Shop management technology can be a time saver for managers and technicians. In most operations these days, computer terminals, laptops and tablets are as common as the familiar tools used to work on vehicles. It is, however, the applications on those devices that provide true time and cost savings.
“In a point and click world,” says Jack Poster, VMRS services manager at the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations, “the use of Vehicle Maintenance Report Standards means technicians don’t need to type out details about work performed, parts used, causes of failure and reasons for repair. That saves minutes that add up quickly in technician productivity and in administrative time for shop managers that would be spent entering data, deciphering notes or correcting entry errors.”
Designed by the TMC to enhance communication within maintenance shops and fleets, VMRS serves as a universal language that standardizes maintenance reporting for fleets and service providers. The coding system, Poster notes, is the shorthand for maintenance reporting. It was developed to communicate information and to generate valuable data on shop operations.
VMRS codes are now relied upon as a critical data source for shop maintenance technology solutions, notes Trimble Transportation, and those shops that aren’t using the coding system will likely have longer periods of vehicle downtime and less efficient operations. The system can provide insights into a wide variety of areas such as predictive maintenance, warranty tracking, overall vehicle and fleet health, comparing costs across fleets, and more.
Like telling a story
Dan Weider, a fleet management consultant at Dossier Systems whose background includes working as a technician, service manager and fleet manager, likens using VMRS to telling a story without having to read through a service writer or technician’s notes. “Using computers and mobile devices to enter VMRS codes makes information consistent,” he says. “It’s another tool for your fleet that allows you to have data entered correctly and in a timely manner. And it makes it easier to run reports with actionable information.”
What VMRS does, notes Robert Nordstrom, solutions engineer at Decisiv, is make data more useful. “Unstructured data is loose information with no pattern, priority or history,” he says. “Starting the management of service events with structured data, like that in VMRS, lays the foundation for making faster, better decisions with less human error.”
Those decisions often begin on the shop floor. For example, Dave Covington, chief technology officer at Noregon invites you to consider faults associated with diesel exhaust fluid. “Depending which manufacturer’s engine is being diagnosed, any range of terms may be used to direct the technician to the same problem,” he says. “Using VMRS, one code accomplishes this, simplifying the process.”
VMRS is also very valuable when dealing with roadside events. Daryle Shuford, a former mechanic, shop manager and director of maintenance who is now the director of vendor relations at FleetNet America, has learned this from several perspectives. “Without VMRS information on breakdowns, you are running blind,” he says. “Roadside data identifies things that are failing and VMRS is the language that enables communication about repairing those issues with shops.”
“With the right technology, VMRS coding doesn’t require memorizing lengthy code lists,” says Decisiv’s Robert Nordstrom. “Technicians can just enter the reason for a repair and/or the complaint, and VMRS codes are generated and attached automatically. For example, just type “brakes + ________” and select the correct code from a dropdown list.”
Multiple coding levels
VMRS codes can be used on three levels consisting of three, six and nine digits. Three-digit codes provide a high level view into an issue, such as which system is affected. Six-digit codes include the major components within the system. Nine-digit codes identify specific parts and their location on a vehicle.
“Our advice to shop managers implementing VMRS codes is to start small,” Noregon’s Covington says. “Use stepping stones by starting with three-digit codes and moving to six digits and then nine digits when technicians become comfortable. It’s like teaching a language. Start with the basics and introduce more difficult concepts as the knowledge base grows.”
“If you’re new to VMRS, complexity can be a concern,” Dossier Systems’ Weider says. “You’re probably using five to ten codes on a regular basis, so concentrate on those first. It can also be helpful to tie the VMRS codes to something technicians are already doing, like a PM checklist.”
It is also important to audit VMRS coding to ensure accuracy. “Look for exceptions,” Weider adds. “Don’t just assume that everything is being coded correctly all the time. Incorrect codes can corrupt an entire data stream.”
Everybody using VMRS codes needs to be on the same page, notes Daryle Shuford at FleetNet America. “Having the wrong data can be worse than no data,” he says. “Training and auditing are essential.”
VMRS, Jack Poster also relates, is routinely updated with new codes. TMC provides updated codes that reflect current equipment design and informational needs of VMRS users.