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How to Create Maintenance Automation That Saves Time and Money Brian Dziuk | May 25, 2020 10:45:00 AM

Whether it’s vehicles, heavy equipment, or other assets, maintenance is always a key concern. Under-maintained vehicles and equipment are more prone to sudden breakdowns during operation. Not only can these breakdowns cause delays, they can be expensive to fix (especially if you factor in the extra cost to tow assets or have them serviced in the field).

Of course, sticking to a maintenance schedule can be difficult—especially when you have a lot of assets to maintain and not a lot of spare time to let them sit in the shop. This is where maintenance automation can help.

What is maintenance automation? How can you create an automated equipment and vehicle program that saves time and money for your business? Here’s a quick explanation of what maintenance automation means, and how you can benefit from it:

What Is Maintenance Automation?

“Maintenance automation” is a term for a set of procedures that help businesses track the status of their assets and set up both routine and emergency maintenance as needed. It often focuses on preventative rather than “break/fix” repairs to help keep costs down and minimize asset downtime.

One tools that is often used for automating maintenance scheduling is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software. This type of software helps track when various assets were last maintained and schedules preventative maintenance at set intervals. When an asset reaches its assigned preventative maintenance deadline, a maintenance technician (or the company’s third-party maintenance service provider) will get an alert.

Using software to track when various assets are due for repairs, fleet managers and others in charge of asset assignment can make sure that the asset is available to be maintained (ensuring maintenance doesn’t fall behind because the asset is being overused). This helps to increase overall uptime and ensure that assets can operate at peak efficiency.

Automating maintenance schedules can be beneficial for all kinds of assets. Two types of assets that are frequently put on automated maintenance programs are vehicles and heavy equipment.

Creating Maintenance Automation for Vehicle Repairs

Vehicle repairs are a huge expense for businesses with mobile assets. Without regular maintenance, vehicles can suffer catastrophic failures on the road—this puts drivers, cargo, and other people on the road at severe risk of harm. Using preventative maintenance and maintenance automation can keep vehicles in top shape so embarrassing (and costly) roadside failures are prevented.

When creating an automated maintenance plan for fleet vehicles, here are a few things that can help:

  • Having a System for Logging All Vehicle Data. Optimizing maintenance scheduling requires having a thorough understanding of the condition of each vehicle in your fleet. Being able to log data such as total vehicle mileage, time since last maintenance, and even recordings of vehicle diagnostic codes can all help improve maintenance scheduling.
  • Obtaining a Means of Collecting Vehicle Data. To populate your vehicle maintenance log, you need a means of collecting data. Most modern vehicles have an OBD-II port that you can plug telematics devices into so you can automate this data collection. This makes tracking vehicle data easier and more consistent than relying on manual data logs.
  • Focusing on Preventative Maintenance. Instead of waiting for something to break so you can fix it, work to proactively check for potential problems and fix them before they can cause major harm.
  • Tracking Driver Behaviors. How are drivers utilizing vehicles? Are they practicing efficient and responsible behaviors, or are they spending excessive amounts of time in idle, accelerating/braking hard, and constantly going off-route? Having a means of tracking these behaviors can be crucial for curbing them and helping drivers be safer, more productive employees.
  • Clearing Vehicle Use Schedules for Planned Downtime. It’s hard to bring in a vehicle for maintenance if it’s constantly being used. Whenever a vehicle is due for maintenance, it should be temporarily cycled out of use. Setting planned maintenance dates for preventative services ahead of time can also help.

Fleet telematics and GPS tracking devices can be particularly helpful for automating maintenance. For example, many vehicle GPS devices can plug into the OBD-II port of the vehicle, collecting diagnostic code data in real time as they also collect location data and driver behavior statistics. This helps make vehicle repairs easier to track and schedule to prevent costly breakdowns.

Maintenance Automation and Heavy Equipment

Fleet vehicles aren’t the only things that can benefit from using maintenance automation. Other assets, like heavy equipment, can also benefit from following a planned maintenance schedule and receiving preventative repairs rather than waiting for something expensive (and potentially dangerous) to break.

Automating maintenance for heavy equipment is fairly similar to doing the same for vehicles. You’ll want to track key equipment use statistics, such as total engine running time, time since last maintenance, fuel consumption, engine idle time, equipment start/stop times, and (if available) onboard diagnostic codes. This data helps you determine the best time to bring your heavy equipment in for maintenance to prevent issues.

On top of tracking data using telematics or other solutions, you may want to train your employees to perform thorough manual inspections of heavy equipment prior to use—checking for things like leaky hydraulics systems, corrosion, abnormal exhaust, or other issues prior to use. A person in the field might be able to spot problems and report them to a maintenance technician. This, in turn, can help to improve safety by preventing the use of faulty equipment.

Need help tracking vehicle and equipment data so you can enable a maintenance automation plan? Reach out to Rastrac to discover how you can get the data you need to make maintenance more effective and efficient.

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