Predictive Maintenance: A New Approach to Servicing VehiclesPosted 5/15/2007
By Leona Dalavai Scott
As automotive service professionals, we realize the importance and need for preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance is not only good for the consumer, it is good business for automotive service shops. Most recently, another type of maintenance is slowly making its way into automotive service shops. Predictive maintenance (or PdM) can be defined as using different tools to evaluate vehicle condition to provide maintenance. Through predictive maintenance, shops are better able to predict the timing of when specific components on a car may break down or start to cause bad operating conditions. "The ultimate goal of PdM," the online encyclopedia Wikipedia writes, "is to perform maintenance 'just in time,' before the equipment fails in service."
Corey Glassman, industrial group training manager with the Fluke Corp. (which manufactures the types of tools to analyze this kind of information), said predictive maintenance has been used for many decades in other industries such as aircraft, steel and processing plants, but is now finding its way into automotive service.
"I predict that within the next couple of years, PdM is going to be all the rage [in automotive service]," said Glassman, who has worked in the automotive industry for more than 30 years and is ASE triple-master certified.
Glassman said many shops are already doing predictive maintenance and don't even know it. He pointed out that some scan tools and onboard diagnostic equipment already monitor the conditions of a car and try to troubleshoot problem areas before they occur.
"Shops need to include prediction methods into their diagnostic routines," advised Glassman. "Changing filters, oil and components based on mileage and time won't stop, but using predictive tools and techniques to find potential problems before they become catastrophic is new age." Glassman said that in the automotive service environment, "reactive maintenance" is what technicians deal with the most as a result of equipment and/or engine failure. The classic scenario is when a car breaks down, a customer comes in to get it serviced.
What distinguishes predictive maintenance from preventive is that, for example, a technician would take the time to analyze an oil sample after changing the oil to determine if there is bearing material present [in the oil] or perhaps coolant. In another example of predictive maintenance, a tech may use a scan tool to view data parameters even though the malfunction indicator light (MIL) is not lit. Techs may use temperature to determine if an item has excessive friction because of the lack of lubrication, misadjustment or a restriction in the cooling system, resulting in a reduced flow of coolant.
Like preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance can involve a variety of functions and can include checking the engine temperature through the use of thermal imagery (see Figures A-D on page 15), conducting a vibration analysis through noise/vibration/harshness and using laser alignment to determine if motors and belts are perfectly aligned. The great thing about predictive maintenance is "most PdM inspections are performed while equipment is in service, thereby minimizing disruption of normal system operations. Adoption of PdM in the maintenance of equipment can result in substantial cost savings and higher system reliability," writes Wikipedia.
Glassman believes, though, that PdM is much more than just analysis.
"Predictive maintenance is not just vibration monitoring or thermal imaging or lubricating oil analysis," Glassman said. "Rather, predictive maintenance is the means of improving productivity, product quality and overall effectiveness of shops."
Why should shops consider incorporating predictive maintenance practices into their daily shop operations, especially when it can involve a pricey investment in tools?
Bill Haas, vice president of training and education at the Automotive Service Association, believes predictive maintenance "adds a new dimension to auto repair."
"Shops that invest in the equipment and train technicians in their technology will offer vehicle owners an alternative to the unexpected and inconvenience that is usually associated with car repairs," Haas said, referring to the "reactive maintenance" that Glassman mentioned.
The Fluke Corp. has conducted much research on the benefits of predictive maintenance in other industries. Many of the benefits can also be true in automotive service and include:
Certainly cost is a great consideration for shops when investing in equipment to implement a predictive maintenance program. Glassman said shops may see a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in maintenance expenditures at first, but over the long term, the equipment and new way of doing business could result in a labor and material cost reduction of 35 percent to 60 percent.
He said the cost of some thermal imagers begin at around $6,000 and include the software and training to go with it. Creating awareness of this new way of maintaining cars will most certainly be one of the greatest challenges that may prevent shops from jumping in feet first with predictive maintenance programs.
"Like anything new, there will be some apprehension until you get beyond creating awareness," said Haas. "A shop may need to offer case study examples before the consumer fully understands the benefits of predictive maintenance."
Asked how can shops slowly phase in predictive maintenance programs into their daily shop operations, Glassman said they should consider purchasing a thermal imager. A thermal imager allows you to shoot a "photo" of the scene, so to speak, to determine what is going on inside of a vehicle. "Heat is a good measurement of many different things," said Glassman.
He also said one of the benefits to investing in predictive maintenance tools is that, unlike scan tools, the equipment is universal in nature and can be used on all makes and models of cars. In addition, he said, predictive maintenance equipment has come down in price and is easier to use.
For shops that make technology a priority, incorporating predictive maintenance practices into their daily shop operations could be a wise investment.
"The benefit to the shop will be huge," Haas predicts. "Predictive maintenance will eliminate situations where a customer had a repair performed elsewhere due to after-hours breakdown, appointment not available or they were on a trip. Predictive maintenance offers ample time to make all of the appropriate decisions regarding estimated expense, scheduling and parts procurement." And with benefits like those, what shop would not want to investigate their options regarding predictive maintenance?
Photos courtesy of Fluke Corp.
Editor's Note: To learn more about this new technology, please visit www.fluke.com or contact Corey Glassman at Corey.Glassman@fluke.com or (800) 760-4523, ext. 1. Currently, the Mechanical Division of the Automotive Service Association is researching the topic of predictive maintenance to gain a greater understanding. The knowledge gained can help shops be better prepared for this new technology, which will greatly affect the way cars are serviced in the near future.
AutoInc. Web Site |
ASA Web Site |
CARB Moves to Extend Warranties |
Predictive Maintenance: A New Approach to Servicing Vehicles |
Paintless Dent Repair Offers Profitable Opportunities for Collision Shops |
Is TV Advertising for You? |
Guest Editorial |
Tech to Tech |
Tech Tips |
News Briefs |
Taking the Hill |
Around ASA |
Shop Profile |
Net Worth |
Stat Corner |
Copyright (c) 1996-2011. Automotive Service Association®. All rights reserved.