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Safety and increasing profits p3

Parts and Parts Distribution Roundtable p 5


From the Editor

In this issue:

BUSRide Maintenance Parts and Parts Distribution Roundtable At this year’s BusCon, held in Chicago from September 9th through 11th, BUSRide Maintenance was pleased to host a number of industry professionals for a roundtable panel on parts distribution. Representatives from Cummins, ABC Companies, Motor Coach Industries (MCI), Prevost and Vanner joined us for a stimulating discussion that touched on challenges in parts distribution, advances in electric and emissions technologies, rising maintenance costs, and the changing landscape of OEM/customer relations. Our panel provided sharp, insightful thoughts on parts, parts maintenance and parts distribution. We’d like to thank them for participating, and we’re proud to present their discussion in this issue of BUSRide Maintenance.

Vol. 03 • No. 11 Publisher / Editor in Chief Steve Kane steve@busride.com Associate Publisher Sali T. Williams swilliams@busride.com Editor David Hubbard david@busride.com Managing Editor Richard Tackett rtackett@busride.com Art Director Stephen Gamble sgamble@theproducersinc.com Production Coordinator Kevin Dixon kdixon@busride.com

Richard Tackett Managing Editor BUSRide Magazine

Accountant Fred Valdez fvaldez@powertrademedia.com NOVEMBER 2013

CONTENTS

BUS industry SAFETY council

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Safety and increasing profits The importance of a healthy fleet By Radu Pop

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A publication of:

Parts and Parts Distribution Roundtable BUSRide Maintenance hosted industry professionals for a roundtable discussion at BusCon 2013 By Richard Tackett

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DEPARTMENTS

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BUSRIDE MAINTENANCE | NOVEM B ER . 2013

From the Editor

POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to: BUSRide Magazine 4742 North 24th Street, Suite 340 Phoenix, Arizona 85016 Phone: (602) 265-7600 Fax: (602) 277-7588 busridemaintenance.com busridemaintenance.com


Safety and increasing profits The importance of a healthy fleet

With a lift, access to faulty components improves drastically, precision is greater than ever and the time required for the operation has been cut in half.

parking brake force, anti-lock braking system (ABS) sensors, valves and wiring. How can a PBBT decrease long term costs? By checking actual By Radu Pop performance of the brakes, preventative maintenance can be performed. This extends the life of major system components. Having brakes work properly will not only save operators money on brake pads and rotors, but also on tires. One of the very bus operator has an opinion on what fleet maintenance leading causes of tires exploding is overheated brake systems, is and how it should be done. Nonetheless, one aspect even on flat roads. remains the same: profitability. Having the necessary tools to How can a PBBT improve safety? The passenger transportation complete the maintenance task at hand will reduce costs and industry needs to be especially aware that having an efficient down-time, thus enhancing overall safety. braking system is a must, not only for their customers but also for Braking is one of the most important functions of a vehicle. the other drivers on roadways. Early detection of brake failure is Unfortunately, in the United States, brake maintenance is often key for successfully identifying faulty components so that repairs performed only after one of the brake components has failed. can be performed in due time, before any major components are This is why organizations such as the Commercial Vehicle badly damaged. Failed brakes are one of the leading causes of death Safety Alliance (CVSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety on U.S. highways, and the CVSA has the Administration (FMCSA) have emphasized numbers to prove it. Whether you operate the need for effective brake testing. a small or a large fleet, think about the The number of deaths on highways improved safety and long term savings as a result of faulty brakes has risen in a PBBT will provide you. If you think of recent years. According to the FMCSA buying one, companies like MAHA USA, and Department of Transportation Hunter, VIS or Link can help. (DOT), brake problems are to blame for In addition to the utilizing proper nearly 30 percent of crashes involving brake testing methods, reducing the commercial motor vehicles. These down-time of maintenance operations alarming statistics also bring concerns will also generate additional revenue over fleet shops “cutting corners” in for a healthy fleet. As we all know, the performing thorough brake maintenance longer a bus sits in a shop, the less and diagnostics testing. The brake performance measured by a PBBT profit that vehicle will generate. This In light of current statistics and is an industry accepted reference. is why proper lifting capabilities in a legislation, states are beginning to maintenance shop are a must. mandate periodical brake inspections for With a lift, access to faulty components improves drastically, all commercial carriers and are actively testing brakes at weigh precision is greater than ever and the time required for the stations (following regulations enforced by FMCSA’s “Out of operation has been cut in half. Safety is greatly improved, Service” criteria). reducing Workers Comp claims and offering a better working Now is when a Performance-Based Brake Tester (PBBT) environment for your techs. After all, the health of employees is comes in handy. This type of brake tester is a roller reflected in the health of the fleet itself. dynamometer-based braking system. The brake performance There’s an ample selection of lifting equipment out in the measured by a PBBT is an industry accepted reference with market. It all depends on the type of operation and the needs of the capability to dynamically measure a vehicle’s rolling the mechanics. The easiest solution to accelerate maintenance resistance, brake threshold pressure, service brake force,

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would be a set of mobile column lifts. Because these lifts are mobile, they do not tie up a bay, are extremely versatile when used in combination with accessories, and can effortlessly be moved from one bay to another. Studies have shown mobile lifts can generate a strong ROI. Investment can be recovered in approximately six months if the lifts are constantly used in day-to-day operations. For a repair shop that provides service to third parties, one set of mobile columns can generate additional revenue of up to $55,000 per year solely from faster turnaround time. There is also available non-hydraulic lifting technology. For example, consider the MAHA USA Mobile Column Lift. This lifting system is one of the few mobile lifts powered by a ball-screw mechanism; a mechanical system that operates at over 90 percent efficiency. It has greater precision and offers advantages that a hydraulic cylinder can’t. A smart operator will do extensive research before investing in a lift. Another key to increasing the profitability of your fleet is by controlling rising fuel costs. Fuel consumption ranks high nowadays, especially as the average price of diesel surpasses $4.00 per gallon in parts of the country. One way of controlling these costs is making certain that engines are running as efficiently as possible. By using scan tools, mechanics can diagnose problems in the engine and (more recently) in the transmission. Some of the newer generation of Allison transmissions can be linked to a scan-tool and a multitude of parameters can be checked for efficiency. Certain parameters can even be adjusted, thus improving the way an engine and transmission assembly runs. If I had to make a recommendation, Snap-on Tools’ Diagnostics Equipment Line would be my first choice. Keeping engines running smoothly and efficiently will result in lower fuel consumption and prolonged service life of the engine. One of the best ways to check engine efficiency is to do an analysis of the exhaust fumes and measure the level of diesel particles after adjustments have been performed. A truck performance chassis dynamometer can be used to greatly optimize performance while connected to the gas analyzer. While this type of equipment may be out of reach for a small fleet, the long-term benefits in a fleet of over 100 buses may well justify the investment. Consult with a specialist and find out what the right configuration of equipment is right for you. There are equipment companies like MAHA USA who offer an entire line of products, from lifting to testing technologies 4

and exhaust extraction systems. In the case of repair facilities that are contracted by operators, the additional revenue generated by a complete line of equipment is well worth the investment. Less downtime, safer work environment, happier employees – all of this translates to increased profits! For more information on any of the products mentioned in this article, visit www.maha-usa.com. Radu Pop serves as market research analyst at MAHA USA, Pinckard, AL.

At right: This lifting system is one of the few mobile lifts powered by a ball-screw mechanism.

BUSRIDE MAINTENANCE | NOVEM B ER . 2013

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BUSRIDE MAINTENANCE

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

Parts and Parts Distribution Industry leaders from ABC Companies, Cummins, MCI, Prevost and Vanner offer their thoughts on the state of parts distribution By Richard Tackett

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uring BusCon 2013, held September 9-11 in Chicago, IL, leaders from the transportation industry met with BUSRide Maintenance in an informal setting to respond to questions and share perspectives parts and parts distribution. Our guests were representatives from Cummins, Prevost, Vanner, Motor Coach Industries (MCI) and ABC Companies. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in getting your parts out to suppliers and customers? Chris Collet, VP Bus and Hybrid Markets, Vanner: At Vanner, we try to do a lot of forecasting. You can’t be any more

than two days early, and you can’t be late. We’re very dependent and very close with our suppliers. A lot of electrical supplies come out of Japan, where there was a major tsunami a few years ago. We had to be very proactive and order parts early in anticipation of that event. Gary Hodgson, Regional Sales Manager, Prevost: One of the challenges with the supply chain nowadays is that there’s more than just a time factor. A lot of suppliers aren’t stocking parts and a lot of customers aren’t stocking parts - they’re relying on a middleman like Prevost, ABC or MCI. We really rely on an upgraded forecasting system that helps us try to

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It’s difficult for the customers’ mechanics to

understand every nuance of every new technology.”

predict when parts are needed. With our forecasting system and with our close ties globally to our vendors, we don’t see too much of a challenge on incoming goods. The big issues come up when nobody but us stocks it - getting it out the door can be a challenge. Are customers reducing inventories and relying more on you, the OEMs? If so, what kinds of parts and components are they no longer stocking? John Hughes – Manager, North American National Accounts, New and ReCon Parts - Cummins Inc.: We’ve definitely seen that in the industry. When customers look at Cummins or OEMs, they’re paying a premium for parts. They expect us to be there when they need us. Budgets are tight and customers are looking for ways to cut costs. Reducing inventory is one way to reduce operating costs. Some rely on our distributors or dealer network to supply parts on a regular basis, and we see that continuing for the short-term. Hodgson: We see that happening with more expensive parts, such as shocks or airbags. They won’t keep a few on the shelf because most of the OEMs will provide those items with quick delivery. I believe they’re trying to watch the high-dollar parts and rely on the OEMs and parts suppliers to provide them. Hughes: Exactly. The maintenance items are stocked pretty regularly, but customers tend to shy away from stocking larger and more expensive components. What’s changed your supply chain the most in the five years? Collet: At Vanner, it’s our relationships with suppliers. We’re very close with them, and costs go down because we’re working together. The pipeline is extremely lean, but if you placed an order today than we could have it to you next week if that’s when you need it.

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Darrin Thorpe, Technical Solutions Manager, MCI: We have the same kind of issues, and quite a few more because of our supplier base. We’re making a lot of contracts and building relationships so that our vendors will work with us. It seems to be working a lot better, and we’ve got a long way to go in regards to getting that done. It’s quite a challenge, but we’re moving forward. What’s the value of an operator outsourcing their parts management? Hodgson: This is relatively new to the bus industry. It’s certainly something Prevost is supporting right now. I think there’s a financial value to having an outside party manage your parts inventory. Gerard Yanuzzi, Director of Marketing, ABC Companies: I ask my team, “Why is the customer maintaining inventory?” You realize that if they didn’t have to maintain inventory, they wouldn’t. Inventory is a capital investment. Some of these people have a few million dollars tied up in inventory. They’d rather the OEM gets what they need when they need it. I think we’re in a time of transition - money is tight. We’ll see more changes in the industry take place as money continues to tighten up. We’ve seen a lot of advances, in recent years, in engine emissions and electrification. As a result, what kinds of changes are you seeing in your operations? Hughes: I look at it from a different perspective What’s driving us to those new technologies? Emissions requirements, from the EPA or other factors, have really driven us to improve our technology over the years. How do you maintain fuel economy, durability, performance and reliability while still reducing emissions? The emissions are driving our technology and that’s changing the industry. 20 years ago we had standard diesel engines, and now everything’s electronically controlled. It’s significantly changed the way we do business and the way we train our busridemaintenance.com


technicians. Every technician now has a laptop which they use to interrogate an engine. With a few keystrokes, you can have a full parts catalogue, troubleshooting manuals and diagnostics. It’s all at your fingertips and it’s really changed the way the industry works. Hodgson: I think it’s difficult for the customers to have their mechanics understand every nuance of every new technology. You really need a computer hooked up to the engines, and you need to get people really comfortable with what’s going on in those engines. I think training is a challenge. It’s constantly changing and you have to continuously train yourself and your customers.

before it happens. That way, instead of an unplanned failure, you can schedule that coach for maintenance in advance of failure. That’s a more costeffective repair. It minimizes any kind of progressive damage that can occur. It reduces customer downtime, so it’s a win-win situation. Collet: This isn’t a negative question. It’s a positive question. We look at these changes as opportunities. We saw a lot of opportunities in electrification. When you see these hybrid buses running, we brought out a device that eliminates the need for an alternator. Now we have customers saying, “Guess what? I’m saving 10 to 20 percent on fuel, beyond what I was already saving by having a hybrid bus.” Legislation has created opportunities for companies like Vanner to create new technology and cater it for customers. The customers are better for it, and we as a company are probably stronger too. The customers are getting better products.

Check back in our December issue for more from this in-depth roundtable!

Hughes: It’s very difficult for an end user, with all these different pieces of equipment, to become an expert. You need software, special tools, special training and certification. Thorpe: And that’s just the government-driven changes. What about the end users? They want satellite, Wi-Fi, chairs that go up and down, plugs between the seats...all of that stuff has got to work together. Yanuzzi: From a parts perspective, predictive analytics becomes a bit more difficult. There’s no failure history and it’s much more difficult for the customer. Setting stocking levels is also more difficult because of new technology. The capital investment decisions of maintaining inventory is becoming more complex. All the same, it’s something we have to embrace. We have to embrace the new technology and embrace the fact that technicians need to learn to use it. We use our positions in the industry to give them that support. It’s something that will continue to grow. Thorpe: There’s an upside, too. Compared to being a wrench-turner back in the day, it’s so much easier now to diagnose problems with a laptop. You used to hunt for hours to identify a mechanical issue. Now you go right in and you fix it. Done deal. Yanuzzi: In the ideal world, you’d have the opportunity to order necessary parts immediately after your diagnostic. That reality is not that far away. Hughes: To your point, there’s technology out there that can predict an engine failure

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BUSRide Maintenance November 2013