collection, where goals, future vision and growth are all taken into consideration.

“There are basic programs and very complex programs,” he said, “and it’s up to you to decide which one you really need.”

Fleets must also be ‘ready and willing’ to use new technologies, like ‘flash over the air’ updates, which provides updates to software remotely so that the vehicle does not have to come into the shop.

“My objective is life is the touch the truck as little as possible and have it on the road,” Altrichter said.

Bringing your truck to an outside shop can also pose a problem, as many utilize different types of software, which leaves the fleet maintenance manager with the task of wading through the varying packages.

“How many of these separate packages are you willing to look at every day?” Altrichter said, adding that even with the four that he analyzes each day, it can be a lot to monitor.

Though communication with fellow employees is important, Altrichter cautioned about getting information overload.

“We should limit the amount of emails that anybody can send on any given day,” Altrichter joked, saying a lot of what we get in our inbox is unnecessary and wastes a lot time, all leading to lower efficiency levels.

“We all need to work together to drive efficiencies into the system,” said Altrichter. “Without everyone voicing their concerns, we’re not going to get there very fast. It should have been done four to five years ago.”

In the end, Altrichter said fleets must take the needed time to consider what software option is the right one for the type of data they wish to receive, and that he has seen too many companies fail because they set unachievable goals.

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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