Fleet maintenance conference focuses on cost reduction

by Steven Macleod

EDMONTON, Alta. – Reducing costs and improving a company’s bottom line is one way to gain an employer’s favour, and was the focus of this year’s Alberta Fleet Maintenance Supervisor’s Association annual conference.

The Edmonton Chapter of the provincial association hosted this year’s conference and trade show from Sept. 19 to 21, with the theme of Failure Analysis – Your Key to Cost Reduction.

Applied failure analysis

Failure analysis is the thoughtful review of product and environmental facts, which leads to identification of root causes of product problems.

“When you get into failure analysis it’s always after the fact. You could just get new parts and put it together, but you may want to know what happened and will it happen again?” explained Vern Turner, an industrial heavy equipment technology instructor at NAIT. “It’s information that is good for anybody doing any mechanical work. It’s not magic, it’s looking at stuff and doing things in a logical manner and not destroying evidence before someone looks at it.”

One of the keys to examining a problem in a logical manner is staying organized during the disassembly.

“You have to be organized. It’s really neat, like tracking a moose through the bush,” noted Turner. “A nice orderly fashion when you take it apart, makes it easier to track it.”

When a machine is disassembled the wear patterns will give an indication on what went wrong. Wear patterns have different characteristics and can provide insight into what caused the failure. Close visual examination is necessary in determining problems and technology has made it easier to get more heads under the hood.

“A digital camera is one of the handiest tools you can have. Load it up to the computer and anyone can look at it,” commented Turner. “Lots of times it’s obvious, that plug never got put back in, that unit ran out of oil…if you know what the root cause is and can fix it, you’re curing the machine.”

As well as taking photographs, documenting every aspect of the failure analysis process will aid in solving future problems. As part of the documentation, Turner suggests interviewing everyone involved with the vehicle from the operator right through to the guy who pays the bills.

Turner outlined eight steps of the failure analysis process:

* State problem clearly and concisely;

* Organize fact gathering;

* Observe and record facts;

* Think logically with the facts;

* Identify the most probable root cause;

* Communicate with responsible parties;

* Make repairs as directed;

* Follow-up with the customer.

“The goal is repair before failure. The challenge is to find what caused the problem and doing some detective work on paths that fail. What’s the best corrective action to fix it?” Turner said. “It takes a certain amount of commitment to deal with things in this manner from all sides of the coin.”

Warranty claims

Although all warranties are based on time or mileage, not all warranties are created equally.

“You need to know the timeframe, when it starts and when it ends. You need to know what is covered and what is not covered. You also have to know who to contact to do repairs,” commented Dick Bittner, conference organizer with the AFMSA.

As a stipulation under many warranties, equipment must be serviced at a certified warranty location and must maintain a working odometer.

Warranties will vary depending on the size of the truck, whether it’s medium- or heavy-duty and each OEM will have their own set of base limits. The base warranty is only a starting point. Individual items that a customer is more concerned about wearing down can usually be covered under special warranties.

“You can get extended warranties pretty much on everything on the truck,” noted Warren Smith, with Diamond International Trucks. “What International does, and I’m sure the other OEMs do as well, is offer custom warranties. For example you can get added warranty coverage for your A/C.”

A consumer has six months after the truck enters service before the owner has to purchase an extended warranty.

Every operator knows best what components are tested the most for a truck’s specific application and there are different extended warranties to consider.

“There are three different extended plans and all have limitations on them, including mileage,” said Eric Templeton, general sales manager, Edmonton, Cummins Western Canada.

“There are also injector plans, turbocharger plans and major component plans.”

With the arrival of new engines and new components to power the engines, Templeton warned the seminar’s delegates to make sure to do their reading.

“Warranty covers failures due to defects, not operator abuse or neglect,” he noted. “With new engines and aftertreatment systems, make sure you read all the information that comes with it. Cummins will warranty biodiesel but only in a limited percentage. It used to be about 5%, but I think that it’s more now.”

And when in doubt, just ask.

“Each OEM has a way of going into their systems and telling you what you have left under warranty,” added Smith.

National Safety Mark

Transport Canada was on-hand at the conference to discuss the National Safety Mark.

“We’ve been doing this for eight years now and expect that the manufacturers know about this by now,” said Peter Zongora of Transport Canada. “With fleet managers they need to spec’ the National Safety Mark on equipment they’re buying. They want to know what it means and they want to know how it will benefit them.”

The National Safety Mark (NSM) program is unique in Canada. Each manufacturer gets its own set of numbers inside a maple leaf decal that is fashioned to the manufacturer’s product.

“You need to make sure your vehicles are meeting these standards. They get the mark by sending information to prove they know what they’re doing,” noted Zongora. “To get an NSM we make them jump through a lot of hoops. We’re trying to make sure people get the proper chassis that was designed to do what it’s supposed to do.”

Transport Canada’s role is to review documentation, authorize use of the NSM and do follow-up audits. There are 64 standards that apply to 16 different vehicles, of which 41 apply to trucks and 21 apply to trucks weighing more than 10,000 lbs.

If a manufacturer is not living up to the NSM standard, Transport Canada’s enforcement options can include detention of vehicles, laying of charges, notice of defect (or recall), or production change.

“It requires manufacturers to design and ‘certify’ their vehicle production to performance and equipment standards. The federal standards are applicable right to the first retail sale, after that it falls under provincial jurisdiction,” explained Zongora. “Modification after the sale by the owner does not fall under the jurisdiction of the National Safety Mark. It’s not the be all and end all, there’s lots of other legislation that will cross over into used vehicle modification. You assume liability for all modification after the retail sale.”

When a vehicle is manufactured in stages there will be a minimum of two different labels, one from each manufacturer that approves the vehicle at its stage.

The “manufactured by” NSM label means the final stage manufacturer has blessed the vehicle for its use.The NSM offers consumers the benefit of a company who employs someone who knows what the standards are and addresses them accordingly, it improves manufacturing standards and professionalism, reduced liability, and improved resale value.

“It should be enough incentive for people buying vehicles to demand an NSM vehicle,” added Zongora. “It’s the birth certificate of the vehicle. There’s lots of pertinent information about the vehicle on the NSM certification.”

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