Power play

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Improving access to information would be the quickest one-liner to describe improvements rolled out by maintenance software vendors we contacted this spring, and for sheer one-act delivery, Calif. based Mitchell 1 takes the cake with this January’s rollout of its massive on-line repository of electronic shop manuals.

Although not a computerised maintenance management program (CMMP), Mitchell 1’s Web-based service and repair information database, called Tractor-Trailer.net, is a packed toolbox to wield alongside a CMMP. It covers all makes and models of trucks dating back to 1990 – the equivalent of 1100 separate shop manuals – including the number one-requested item by mechanics: miles and miles of wiring diagrams for 1100 Class 7 & 8 tractors, 1800 trailers, and 200 reefers.

“One of the most important things the technician needs access to is a wiring diagram. We redraw every single diagram the original equipment manufacturer publishes,” says Mitchell 1 heavy-duty market development director Dave Costantino.

Circuits can be turned on and off, simplifying the spaghetti trail when following wiring; e.g., if all you want to see is the cruise control wiring, you can make everything else disappear.

Analogous to hard-copy shop manuals, technicians can access repair articles by VIN numbers, or look for articles by category. All the information required to do a repair, from line drawings, text, torque procedures and required special tools, is there. Too, says Costantino, “All of the factory maintenance information is in the product.”

Access to Tractor-Trailer.net retails for US$399 a month, and the database is updated monthly. With this unprecedented access to so many shop manuals, Costantino explains, “Tractor-Trailer.net gives the small fleet or shop a level playing field and the opportunity for more work.”

Calgary-based Richer Systems Group Inc. reports many enhancements to its v5.6.40 enrich enterprise resource planning, asset management and maintenance software solution. Top among them is the mature version of its Customer Web Access (CWA) functionality, a powerful tool that clients of leasing companies using enrich can use with nothing more exotic than a Web browser.

“CWA lets clients in to view data in the database; for example, repair history, repair statistics and fuel consumption statistics,” says Richer Systems president Eric Richer. “CWA takes strategic fleet information already stored and validated within enrich and makes it available in Web-based reports or for download into spreadsheets.”

CWA removes the burden of manually supplying information to clients, says Corey Cox, manager, information systems with The Tandet Group. “Fleet managers are starved for information. If a boss comes down the hall, someone can have all the information there, right down to what the technician wrote down on the work order.

“The repair history, PM planning – this is all pushed out. On the repair history side, they can get it, right down to the bolt level… they can break down repair histories in a crazy number of ways. Reports that we used to have to prepare were static. Now they can go to the Web site and see today’s information.”

CWA can be organised so that different company personnel have access to only the data relevant to the portion of a fleet for which they are responsible. It can be used as a planning tool by generating pie charts of unit repair costs; documentation, such as user manuals, can be attached to units for viewing … there are a multitude of ways that CWA can sort, summarise and present fleet information.

As a sales tool, CWA lets leasing companies show prospective clients their trucks’ repair histories. “This information is demanded of lessors before they go into negotiations. If they don’t release that information they will often not get a contract,” says Richer.

Dossier, the fleet maintenance management software created by Atco, New Jersey-based Arsenault Associates, has several new functionalities. One gives Dossier users the ability to forecast when PM services will come due, based on historic utilization. Rather than be restricted to a preset warning horizon of, say, 500 miles or 30 days, Dossier now allows you to choose any future date range, say between Apr 20-Aug 15, for planning around the summer vacation schedules. “Dossier will predict and show the date that every service will come due within that time period, based on the actual number of miles traveled during the last 12 months, and/or calendar time, divided into 12 periods,” says Arsenault Associates president Charles Arsenault. Using calculated utilization averages and current meter readings, Dossier can predict PM or other scheduled services due dates.

Another new feature is the ability to post work pending issues, work campaigns, equipment recalls and the like, to many trucks at the same time with just one entry. “When you open a repair order or the daily reminder, any work pending is automatically displayed,” says Arsenault.

Dossier users can now link almost any type of file to a unit; e.g., schematics, wiring diagrams, unit photos, hot links to Web sites, e-mail address or shop manuals.

The new Customer Management option helps maintenance departments manage and control work they perform for another department’s fleet or “for-profit services” for outside customers. “We have provided a whole file for our customers,” says Arsenault. Among other tasks, he explains, “Each customer can have their own individualized hourly labor rate and parts markup rate.”

Saskatoon-based Siemens Transportation Group reports easier information management that has led to improved warranty and core tracking using Fleet Assistant, the maintenance management software created by Toronto-based Cetaris.

With 770 tractors and about 2000 trailers, Ken Price, corporate director of fleet services says, “You may put on an alternator today and take it off in eight months and miss the warranty claim. You have to rely on memory and the mechanic telling you.

“Purchase orders, work orders and parts inventory are all in the same database. I don’t have to keep a bin of invoices. It is a lot less paper. I just go into the system under the VRMS code or unit number and I can find any warranty information, parts usage… Fleet Assistant generates a warranty claim and complete follow through.”

The software also has a Chronic Repair feature that flags a part replacement if a part is replaced with one having a different part number. “Chronic Repair will flag you to investigate the part failure,” Price says, allowing you to check for warranty eligibility.

As for the value of core tracking says Price, “Cores are as valuable as warranties. It stays on the Fleet Assistant work order until the mechanic returns the parts to the parts room. You click that you have received the part. You submit it to the vendor, and then when you get the credit invoice back you close the core claim.”

Although Price explains that he will have to use Fleet Assistant for two to three years to properly understand the payback with better warranty and core tracking, he says, “I am already seeing some return on our investment.”

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