A few weeks ago, while writing about MOTOR’s labor guides and how important they are for shops, the Fullbay marketing crew got to wondering: How on earth do they keep those things updated?
What might have been a passing fancy deepened into a need to know. Was it sorcery? Guesswork? How much coffee was involved?
To get answers, we sat down with Paul Moszak, Vice President & Heavy-Duty Evangelist at MOTOR Information Systems. You may know him already—he appeared in the 2022 edition of our State of Heavy-Duty Repair. He very graciously answered our questions about MOTOR, its history, and yes, its labor guides.
So, how did MOTOR get its start?
Buckle up—this is a good one.
THE ORIGIN STORY
Gather ‘round, children, and prepare to be amazed: MOTOR has been around for almost 120 years.
Way back in 1903, automobiles were considerably rarer than they are now. Oh, sure, humanity had been working on steam-driven vehicles since at least the 17th century (yes, really), but the internal combustion engine as we know it didn’t really start to coalesce until the late 1800s, when Carl Benz really got to work.
The cars available in that year came from Ford (including the Model A), Benz, and Mercedes. What did they all have in common? Well, aside from being shockingly exposed to the elements and probably pretty slow and noisy by modern standards, they were also very, very expensive. The 1903 Model A started at $850, which was out of reach for all but the wealthy.
With that said, those who could acquire cars were into them. Like the car enthusiasts of today, they wanted to know how to trick them out, get more mileage out of them, and look cool while doing it. MOTOR appeared to help them. “The magazine was originally called, I think, Motoring,” Paul says. “It included style articles, what to pack in your picnic basket, what accessories to put on your car, what hats for women to wear.”
In the back of the book, William Randolph Hearst—yes, that William Randoph Hearst—decided to start putting car parts in the back. “He knew that men would get the magazine as well and start looking up parts that they might need for their cars,” Paul says. “That was the start of developing information for the automobile industry.”
A PRINT COMPANY GOES DIGITAL
Motoring evolved alongside the automobile industry. Eventually, they released enormous books that included labor times, parts, service information, and repair information that technicians across the country kept on their shelves.
In 2007, MOTOR purchased FleetCross to round out their heavy-duty offerings. “They had a pretty large light-duty offering,” Paul tells us. “FleetCross was always a digital company, selling licenses for cross-references. When we became a part of MOTOR, we discovered they had labor operations that were printed in a book [The Big Red Book, if you recall]. As soon as I saw that, I said, ‘I’m gonna digitize that and put it in FleetCross.’”
And he did.
Now, FleetCross distributed its materials through software and databases. The two companies were, in a way, made for each other; each brought something to the table that the other did not have. The second decade of the 2000s was spent getting a lot of the MOTOR materials online. “By 2015,” Paul says, “print seemed obsolete.”
(*Cue writer sobbing)
Here’s the thing about printed documents: they have limitations, largely around space and page count. “We had all this other information that we never put in the book,” Paul recalls, and they opted to make that information available as a sort of sweetener in the digital products. From there, it was only a matter of time until digital became the main way to find medium-heavy labor information.
THE LABOR GUIDES
While MOTOR offers a whole suite of useful products, we’ve always really been into the labor guides. They’re an important tool for almost any shop; you can use them to ensure you’re charging appropriately, to help train new techs, and even see how long “the guy down the street” might be taking for repairs.
But obviously technology is changing (yes, even diesel tech!) and these guides have to be updated properly. How does MOTOR do it?
In short, they have relationships with different manufacturers and different sorts of repair information. As soon as MOTOR sees new repair procedures established for new model years, their SMEs go to work on those procedures to see if there’s any nuanced differences. Is it the same make and model as last year? Or is there a difference in procedure—like a slight change in a brake job?
They then make the decision to modify the labor information or keep it the same.
MOTOR’s subject matter experts (SMEs) also look at vehicles that may contain new systems. In recent years, there have been lots of changes around DEF systems and exhaust filters, for example.
“It’s kind of a continuous update,” Paul concludes. He notes that it became very, very difficult for the print version to keep up with the rapid changes. “The book was only updated every two years. We started updating [the digital edition] whenever there was information to update it.”
Now, there are some limitations to the updates—some OEMs release information right away, while others have it on a schedule. But when a new repair procedure is released, they’ll bring it to their SMEs and ask them to take a look at questions like:
- What does it take to do this repair?
- What are the ancillary things that make up this repair for the aftermarket?
That last question is critical. The answer includes the time spent pulling a truck into the bay, getting your tools together, and other “setup/admin time” that is required. That’s what makes the MOTOR labor time so comprehensive—it includes the background, practical work that goes on even before the real work begins.
“We often consider it real-world labor because it’s coming from technicians that do the work,” he says.
We wondered aloud if sending updates about all these updates took up a lot of time. Turns out, MOTOR doesn’t do that—the information just becomes available to search. If they pushed update notifications each time they made one…well, that’s a lot of notifications.
HEADING INTO THE FUTURE
We’ve often heard it posited that the diesel industry is about a decade behind in terms of technology. Paul wouldn’t go that far—he thinks maybe five years, and rapidly catching up.
MOTOR, for its part, is in the middle of a four-year project centered around heavy-duty data. They’re refreshing the FleetCross UI (currently the parts cross-reference module). “It’s screen agnostic,” Paul tells us, “phone, PC, everything in between…and the smart search is much more like what you see on various search sites, with filters. It’s very fast; you’ll be able to search words and parts numbers and phrases, and it’ll get you in the ballpark.”
The rest of their refresh is centered on data—including a big bump to their service module.
The automotive and light-duty industry are a little ahead in terms of how much information is available in easily searched formats; MOTOR aims to bring the heavy-duty industry in line with that.
We’re excited to see MOTOR’s continued progress and its impact on the diesel industry. And hey, if you’re a Fullbay user, you can benefit from their parts cross-reference, labor guides, and service guides by switching on our MOTOR integration.