The electronic revolution is here, whether we like it or not. Many an industry has faced an adapt-or-die scenario: adapt to the new technologies or die a slow business death, and trucking has been no exception.
Today, we live in a world where electronic control modules feed data to and from vehicles and maintenance shops. Maintenance and database systems spew out eye-popping amounts of information through report after report. Modern software can measure just about any operating parameter the user desires.
And yet, with all of this wonderful information at our fingertips, too few a trucking company knows how to manage it. The secret to harnessing the power of big data is through turning that data into actionable information.
Big Data for Prevention
One of the brave new frontiers of trucking lies in using big data to guide predictive truck maintenance activities. It can help shops address potential breakdowns before they even occur. Massive datasets supporting immediate analytics provide near instantaneous results.
The great part is that these changes aren’t just for the big players. Small fleets can behave like bigger carriers when they use the tools and software provided by major OEMs today.
One key difference is that larger fleets have the resources to mine the data for valuable information. Still, the smaller operators have ample opportunities to look at reports or receive specific alerts. This is the type of information that can help carriers avoid breakdowns or weigh station delays.
No longer is it just about uptime, now trucking companies can address the availability of the truck, the truck driver, and the product being delivered, in real time. With so much information at your fingertips, parsing out specific aspects of your operation becomes a cinch.
Not Without Challenges
Despite the potential provided by big data, its use is not without challenges, the main one being how to sort through the voluminous amounts of information made available to the user. Sometimes even gathering the data can be a complicated adventure.
Another problem lies in interoperability. While manufacturers are good at understanding their own brands, they have more difficulty communicating with systems used by other manufacturers. The variety of different software options makes across-the-board communications slightly difficult.
The reason companies are having such a hard time with this is because they have never been presented with so much information, or the ability to turn it into actionable solutions. When information overload happens, you may end up with too much of a good thing.
One example of this lies in fault codes. Without the means to decipher and act on them as they come in, their sheer amount can be overwhelming. The goal should be to find the codes that need immediate attention, while still prioritizing those that fall under the category of preventative truck maintenance.
What Are Your Goals?
The key is to outline what your goals are. Once you know what you’re looking for, it becomes easier to put the right tools and people in place. Maintenance managers should be reviewing the latest in new technologies at least once a week.
For smaller fleets, the most important focus should be on data and systems that help you deal with regulations. Staying in compliance should be your number one priority, with the rest just being a cherry on top.
The best way to get on top of the mounds of data you produce is to use the Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards to help ensure the data you are using guides operational solutions. The maintenance manager’s role should shift slightly from managing parts to managing processes.
In the midst of it all, fleets must also consider the need to ensure the data is properly controlled. In this brave new world of the Internet of Things, security is just as important as access. In the end, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to big data, but utilizing it to fulfill your truck maintenance needs should be at the top of the list.