“Limiting downtime for customers begins before a vehicle even arrives at our shop and continues throughout the service event,” notes Grady Guthrie, service manager at Interstate Trucksource Inc. “Knowing what to expect ahead of time helps get customers up and on the road as quickly as possible. Once a truck is in our shop, then it’s about effectively managing throughput and workflow.
“We get notifications of malfunction codes through the Hino Insight and Mack ASIST platforms,” Guthrie explains. “We run more than 300 leased trucks out of this facility, so being able to know what codes are active at the time a fault occurs helps us prepare for service events as well for getting a replacement truck ready. We also utilize the Mack Uptime and Hino Ultimate programs to expedite rapid evaluations so we don’t hold up repairs.”
As a full service Mack and Hino dealership with locations in Romulus and Saginaw, Mich., Interstate Trucksource takes advantage of the Hino Insight Case Management and Mack ASIST web-based service management systems that were developed for the manufacturers by Decisiv. The Service Relationship Management platforms enable communication and collaboration between the dealership’s shop and fleet customers throughout the process to authorize service, share information and receive status alerts.
Also in use are telematics and remote diagnostics systems from the two manufacturers: Hino Insight Telematics and Mack GuardDog Connect. Additionally, Guthrie reports, Interstate Trucksource is currently working closely with Hino and Mack on an early warning program for fault codes.
“We’re taking part in test programs that give us real-time reports of malfunctions, as well as a color coded system to indicate the severity of the problem,” Guthrie says. “That lets us know what’s coming and what to expect ahead of time.
“The program also calculates preventive and other planned maintenance items by monitoring the vehicle’s operating condition,” Guthrie continues, “It uses the telematics gateway to read information from the vehicle’s systems and to predict the next service interval based on idle time, load weight, acceleration and highway/city driving cycles. Rather than basing maintenance on a mileage-only interval, that allows our customers to have their trucks serviced when it actually needs to be done.”
At the Detroit area Interstate Trucksource location in nearby Romulus, Guthrie manages an 18-bay shop staffed by 20 technicians and service advisors who cover two overlapping shifts. “Our bays are three vehicles deep to accommodate oversized equipment such as double- and triple-steer concrete pumpers as well as trailers,” Guthrie relates. “As a full service dealership, we work on all makes of straight trucks, tractors, trailers and specialized units like concrete pumpers and refuse vehicles.”
When a customer’s vehicle arrives at the Interstate Trucksource facility, a service advisor connects a Noregon JPRO diagnostic tool to read all active and inactive fault codes.
“That not only gives our technicians a snapshot of potential issues to diagnose or allows them to perform a quick repair, like tightening a loose battery cable; it also helps service advisors become familiar with problem codes so they can provide an educated prediction of potential downtime to the customer,” Guthrie says.
“We have one bay dedicated to diagnoses that has all essential harnesses hanging on the wall, as well as a 32-in. wall-mounted monitor that technicians can easily read from inside the cab,” he continues. “Our policy is to allow for no more than two hours of initial diagnostic time before we advise the customer that the unit will require advanced diagnostics and provide them with a plan so they can adjust their operation. There is a large timer clock in the bay so technicians can know how much time they’ve spent and can stay within the limit.”
After initiating the rapid evaluation system at Interstate Trucksource, Guthrie began holding “huddles” with technicians to explain the process. He also asked them for ideas that would help make the program a success.
Among the ideas that Guthrie implemented after hearing from technicians was to have a dedicated parking area for incoming units so they can be easily met and evaluated by service advisors. Also in place as a result of technician input is a staging area for parts waiting for trucks to be brought back into a bay, and for jobs that were waiting for repair authorizations from customers.
“Another suggestion from our technicians led to the use of a tablet by a parts person that has billing and parts look up programs loaded on it,” Guthrie relates. “That parts room staff member travels through the shop about every 20 to 30 minutes looking for technicians that may need something brought to them so they can keep working rather than having to go to the parts counter.”
Equally important for limiting downtime for repairs at the Interstate Trucksource shop, according to Guthrie, is to manage workflow by assigning units to specific bays. “We have six bays dedicated for repairs taking four hours or less, six bays for advanced diagnostics and repairs, one wash bay, one alignment bay and four swing bays that can be used for advanced or relatively quick repairs depending on our work load,” he explains.
“We also limit downtime for repairs by having all specialty and OEM tools in the bays, and our master technicians have been issued laptops that are loaded with necessary programs to help them perform repairs in a timely manner,” Guthrie adds. “We review efficiency monthly and give a gift card to the top two technicians. Productivity improvement has become a form of friendly competition in our shop, and a badge of pride for the technician who scores the highest.”
It is that kind of recognition that makes Interstate Trucksource a desirable place to work for technicians, Guthrie notes, and drives the dealership’s service staff to help bring in new employees. “We advertise for technicians through online services but get our strongest candidates from our own technicians,” he says. “We also offer cash rewards to technicians who bring in new people when the person starts working, after 90 days and again at six months.”
New hires at the Interstate Trucksource shop are paired with a senior technician for a week or longer to familiarize them with shop policies and procedures, as well as for evaluation. The company, Guthrie notes, is very supportive of the entire approach, and is firmly behind taking advantage of training classes that are offered locally and by manufacturers.
“I have also been to several leadership and management courses,” Guthrie adds. “Interstate Trucksource has grown into a nationally recognized dealership for customer service by helping ensure it has honest and knowledgeable managers in its shop operation.” ≡