THE CFMS: A SMASHING SUCCESS

April 20, 2016 Vol. 13 No. 8

Last week I had the pleasure of chairing the inaugural Canadian Fleet Maintenance Summit, 'CFMS' for short, a day in advance of our Truck World show. It gave a nod to an event that was for decades the main Canadian gathering for techs and shop supervisors. Save for the acronym, it bore no resemblance to that past staple of our world -- the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar, though many of the same people sat on our organizing committee.

In fact, and this represents a significant achievement, our event drew together all the various maintenance-oriented organizations that have staged get-togethers of their own in recent years. We partnered mainly with Yves Provencher and the PIT Group, part of Quebec's FP Innovations, which had held a conference in each of the previous two years.

A shout-out to our sponsors is in order here. Our gold sponsor was Castrol Heavy Duty Lubricants through its distributor, Wakefield Canada. Silver sponsor was Trailer Wizards, and lunch was served courtesy of Cummins Canada. Volvo Trucks Canada was much involved too, choosing the CFMS lunch as the venue for the presentation of their 2016 Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year winner. Remarkably, this was the 26th year of the Volvo award, which deserves a shout-out all its own.

If I do say so myself, the day was a resounding success, attracting more than 200 attendees and a very fine collection of keynote speakers and panelists from here and the U.S. In the crowd were representatives of TMC, the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations.

Keynote addresses came from Bill Dawson, Vice President of Maintenance Operations and Engineering for Ryder System in Miami, and from Kirk Altrichter, Vice President, Maintenance, at Nebraska's Crete Carrier Corp. Kirk is a former TMC chairman as well.

THE DAY BEGAN WITH A PANEL SESSION entitled The Electronics Revolution and Trucking of the Future, which I moderated. My six panelists were Michael Riemer, VP Products and Channel Marketing at Decisiv Inc. in Virginia; Skip Yeakel, Principal Engineer/Government Industry Academia Link at Volvo Trucks in North Carolina; Yves Maurais, Technical Director, Asset Management, Purchasing and Conformity at Quebec's Groupe Robert; Ric Bedard, President of Cetaris in Toronto; Larry Jordan, VP Product Management at Zonar Systems in California; and Kirk Altrichter.

Having 'banned' PowerPoint presentations from the session in favor of a Q and A format, my intent was to create a discussion dealing specifically with the mountain of data that fleet managers must deal with. It's an awfully important part of our future in both the maintenance shop and the fleet manager's office but the question is what do you do with it? Do you even know how much can be collected, I asked?

 
 
 

Since I was rather busy moderating and could take no notes, I'll rely here on a report written by my colleague, Today's Trucking editor John G. Smith...

The electronic revolution is a reality in the trucking industry. Electronic control modules now feed data from engines and transmissions alike. Maintenance software can spit out reams of reports, measuring just about every imaginable operating parameter.

As important as all the underlying data can be, however, the secret is to turn it into actionable information.

Speakers... offered insights into ways that data can guide predictive maintenance activities. Put another way, it can help address challenges before breakdowns occur. And the benefits of big data – the massive datasets that support analytics -- are not limited to big businesses.

 Today's trucks produce more data than many can handle
 Today's trucks produce more data than many can handle
“The small fleets can behave as big ones if they embrace the tools that the dealers and the OEM have today,” said Volvo's Skip Yeakel. He referred to his company’s Uptime Centre, and the way it diagnoses issues remotely, as an example.

Even though larger fleets have more resources to explore raw data, smaller operations still have the opportunity to look at single reports or receive alerts, added Larry Jordan of Zonar, a supplier of fleet management software. These are the details that can help avoid breakdowns or delays at weigh stations.

“It’s not just the uptime," he said, "but it’s the availability of the truck, the availability of the driver, and the availability of the product you’re delivering.”

There were certainly fans of such ideas.

“In the perfect world, I’d like to see a truck tell me what’s wrong with it,” said Kirk Altrichter.

Some of the biggest challenges appear to involve sorting through the reams of available data, or finding the useful tidbits hiding in file folders. Even gathering the data can be a problem.

“Why am I re-keying information?” Altrichter mused. “Warranty is still a very manual process, even if you have agreements loaded into the system.” And where manufacturers often understand their own brands, their systems often struggle to communicate with those used by competing nameplates, he said.

“Organizations are learning the same thing over and over again because they never took the information and turned it into knowledge,” added Ric Bedard of  Cetaris, which sells very sophisticated fleet maintenance software.

There can also be too much of a good thing, leading to information overload. Altrichter learned that the hard way when asking to be alerted about any monitored fault codes.

“We ended up turning it off quite quickly.” The goal instead is trying to identify the codes that require immediate attention, and those that can wait to the next preventive maintenance cycle, he said.

Yves Maurais of Groupe Robert stressed the need to set specific goals for the data being collected.

“Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to get the correct tools,” he said. And he encouraged maintenance managers to review new technologies at least one day a week, even looking beyond North America since truck manufacturers are increasingly global. Technologies are developed around the world.

Smaller fleets, said Marais, might want to focus on the data and systems linked to regulations. “Make 

Using standardized Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS) can help make sense of the 'big data' that guides operational issues, said Michael Riemer of Decisiv, another software provider. That’s when a maintenance manager’s role shifts from managing parts to managing processes, and how useful information can be available at the point of service.

Then there's the question of the quality of the data being used. Feed garbage in, and any system will spit garbage back out.

“Step back and make sure the fundamental numbers are right before you build your decisions around those numbers,” warned Bedard.

Another challenge is that vehicle systems, which might work well independently, often don’t work well together, Maurais added. “At some point we have to make sure that everyone speaks together.”

“Whatever happens, I hope it’s a simplified version of what happens in a truck right now,” he said, referring to technicians who now have to juggle an array of connections and different software platforms when working on mixed fleets. “Right now it’s a nightmare.”

Above all, the ultimate goals of the exercise need to be unique to every fleet, said Riemer. There is a difference between the preventive maintenance schedules recommended by a manufacturer, and what might actually be required in a punishing environment like Northern Alberta. “Make it specific to your operation.”

In the midst of it all, there's a need to ensure the data is controlled, especially as more items are connected through the Internet of Things.

“You have to focus on access as well as the security. It’s a fine balance,” said Riemer. Jeep discovered this the hard way when hackers demonstrated how they could control a vehicle on the road. “If you design it right, you shouldn’t have the type of issues that Jeep had.”

The industry might even need to take care and ensure emerging systems don’t interfere with each other. That isn’t a problem now, said Altrichter. “I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow.”

WADING INTO A SEA OF DATA. That's what Ryder System's Bill Dawson talked about in his keynote address at CFMS. Again, I'm going to have to rely on a colleague's report here, namely Today's Trucking's associate editor Dave Nesseth...

More data is available to the trucking industry today than ever before in its history, to the point that data and maintenance have become integrally linked. But it will take time to figure out how to perfectly integrate this new sea of data into day-to-day business, said Dawson.

“This sea of data — this deluge of data — changes every day,” he told CFMS attendees. “They need to be able to mire through the noise; and it is noisy.”

Dawson quoted a popular IBM factoid that suggests most of the data that exists in today’s world was created within the last two years. In fact, data has become so widespread that understanding and utilizing that data has shifted how industry technicians are celebrated these days, he said. Whereas it used to be all about mechanical know-how, the individuals winning tech competitions in modern times are often the savviest in terms of technology and electronics, not just a wrench.

“They're on the younger side, and the best at managing information,” said Dawson, adding that it’s a divide that will only continue to grow.

At Ryder, he’s dealing with some 180,000 fleet vehicles, 5200 technicians, and some 800 shops. It’s a long way from just a single truck when the company got underway in the 1930s. Now, about $1 billion each year is dedicated to Ryder’s maintenance spending, said Dawson. With these kinds of numbers, data can be overwhelming.

“It’s hard to be nimble with that data when you’re as big as we are,” he said.

The data age is also beginning to connect the trucking industry in ways never seen before. Ryder has invested heavily in advance planning and scheduling for its 40,000 or so customers, so they can use data to their advantage and increase uptime. It’s all about interpreting data so that service can be improved, whether it’s ordering in parts at the perfect time, or just having a better understanding of their lifespan.

“What all this does is facilitate a world with no unscheduled downtime,” said Dawson. “That’s the world we want.”

The next key is using that learned information to re-evaluate how to spec trucks.

With all the advances in technology, it can be tough to keep up with the latest breakthroughs, but even tougher to keep technicians equipped with the latest skill sets to handle that technology. Dawson estimates that his technicians receive about 40 hours of training per year.

“It’s just not enough,” he said, adding that additional training time for exhaust aftertreatment systems has become particularly crucial.

Dawson said the world has just scratched the surface when it comes to understanding what’s possible not only with data, but technology in general. The concept of an uptime centre may not exist in the future. Some day, he says, it may be just a truck, a driver, and data.

VOLVO AWARD GOES TO GAUDET. I'll have to leave reports on Kirk Altrichter's address, Yves Provencher's too, the wheel-integrity panel session, and another on the maintenance shop's HR challenge for another time, worthy subjects though they are. But I can't finish without congratulating the winner of the 2016 Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year award sponsored by Volvo.

Not least because his father won the same award 19 years ago! That's a first. Plus they represent the same company, another first.

Armour Transportation Systems’ Mike Gaudet not only followed in his father's footsteps towards trucking, but his dad’s pursuit of excellence as well.

 Armour's Mike Gaudet is Maintenance Manager of the Year
 Armour's Mike Gaudet is Maintenance Manager of the Year
His father, Alban, took home the maintenance honor in 1997.

“I’ve learned a lot from him, and I’m sure he’s learned a lot from me,” an emotional Gaudet told the crowd at CFMS luncheon. “My dad’s been an inspiration.”

That family spirit has crept through the boundaries of Armour’s office walls in Moncton, New Brunswick as well.

“Mike treats us like his own family,” said a colleague through a video feed.

Gaudet got his start in sales, and never trained as a mechanic. Instead he’s climbed the ladder in the trucking business, taking up shop with Armour five years ago.

“You’ve followed the initiative to be good at what you do,” Armour CEO Wes Armour said to Gaudet. “I think you’re right on top of your game right now, and you’ve been a mentor to a lot of people,” he added.

THIS NEWSLETTER IS PUBLISHED every two weeks. For the most part it's a heads-up notice about what's going on with trucking technology. I also write here about interesting products that may not have had the 'air play' they deserved within the last few months, and maybe about issues that warrant attention in my occasionally humble opinion.

I should remind you that, with the odd exception, I don’t endorse any of the products I write about in this e-newsletter, nor do I have the resources to test them except on rare occasions. What you’re getting is reasonably well educated opinion based on more than 35 years in trucking.

If you have comments of whatever sort about The Lockwood Report, or maybe you've tried a gizmo I should know about, please contact me at rolf@newcom.ca

THE MAGAZINE

April fools are those who miss this month's issue of Today's Trucking. But don't worry, it's right here, ready to be clicked. Inside, you can start with the latest on Ontario's new wheel-off crackdown, then explore the ongoing testing of cameras, sensors and mirrors for expanded driver views. Are they distracting? If extending trailer life or understanding the latest in suspension maintenance are up your alley, then take a peek inside. There's something for everyone. See you at Truck World.

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