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Solve Unscheduled Fleet Maintenance with Business Analytics

Originally published May 21, 2012

Whatís the best way to drive down unscheduled maintenance expenses? The most common answer from industry professionals is to tune up your preventive maintenance program. Okay, that makes sense. But how do you accomplish that large and ambiguous objective? Just as importantly, how do you control the costs of the events when they do occur?

Where to Start

There are three primary areas of opportunity for reducing your exposure to unscheduled maintenance expenses. Consider Figure 1:

Figure 1: Reducing Unscheduled Maintenance Exposure


First is prevention. This is the ultimate target of those pursuing predictive analytics related to the subject area of life cycle costs (LCC). Past behavior is often the best predictor of future behavior, right?† Having a rich, reliable history of fleet maintenance data in your data warehouse is a must. You not only gain perspective on LCC, but you also facilitate opportunities for low-effort, high-return analytics.

That lower priced brake pad may not be quite the deal you thought if it only lasts half as long as the competitorís brand. One premier trucking company thought they were saving a lot of money with their battery recharge program only to find they were replacing batteries at a higher frequency. They were also buying alternators they didnít need due to misdiagnosis of the cause of the power loss. Diagnosing failures between preventive maintenance events or scheduled services can quickly isolate chronic repair issues in your fleet. Likewise, repeat repairs highlight opportunities for quality control, training, or even restitution.


No one is perfect. Things will happen. Are you prepared? Do you have the processes in place to support point-of-impact decisions?† In the world of fleet operations, every unscheduled maintenance event is more costly than the repairs themselves. It interrupts normal operations, keeps your drivers on the sidelines and ultimately jeopardizes your service commitments to your customers. Having the right tools to help you expedite diagnosis and dynamically select the right vendor for the repair Ė no matter where your equipment may be Ė is critical. You cannot make the best decision without knowing the history of your equipment, the qualities and capabilities of your vendors or possibly even the historical behavior of your drivers.


It happened. You made the best decision you could. How do you minimize the financial impact? When your personal vehicle breaks down, you get an estimate, right? The same is true here, and most organizations are good about doing this. However, do you capture the estimate and hold your vendors and management team accountable? Thereís going to be some variance between the estimate and the final payment, but donít make any assumptions.

Tapping your data warehouse to generate some variance reporting can pay dividends by identifying problematic vendors or employees and sometimes even fraud. One of the best tools that can be easily generated from your data warehouse is a simple cost exception report. Set the upper and lower control limits for the type of work performed, and you would be surprised what you find. One fleet found a fire extinguisher they bought for $1,800. Several have found their breakdown coordinators authorizing multiple tire purchases when the reported incident was just one flat. Working the exceptions each day saves a tremendous amount of time and yields a considerable return.


The ROI generated from these processes is huge, so why arenít more organizations implementing these actionable forms of business intelligence? The number one challenge is the data itself. A solid extract, transform and load (ETL) process that navigates multiple data sources is required. You also need the technical and subject matter expertise to generate efficient, actionable intelligence from the overwhelming amount of information. In the end, itís worth the effort.


If a fleet only implements pieces of the solution, there is still opportunity for significant return. But, the real value is in a holistic approach to the business problem. Mitigating costs from unscheduled maintenance events is a no-brainer, and the effectiveness of doing so is usually pretty visible. However, if you combine those practices with real-time management strategies before the ink is dry on the invoice and, more importantly, before the equipment gets unexpectedly put in the shop, there are multiple points of opportunity to minimize unscheduled maintenance events and associated expenses.

Identify the needed data, integrate it, expose it to your management team, operationalize the intelligence and enjoy the rewards. The opportunity for ROI is tens of thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the size of the fleet. Fleet maintenance expenses are rising. Counter those expenses with effective business intelligence.

SOURCE: Solve Unscheduled Fleet Maintenance with Business Analytics

  • James LangleyJames Langley
    James is the Vice President of Business Analytics at TMW Systems, Inc., the leader in software solutions for the trucking industry. He has more than 18 years of experience in business intelligence, logistics engineering and operations management. He has served in key senior management roles for both billion dollar institutions and small businesses. Leveraging real world experience with an analytical approach, he has spent his career bridging the gap between business and technology.

    His experiential expertise includes transportation and logistics management, fleet maintenance, and prepaid financial processing. His approach to achieving business objectives is working directly with business owners to identify areas of strategic opportunity, developing an understanding of the existing environment through process and data analysis, collaborating with the business to design a plan of action, and helping to operationalize the plan within the organization to actualize the ROI.

    His ability to overcome data quality challenges, convert business intelligence into actionable processes, and implement strong data stewardship accountability and initiative measurement standards has proven to be a catalytic mechanism for businesses striving to adapt in an ever-changing environment.

    Editor's note: More transportation articles, resources, news and events are available in the BeyeNETWORK's Transportation Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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