PAPERLESS: Maintenance managers today rely on software to track preventive maintenance schedules and parts performance.
EDMONTON, Alta. – Reports, checklists, files and invoices, the paperwork can quickly add up when ensuring a fleet continues to run as smoothly as possible.
Improved maintenance software programs have lightened the paperwork load around shops and emerged as a valuable time management tool.
“It’s a real time management and cost saving tool,” said Walter Czuroski, director of maintenance for E-Can Oilfield Services in Elk Point, Alta. “Penmanship is really not a mechanic’s finest quality.”
Technology and computer software programs have helped transform the industry.
“Today’s mechanics have PDAs hanging from their belts instead of wrenches; they scan parts into a unit which then flags possible warranty or other information,” explained Albert Nieuwenkamp, fleet services manager for Byers Transport in Edmonton. “So, have computers helped? With a good software program, I don’t think this is a question any longer.”
Nieuwenkamp has been involved in truck maintenance for 23 years and is still learning on the job. With responsibilities varying from day-to-day, he has to stay on top of fleet specifications, equipment purchasing and disposal, preventive maintenance scheduling, analysis of fleet/product life, staffing, overseeing remote terminal equipment needs; and of course all within budget.
“With such a large and varied fleet, we’d be lost without an effective software program. I’m sure most fleet managers would agree,” Nieuwenkamp told Truck News. “I believe that all fleet managers, regardless of their fleet size, would benefit from having the right software. Sure, you can have some whiteboards to track services such as oil changes and annual inspections, but anything more complex will require a more sophisticated system.”
At E-Can, the oilfield service outfit utilizes an in-house software program developed by the IT staff.
“We took a look at a few different programs and corporately tried to decide which one to go with; and not one had exactly everything we needed,” explained Czuroski. “So we built what we needed and left out the tasks we didn’t need, so we have a faster and cleaner system.”
The software took about a year and a half to develop and the company has been using the final version for about a year to monitor everything from a wheel re-torque to a full-blown inspection and everything in between.
“We left room to expand it, which is important because technologies and regulations are always changing,” added Czuroski. “We will be expanding it shortly to include inventory control. You may say, what company doesn’t have inventory control? We do – it’s just all on paper right now.”
With 25 years of experience in truck maintenance, Czuroski now oversees the maintenance of 180 tractors and trailers, which includes company-owned and leased equipment.
The maintenance software becomes a valuable tool for time management and ensuring costs are kept to a minimum.
“It all comes down to dollars and cents because maintenance is any company’s worst nightmare,” noted Czuroski.
Keeping track of all the equipment in one database allows Czuroski to evenly schedule maintenance in the shop and maximize labour costs. From 300-hour and 600-hour preventive maintenance appointments, to CVIP inspections and tank certifications, Czuroski is able to ensure a smooth flow of trucks in and out of the shop.
“Before, you’re doing 17 or 18 one week and next week only four, so it helps us spread them out evenly,” he explained. “With our CVIP inspections, which are done once a year on each unit, we can keep a spreadsheet and calendar on each one of them. We have each unit coded to a different month, so we don’t have 25 to do one month and two the next.”
The right maintenance software can also play a key role in monitoring truck parts and identifying what brands are most effective to the fleet, resulting in cost reductions.
“How else could you differentiate if a unit had the clutch replaced with the last transmission job or determine what the cost per mile is on brand ‘A’ brake shoe versus brand ‘B’?” said Nieuwenkamp. “What about the last time that a head was done on a tractor, and if there’s any warranty left? Try to determine from your 30 forklifts, all performing the same functions, which one costs more per hour.”
A good software program will also have the ability to notify the user when the price of a particular part increases, or flag a mechanic when installing a new part within a designated warranty period.
There are also automated service scheduling features, which will flag a dispatcher’s screen advising them when a unit is closing in on preventive maintenance service. This, according to Nieuwenkamp, will eliminate overdue – or even worse – out-of-service equipment.
With tires being a fleet’s second largest operating cost, knowing which tires are giving a company’s trucks the best cost-per-mile is indispensable.
“Whether it’s 20 tractors or 200, you still want to make sure you get rid of the lemons first. It pays to know since a slight cost per hour savings could mean whether you make your budget,” said Nieuwenkamp. “Again, it all adds up and the more information you have the better you can make decisions that will save you money.”
As well as providing a fleet with a valuable cost saving and time management tool, maintenance software has also kept second-guessing in the shop to a minimum.
“It takes the weight off the guys working on the units. We can do daily, weekly and monthly reports, and we can tell if we’re on track,” said Czuroski. “It makes it easy for anyone to step in and very easy to calculate information. There’s still common sense and you’ll never replace a mechanic, but it makes it a lot easier.”