Under the Hood: How IoT Tech Transforms Fleet Ops

Under the Hood: How IoT Tech Transforms Fleet Ops

Sensors Insights by Dave McCarthy

In Brief

Other industries embarking on digital transformations should take transportation’s lead in leveraging IoT. Fleet managers use IoT to tackle unplanned downtime, unite their fleets, and develop interactive repair processes to save money and increase productivity.  


In Practice

From commercial trucking to agriculture and construction, heavy-duty vehicles play a vital role in business operations for many industries. But, maintenance and repair costs for these sophisticated, expensive assets can represent 20 to 30 percent of a vehicle’s lifetime cost. Because of this, owners and operators are constantly looking for new ways to save money on repairs, which can improve profitability and productivity.

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Traditionally, manufacturers and fleet operators have broadly deployed telematics solutions to help gain insight into vehicle health. Unfortunately, that insight has historically been limited due to connectivity constraints and the inability to properly analyze the data generated by hundreds or even thousands of vehicles. But, that’s all changing due to advances in Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

Fleet operators can now create a well-designed Industrial IoT (IIoT) system capable of gathering and utilizing all the data their vehicles produce – even without continuous connectivity – and examining it in conjunction with related data sources, such as steering and transmission subsystems. This provides a deeper level of insight into vehicle conditioning, which allows an organization to dramatically improve uptime, reduce mean-time-to-repair, and more rapidly pinpoint the root cause of failures.

All of this translates into operational efficiency, which saves fleet managers time and money. But, how specifically are these organizations deploying IIoT solutions to solve real business issues? Here are three ways IIoT is transforming fleet operations:


Tackling Unplanned Downtime

Unscheduled downtime is a major concern for fleet operations and truck maintenance managers. In fact, it can have a ripple effect across the entire company, from supply chain disruption to lost revenue. Part of the challenge lies in being able to quickly diagnose a problem, obtain the needed parts and complete the repair. The average time required for a single repair is therefore measured in weeks, rather than days or hours.

IoT can enable significant strides in fleet uptime. Using real-time monitoring of truck telematics data, fleet managers can gain instant insights into diagnostic trouble code (DTC) faults as they happen. In many cases, multiple DTCs occur at once and IoT systems integrated into fleet management systems can analyze all the active fault codes along with current operating parameters to assign probabilities highlighting the most likely root cause. The right systems can even indicate which error conditions require immediate attention versus the DTCs that can wait.

IoT can also improve unplanned downtime through predictive and prescriptive data analytics. By ingesting historical, telematics and diagnostic data an advanced IoT solution can recognize leading indicators of a failure event. It can then use the same telematics systems to monitor for those adverse event indicators and enable condition-based maintenance (CBM). This process enables fleet managers to tailor service schedules based on actual vehicle performance, instead of relying on arbitrary time or mileage-based maintenance benchmarks. In addition to improving truck reliability, performance and useful life, this approach allows managers to schedule repairs for times that will have the least amount of impact on the business.

Over time, the system can become smarter as it continually learns from diagnostic and repair information (also called adaptive diagnostics), increasing confidence in the probable cause of a failure. This results in a significant improvement in first-time repair rates and reduction in mean-time-to-repair metrics.


United Fleet Management

Often, fleets include multiple types of trucks. As a result, managers must deal with challenges associated with trying to unify a unique mix of disparate vehicle data into a single system. Simple telematics solutions lack advanced data analysis capabilities, so they only provide a small window into the operation of a fleet. Without the insights, a robust IoT solution can provide, fleet managers are left overwhelmed and unable to gain a comprehensive and complete view of their fleet.

The right IoT solution can unite operational data to create a holistic organizational overview. And while IoT offers tremendous potential for fleet managers in this respect, it’s important not to expect to jump in head first or with a flip of a switch. Gaining a unified fleet view – and maximizing the potential benefits of IoT – takes time and a strategic plan of attack. By approaching IoT as a progressive process, fleets can take small steps to deploy their solution over time, identifying key business objectives along the way, and maximize the odds of a successful implementation.


Interactive Repair Manuals And Processes

While truck and transportation fleets have made tremendous strides when it comes to in-vehicle telematics and technology, untapped digital potential remains. By ingesting service histories, and the static information found in repair manuals, into an IoT platform, managers can unlock organizational benefits they never knew existed.

This is a unique opportunity to enable real knowledge sharing throughout a repair department. Rather than have mechanics operate in silos to repair fleet vehicles, a forward-thinking, IoT-centric fleet can turn manuals into interactive assets. These assets become a place where mechanics can share knowledge to help one another fix problems faster, while increasing the overall intelligence and efficiency of the repair process. Easy access to information in an interactive format enables mechanics and technicians to diagnose issues faster, combine duplicate repair steps, troubleshoot multiple problems at the same time, and store all of that shared knowledge for future technician use or to build repair automations.


In The End

At the end of the day IoT is transforming how fleet managers and trucking companies operate. While the technology is a crucial element, successful IIoT initiatives are a cross-organizational effort that starts with shared business goals. Viewing it as a strategic progression can help ensure successful adoption. The best way to determine where to start and finish is to have a clear, well-outlined plan for execution, and an understanding of what constitutes success.


About the author

Dave McCarthy is a leading authority on industrial IoT. As senior director of products at Bsquare Corporation, he advises Fortune 1000 customers on how to integrate device and sensor data with their enterprise systems to improve business outcomes. Dave regularly speaks at technology conferences around the globe and recently delivered the keynote presentation at Internet of Things North America. He is also a frequent contributor to IT publications, including IoT Evolution and TechTarget. Dave earned an MBA with honors from Northeastern University.

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