Penske is turning its service centers into heavy-duty shops of the future

“To start work, say, ‘Ready.’” The voice was clear, direct and obviously not human. It was the sound of Penske’s voice-directed preventive maintenance system.

A bright yellow Volvo VNL sporting the signature two-tone blue lines running down its doors pulled into an open bay at Penske Truck Leasing in Brook Park, Ohio. A technician grabbed a headset attached to a device that clipped to his belt and started up Penske’s preventative maintenance protocol.

“To start work, say, ‘Ready.’” The voice was clear, direct and obviously not human. It was the sound of Penske’s voice-directed preventive maintenance system, genially referred to as “Pace” around the Penske shop.

“Ready,” the tech responded.

“Welcome to Penske’s Dynamic Voice PM System. As we continue to update PM steps, it’s critical that you listen to each one. Our success in providing a quality PM for our customers is riding on your shoulders.”

District Service Manager Terry Wilcox looked on as the voice led his technician through the PM process. The technician responded vocally, mostly answering yes or no to prompts ranging from “Perform vehicle walk around, is there any damage?” to “Is driver-side seat cushion in good condition?” If the system misunderstood the response, the tech backed up and corrected it vocally.

“It gets to know your voice,” Wilcox explained. During the system’s roll-out, the technicians went through training on the shop floor that allowed the voice-directed PM system to create a template of that technician’s regular speaking voice in the shop environment with its whirring fans and roaring diesel engines. The system captured accents and inflections from a list of approximately 90 template commands. “They log on with a four digit PIN to wake the system up and start the assignment. It walks them through the process; they answer the questions.”

The voice-directed system is easily the most visible and impressive aspect of Penske’s paperless preventative maintenance process, but the real technology wizardry is going on behind the scenes. Every response the technician says into the Talkman headset is recorded onto Penske’s digital preventative maintenance checklist. You can see the information appear on the form displayed on a ruggedized tablet as the tech goes about the process. It’s just one link in a digital chain that starts when the truck pulls into the service center.

A kiosk holding a touch screen sat outside of the shop office. Here, drivers step up to the screen and punch in the truck’s details—VINs, any fault codes, reason for service, etc.

“And this is very critical—we need the mileage. With DVIRs, we never got the mileage. With this system, we require the mileage,” Wilcox said. “If the driver doesn’t have it, he has to stop and go back to the truck to get the mileage to continue the process. This system is teaching the drivers that we need this information and they’re learning.

“When the check-in is completed, the driver is done and the information goes into our service system. There is no more paper,” he said as he walked into the shop office to follow the trail of data to the customer service coordinator who received the info and added it to Penske’s Service Net System, a robust service scheduling system that looks a lot like a Microsoft Outlook Calendar, which provides visibility into each technician’s service schedule.

“Everything is scheduled by needed-time. If a truck has a driver waiting on it and it’s under load, then we’d move it to the top of the list—he’s gotta go,” Wilcox said.

The technician would see the job on her user-interface side of Service Net. Once the job is finished, a work summary is printed, given to the driver and he goes to deliver his load.

Another key component is the ruggedized tablets that Penske has deployed to its service supervisors. Wilcox said that handing out tablets to supervisors has taken them out of the shop office and put them on the shop floor standing next to the technicians. “And they’re actually learning from the techs. So communication is going back and forth,” he said.

The visibility provided by Service Net also allows technician supervisors to manage the workload. Penske has a barometer for how long typical service jobs take, and if a job is running long, supervisors can adjust on the fly and communicate with Wilcox in the event that the customer needs additional information about a repair to make an equipment call on their end.

“Our supervisors don’t have to be standing beside six technicians at one time to see what they’re working on. They can pull it up on the tablet and can see what job is coming up on the needed time assigned,” Wilcox said. “He knows where to go in the shop and which jobs to focus on. Through this system, we’re always side-by-side with all of our technicians.”

As Penske builds out its digital service infrastructure, communication will happen not just between people, but also between service centers and service software, like its parts inventory platform. As proud as the team at the Brook Park, Ohio, Penske Truck Leasing location is about its cutting edge service process, it’s not unique within the Penske network. Walk into any Penske service location and you’ll see the same process, which really shows its power: It’s repeatable, consistent and connected.

Voice-directed details

The voice-directed preventative maintenance system is a collaboration between Penske Truck Leasing, Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions and Vitech. It leverages a fully customized version of Honeywell’s Voice Maintenance and Inspection (M&I) solution and is in use across Penske’s expansive network of truck fleet maintenance facilities in North America that taps into a robust, high-speed Aruba indoor and outdoor gigabit Wi-Fi network, utilizing rugged mobile tablet devices for maintenance technician; and it’s supplemented with an innovative voice-directed preventive maintenance system. The fully digital system tackles Penske’s 266,000 truck service workload. The company trained more than 8,900 employees during its 19-month rollout and reported that it successfully completed its 1 millionth voice-directed preventive maintenance inspection using its paperless technology this past May.

Why preventative maintenance quality matters

Penske is laser-focused on maintaining as high a preventative maintenance quality level as possible. It tracks the number of service calls related to things that should have been caught during the last preventative maintenance check to determine its network’s overall PM quality. Two years ago, before the voice-directed system was rolled out, Penske’s PM quality was at 82%. Since then, it has increased to 89%.

“When it was a paper-based process, technicians didn’t want to carry around a clipboard; they wanted to do it by memory. With this new system, we have consistency,” said Gregg Mangione, Penske’s senior vice president of maintenance. “Last year alone, a 4% increase, is approximately 60,000 less shop visits. That’s uptime for the customer and around $2 million less in road calls that were related to PM quality issues. We have key tools they need to use when performing an inspection as well, so we have greater compliance. We’ve moved past the ROI stage with this technology.”