Ford Strives for 100% Uptime for Commercial Vehicles with Predictive Usage-Based Maintenance Solution


Achieving 100% uptime for a fleet of commercial vehicles is surely every van operator’s dream. Research commissioned by Northgate last year found that, in the UK, Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) operators estimate that each of their vans spend an average of four days per year off the road undergoing servicing, maintenance and repairs, amounting huge costs to the business that go far beyond the bill from the garage.

The Cost of Downtime

Having a vehicle off the road for the best part of a working week increases the chances of losing a valued customer to a rival. As one respondent to the survey put it: “We have to either call hire companies that are local to see if they have availability. If not, we either have to get rid of the job or try and pass the work on to a competitor to make sure the customer isn’t disappointed.”

Then there are parts and labour, tow truck expenses, and, if delays are simply unacceptable, the cost of renting a van on a short-term basis to cover the business’s commercial needs – something that more than a third (36%) of Northgate’s survey respondents said they’d had to do over the previous year. In addition, 47% of respondents said that they also incur fines or penalties when their vans are off the road for a week.

Perhaps the biggest cost, however, concerns productivity losses. Northgate’s research found that the cost to a business in terms of lost work for each day a commercial van is out of action is £800, equating to an average of £3,200 of lost revenue per van, per year. With 763,000 vans currently in operation around the country, this means that downtime is costing UK businesses a whopping £2.4 billion annually.

Tim Bailey, Fleet Director of Northgate Vehicle Hire, comments on the findings: “Minimising time off the road could have a positive effect on the individual fleets as well as the UK’s economy. As we see the economic importance of vans grow, it is crucial that businesses understand the implications that van downtime can have on drivers’ productivity and on the fleet budget.”

He adds that, “Whether it’s caused by mechanical problems, incident damage or scheduled maintenance, van operators need to be prepared for downtime scenarios before they become too costly for the business.”

However, while adequately preparing for downtime scenarios is about all van operators can currently hope to achieve, Ford Motor Company is developing a solution that could potentially eliminate vehicle downtime altogether, and finally make the 100% uptime dream come true.

Targeting 100% for Commercial Vehicle Customers

Promising to revolutionise the way commercial vehicle customers think about servicing, last year Ford announced that it was developing a range of integrated, connectivity-enabled solutions that will enable operators to manage their fleets with greater ease and convenience and maximise their vehicles’ productivity.

Based on the latest generation of connected products featuring the FordPass Connect on-board modem technology, Ford is introducing an innovative and predictive usage-based maintenance solution as it strives to deliver 100% uptime for fleet customers. As Hans Schep, General Manager, Commercial Vehicles, Ford of Europe, explains: “Our solution is usage-based maintenance. Rather than fixed intervals, the maintenance is tailored for each vehicle, so it is only serviced when required to reduce breakdowns.”

The solution utilises IoT sensors that are connected to key systems within vehicles. These sensors provide real-time data directly to a convenient, user-friendly app, allowing business owners to check the status of every individual vehicle in their fleet, and drivers to view live and predicted vehicle health data.

This has many benefits. For one, rather than relying on fixed service interval maintenance models, maintenance can be tailored for each vehicle, meaning that service attention will only be given when actually required, immediately reducing downtime rates. The predictive capabilities of the system also mean that minor problems can be identified and scheduled for a fix before they become serious enough to cause a failure. In addition, any servicing and maintenance work that might normally be carried out in separate visits to a van centre can be bundled together, minimising the time a vehicle spends off the road.

Final Thoughts

Combatting the huge costs of unscheduled downtime is clearly important for today’s fleet operators. Unscheduled maintenance incidents can mean that jobs have to be rearranged, cancelled, or passed on to a competitor – affecting customer loyalty, revenue, and ultimately profit. With its predictive usage-based maintenance solution, Ford is striving to solve this issue for operators by moving away from the traditional fixed service interval model to one that pre-empts problems before they arise, keeping vehicles on the road for longer, and allowing business owners to get a better handle on the overall health of their fleets. 100% uptime is the goal, and Ford believes that its new solution puts the company a step closer to achieving it.

“Commercial customers need smarter, more integrated solutions, built around a connected business environment,” said Schep. “Ford provides tough, flexible vehicles with a choice of fuel-efficient and electrified powertrains, and Ford’s inbuilt modem is a game-changer, enabling smart commercial vehicle solutions to help customers to manage their fleets – so they can get on with their business.”

You can hear Sarah Brettle, Director of Field Operations at Ford, speak at Field Service Connect 2020, taking place in May at the De Vere Beaumont Estate, Windsor, UK. Download the agenda for more insights and information.

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