The aspect of maintainability

Published in October 2020 Fleet Affiliation

Individuals in charge of a fleet are often required to provide internal or external customers value-added services. Certainly, customers have a job to get done. Relationships have been built to understand customer needs, and organizational communication has led to the most efficient vehicles and tools possible as successful, high-level internal customer service is developed. Work output and improved equipment productivity and durability have evolved year over year. Historical information and identified weaknesses are incorporated into design changes.

While this describes an excellent scenario, fleet needs should not be forgotten. An existing service level must be maintained when designing vehicles. Has maintainability been addressed? Many vocational vehicles are extremely complex and carry a longer service life than traditional vehicles. This translates into the importance of maintainability. Forward thinking and planning can incorporate ease of maintenance into vehicle design.

Multiple players, multiple challenges
Many vocational trucks are built in multiple stages, and there are several factors dictating the ease of final product maintainability. These trucks are comprised of multiple components often built by multiple manufacturers. They may not have been designed to be combined into a single unit. Secondly, manufacturers design products with its own ease in mind. They are typically designed to be put together with little regard to future repair or maintenance. Hence, a manufacturer’s design philosophy may be centered around putting vehicle components together, not taking them apart. Finally, it is even more difficult for multiple suppliers to understand how their component fits into the final product, or how the final product will ultimately be used. The purchaser, however, can position for significant improvements to truck maintainability, with little or no increased initial costs.

Controlling maintainability
A spec writer controls several aspects. These include simplicity of service, ease of component replacement and preventative design. During the design process, identify components that will require service and plan for accessibility. This allows for fewer labor hours during scheduled service. Secondly, the service quality may greatly improve. An easy-to-access component will actually get serviced and inspected, instead of employing a “good enough” approach. A few strategies can be implemented to facilitate this. Simple things, such as contrasting paint colors on hard-to-see service points, easily-opened access points, and finally, something as simple as including steps and grab handles for improved access to service points.

Components will need to be replaced on any vocational truck before the vehicle’s end-of-service life. Identifying these components with forethought is important. These includes house routings, couplers and wear items. Finally, a preventative design will essentially save the users from themselves. Even with extensive knowledge, end users may operate equipment in ways outside its intended design. For example, wiring and hydraulic hoses often become hangers for components. Additionally, parts that can be easily grabbed, will become a handle, even if that’s not its intended use. Finally, it is important to look and listen when designing new equipment. Talking with users, mechanics and technicians can position you to ensure the equipment is more user and maintenance friendly.

If you would like to discuss this, or other fleet issues with NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations.