He who controls the PMs, controls the repairs. Preventive maintenance on heavy duty trucks is a golden egg for not just shops, but customers too. Diesel repair shops benefit because PMs provide a steady stream of work.
Customers benefit because preventive maintenance directly maximizes unit uptime. It is the simplest way for a fleet manager to avoid unscheduled downtime, because you can prevent a problem from happening in the first place. The challenge for shops is setting up a reliable system that will easily track PMs. This article discusses all three issues.
What is Preventive Maintenance
Preventive maintenance is service performed on a vehicle or piece of equipment to reduce the chance of its components or systems failing. The idea is to perform preventive maintenance services while the unit is still running. It is proactive in nature. Services performed in response to a complaint on the unit are reactive in nature. These usually happen when something has already gone wrong with the unit, possibly causing it to be out of service.
Preventive maintenance is an investment that pays dividends. When you run a piece of equipment with no maintenance, you will get spectacular financial returns initially. But eventually the hens come home to roost, and you will face massive downtime, high repair bills, and end up paying more to get the equipment running again than you would have spent on preventive maintenance to begin with.
The Goose and the Golden Egg
One of the best illustrations of preventive maintenance is Aesop’s fable of the Goose and the Golden Egg. A farmer, poor and down on his luck, wakes up one morning to find his favorite goose has laid an unusual egg. On further inspection, the farmer sees the egg looks like gold. At first thinking someone has tricked him, he’s about to throw the egg into the bushes. But on second thought, he figures why not, and he takes it to the assayer in the village. It turns out the egg is pure gold.
The next morning, the farmer finds another egg. And the next morning, another one. Pretty soon he is more wealthy than anything he ever could have imagined. But he also becomes very greedy. He wants all of the golden eggs, and he wants them now. So he lops off the head of his goose, reaches inside, and of course finds none. No more golden eggs.
Preventive Maintenance Benefits Customers
In heavy duty diesel repair, the goose is the truck or piece of equipment, and the golden egg is the money your customer makes with it. Many customers and fleet managers want to put the maintenance costs in their pocket and run their equipment as long and as hard as they can with as little preventive maintenance as possible. They are willing to push the goose to be sick and nigh unto death before they shell out for any care.
In the short term, it works. They make more money on the equipment. But you have to take care of the goose. Before long, repair costs skyrocket, unscheduled downtime goes through the roof, and they end up spending (and losing) way more money than if they had just taken proper care of their equipment in the first place. Without a doubt, preventive maintenance saves customers money in the long run.
Preventive Maintenance Benefits Diesel Repair Shops
PMs provide tremendous benefits to a shop as well. Here is a list of just some of these benefits:
- PMs are repeatable, so you can become very efficient at it.
- If you do the PMs, you can do thorough inspections, and you are bound to find things that need to be done. These heavy duty units are constantly ripping themselves apart.
- Like a jealous girlfriend, you don’t want any other shops touching your customer’s trucks and equipment. Doing PMs helps you close the loop and be the only shop handling services.
- PMs have a higher margin
- You can work on multiple units at once when servicing a fleet
Preventive Maintenance Services are Repeatable
The more you do a service, the better and more efficiently you can accomplish it. What the book says you can charge 3 hours for, you may be able to get done in 2. So any chance you have to get a good solid service in multiple times, you should take. It is bound to increases your shop’s efficiency, and your profitability.
So it is with preventive maintenance services. For example, a dry service can be painstaking, and may take a young technician more than the book rate to perform well. But the more he does it, the better and more efficiently he can get it done. Both quality and efficiency increase with experience.
The customer also wins from your experience performing services, because they get their units back faster and are able to minimize down time. The faster and higher quality you can perform your repairs, the more money your customer can make from their trucks or equipment.
Inspections Beget Repairs
No good preventive maintenance service is complete without a thorough inspection. These are valuable in light duty, but indispensable in heavy duty. This is because heavy duty units take such abuse from day to day. In the normal course of their use, semi trucks and other heavy equipment are constantly tearing themselves apart. It is rare not to find something in a thorough inspection.
This is a tremendous benefit to customers, because when you find a problem before it causes the unit to go down, you save the customer the lost revenue from not having that unit in service, and in all probability the fix will be much less expensive when done proactively. Moreover, you will probably get the work, since you already have the unit, and the diag may already be done. It’s a true win/win.
Warranties and Comebacks
Like a jealous girlfriend, you shouldn’t want any other shops touching your customer’s trucks and equipment. By taking care of PMs, you close the loop on all services and are more likely to become the exclusive shop your customers deal with.
This is a big deal when it comes to warrantying your work. If another shop is doing PMs, or any other repairs, how can you confidently warranty a component that later has problems? Who’s to say the other shop didn’t monkey with it, or even did a follow up repair on the same component or system. The customer may blame you for a problem and call it a comeback when in fact another shop caused the issue.
When you do PMs, it becomes more likely you are the only shop involved. In fact, unless the customer is over the road, you should insist on it. You have good reason to, and it helps engender trust between you and the customer. It is good for business in more ways than one.
PMs Have a Higher Margin
No matter who you are, rebuilding an engine takes a lot out of you. Technicians aren’t superman. Physically, mentally, and emotionally it takes a toll. After any big job it can take a day or two just to recover and get back to normal. Repairs that down a unit often fall into this category. They may be high dollar, but they have a heavy cost to the shop. Time, energy, and the risk of comebacks are all a factor. This translates to a lower margin, on average, for big repairs.
This is another reason tracking preventive maintenance for your customers is so beneficial. You can knock them out quickly, there is little risk for comebacks, and the problems you find on inspection are usually much easier to take care of. In the time it takes to rebuild an engine, you can knock out many quality PMs and minor repairs, often at a higher margin than one engine job.
This is not to say you shouldn’t rebuild engines, but striking a healthy balance between heavy repairs and PMs will translate into a more profitable shop and happier technicians.
Multiple Jobs at a Time
Another advantage to tracking preventive maintenance is the opportunity to knock out multiple jobs simultaneously. If you are doing fleet work and are able to work onsite, you can get multiple wet services going simultaneously. Even if the PM doesn’t lend itself to being done on multiple units at once, the proximity of units at a fleet yard means you can go from one to the next quickly, and if they are all getting the same service, you can really get in the zone and knock them out quickly, and at a high quality level.
Doing multiple units at once only makes sense of course if their PMs come due around the same time. PM tracking software like Fullbay will help you synchronize the PM schedules across a customer’s fleet. It will also help you plan upcoming services in a way that makes the most sense, enabling you to be more efficient. Good PM tracking software like Fullbay pays for itself many times over.
He who controls the PMs does control the repairs. A well-maintained truck truly is the goose that lays the golden eggs–for the shop and for the customer. Take care of the goose, and everyone benefits. Preventive maintenance maximizes unit uptime for the customer, and provides shops with more frequent and higher-margin services. The right software simplifies the complicated task of tracking multiple PMs on multiple units.