Microchip-managed maintenance

Microchip-managed maintenance

The task of keeping up with maintaining dozens of vehicles can be daunting. FOCUS investigates the benefits of vehicle maintenance software and how it drives preventative maintenance – while saving your business money  

In order to keep a fleet of vehicles running well, extend operating life and minimise repair costs, operators need to follow a good vehicle maintenance schedule. Vehicle maintenance software is a computerised vehicle log book, which helps operators keep track of required and completed vehicle maintenance.

But, keeping track of those two things is not all these software programs can do. Kaizen Software Solutions specialises in database tracking software for businesses. One of its software solutions is a vehicle maintenance program known as the Vehicle Manager.

Some of the features of the Vehicle Manager are available on most vehicle maintenance software programs and have great money-saving benefits. With this software you can schedule recurring maintenance and inspection items by kilometres or by hours.

Operators can also track the vehicle’s completed services and expenses and its fuel efficiency over time. They can maintain a database of the parts used, track related vendors and contacts, print reports and export to various formats. It is also possible to track and report on business versus personal mileage and track drivers and their licences, certifications and accidents.

The biggest benefit, however, is being able to keep to a strict preventative-maintenance schedule to keep vehicles and the business running smoothly. Nicholas de Canha, CEO of Imperial Fleet Management notes that frequent services can play a pivotal role in getting the most out of the vehicle, in both uptime and life expectancy, particularly in tough applications.

“A winning strategy is being able to manage the vehicle life expectancy through frequent services and accurate maintenance reporting – which is where telematics plays a crucial role,” he says. “These smart technology solutions can provide enormous insights for companies on the vehicle’s application, usage and driver behaviour. These insights will all have an impact on mechanical strain, maintenance costs and, ultimately, protecting the vehicle during its life expectancy.

“Managing a fleet, however, isn’t just about getting vehicles on the road, but rather keeping them there. Achieving optimal vehicle maintenance, therefore, remains an invaluable task for operators,” says De Canha.

The ideal way to do so is through preventative maintenance, which allows operators to detect and keep track of any possible problems before they become serious. The RTA Fleet Management Company says the key to increased productivity and fewer breakdowns is having good information when it is needed.

“With a comprehensive understanding of which pieces of equipment require maintenance at which times, the maintenance work is more efficiently planned and completed,” says the company. “The reduction in unexpected stops and service interruptions contributes to a more efficient fleet service overall.”

RTA adds that a preventative maintenance programme is one of the best things companies can do for their fleets. A benefit, of a planned schedule of preventative maintenance, is reduced downtime as a result of unplanned breakdowns.

Fleet owners will also be able to budget and plan for replacement parts. The cost of these parts will be reduced, because repairs will be conducted on a scheduled basis, rather than as a response to the breakdown or failure of the vehicle.

With a structured setup for vehicle maintenance, operators will be able to plan around the vehicle going in for a service so as not to disrupt productivity.

Sadly, maintenance is sometimes deferred because of a lack of funds, or the need to realign budgets. However, this leads to costly repercussions and premature replacements. While these operators recover, many have taken the initiative to upgrade their preventative efforts to avoid more expensive major repairs.

Remember to keep your cool

It is estimated that up to 40 percent of all engine failures, which lead to costly repairs and unnecessary downtime, are related to problems that stem from the cooling system. Coolants are therefore paramount when it comes to effective vehicle maintenance.

Cummins – a global leader in the manufacture, sales and servicing of diesel engines and related technology – distributes a range of Fleetguard coolants, formulated to protect the engine components of heavy-duty vehicles from cooling system problems.

Gerald Annandale, Cummins technical sales manager for the mining division, notes that coolant is an integral part of vehicle engine maintenance. The coolant is composed of three components; water content, ethylene glycol and a chemical portion.

“Water content cools down the engine, while ethylene glycol forms the antifreeze portion and raises the boiling point. The smallest, but arguably most important, component is the chemical make-up, which provides protection for the internal surfaces of the engine,” he explains.

The cooling system of a vehicle comprises of a number of different types of metal, which results in sensitivity to corrosion. Aluminium, for example, is extremely sensitive to corrosion by chemical attack.

According to Annandale, a good maintenance programme for a vehicle cooling system should include regular testing of the coolant. “It is recommended that a cooling system test is completed every 30 000 km to check the quality of the vehicle’s coolant, and to determine if any contamination has occurred.”

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Andries Ndlehe and Sheldon Mayet with one of Leeu Transport’s 19 trucks.
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