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Techno-logic

Lucas Deal March 21, 2013

I spent four days last week at the Technology and Maintenance Council’s Annual Meeting at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. In between the daily hunt for my room and the confusion as to why a hotel needs an indoor waterfall and a river, I was able to take in multiple task force meetings and study group educational sessions.

During those sessions, one topic that worked its way to the forefront with some regularity was computer technology — specifically the type of technology that helps techs track vehicle repairs and diagnose breakdowns.

This technology isn’t new, but I’ll tell you, fleets absolutely love it. They love the ability to track all of their trucks and PMs in one place. They love that no matter where their truck is they can quickly pull up its complete maintenance history. They love that there’s no more paperwork. No more phone calls. No more waiting.

And they’ll love you if you’re shop uses the same software.

While I recognize this technology is still expensive, I think it will be a great improvement to the dealer market. Especially when dealing with transient customers — you won’t have to start from scratch anymore.

For example, let’s say you’re operating a dealership in the Pacific Northwest and a customer arrives from central California. The driver is in the middle of his standard San Francisco to Seattle and back run and his truck is pouring black smoke.

He just pulled off the highway, and you were the first dealer he found.

In the past, you had to service that customer blind. You could still visibly see him of course, but you knew nothing about the truck or the fleet. Not when he arrived. You would have to call his fleet garage, request information about the truck’s history and the fleet’s maintenance schedule.

That could take a half hour or half a day.

Now it can take minutes. With the new service management software OEMs are producing for their dealers, you pull that truck’s VIN and know its complete vehicle history in minutes. You won’t immediately know what’s wrong — but you can see if something similar has happened in the past.

That’s a huge upgrade compared to the way things used to be, says Jeff Sweet at Decisiv.

Volvo/Mack has been utilizing Decisiv’s ASIST service platform for more than a year, and Volvo Trucks recently announced that all new trucks it produces will leave the assembly line complete with a QR code affixed inside the front door.

These QR codes make pulling a customers’ information even easier than the VIN. Just scan the code with any smartphone or tablet and the vehicle’s information is immediately pulled into your software.

No more phone calls. And Sweet says a dealer can interact directly with the fleet through the service platform, forward diagnostic information and repair orders for approval. And anything added to the vehicle’s record in your service bay is immediately saved, and will be visible the next time the QR code is scanned.

Volvo says the program is working so well some fleet customers are adding QR codes to older trucks. Decisiv says Saia has added QR codes to its entire fleet; more than 17,000 vehicles.

But Decisiv’s ASIST isn’t the only system out there. Each OEM has its own management tool that provides the same benefits. Information is immediately loaded and saved, fleets and dealers can interact immediately throughout the programs and customers can get back on the road faster.

And that’s just for managing the service event.

Programs like Noregon’s J-PRO Diagnostic Tool is available to help your technicians quickly read fault codes, look for root cause issues and troubleshoot repairs, while Mitchell 1’s brand new TruckLabor program provides standard repair times for all types of repairs while immediately notifying a tech, service writer or fleet manager.

“J-Pro can pull OEM fault codes in 15 seconds and provide so much information,” says Greg Reimmuth, vice president of sales and marketing at Noregon Systems. “That’s a significant time savings.”

For that customer stranded in unfamiliar land, saving time cannot be overlooked.

Lucas Deal is the editor of Truck Parts & Service and Successful Dealer. He can be reached at lucasdeal@randallreilly.com.

You can follow me on twitter at @lddeal85

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