March 15, 2011

When Buses Talk, Maintenance Listens: Smart Bus Maintenance Means Greater Efficiencies, Big Savings

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Service Technician Antonio Floyd looks over a service report.

Chief Operating Officer Ray Friem would like to give credit where credit is due. After the magazine BUSRide Maintenance posted a story about Metro’s predictive monitoring maintenance program as its cover story, Friem insisted that the accolades needed to go to the bus maintenance team. “Make sure they get the credit!” he specified. And no wonder. Over the last six years, Metro’s maintenance program has gathered international recognition in the industry. But the crowning jewel of the program may be its predictive monitoring program, which Friem reports in the article has already directly saved Metro nearly $5 million a year in maintenance costs and saved another $5 million in personnel-related costs.  Predictive monitoring uses data gathered from each bus to anticipate malfunctions, routine maintenance, and other arising issues.

Left to right: Superintendent Bus Maintenance Dale Schaefer, Vehicle Maintenance System Administrator Teri Bowles, & Chief Mechanical Officer Carl Thiessen

The program is the result of several years of hard work led by Carl Thiessen, Chief Mechanical Officer, Dale Schaefer, Superintendent of Bus Maintenance and Teri Bowles, along with many other people in the maintenance department. A few years ago, faced with severe budget cuts, the maintenance team under the direction of Friem went looking for ways to save money and preserve the life of the fleet. The idea of employing a smarter approach to bus maintenance was adopted.

Instead of waiting until the bus breaks down or for scheduled maintenance, predictive monitoring uses data to make maintenance smarter. On-board electronic sensors measure everything from road speed to engine temperatures and oil pressures, then feeds information to a central computer for analysis, and finally sends report to service technicians.

It’s a bit like having your car send you a text message alerting you to change the oil.

Schaefer and Thiessen demonstrate part of the onboard monitoring system.

Each bus in the fleet is unique, but consistent. Information collected from each bus can be used, over time, to predict mechanical failures and routine issues. The result is less time spent fixing major problems, less down time on the streets, and fewer last-minute fixes – ultimately leading to longer bus life (Metro runs buses typically 150,000 – 200,000 more than FTA suggests) and big savings.

“Applying this new philosophy has truly shifted how this agency approaches maintenance,” says Friem in the article. “Now a failure of any sort is something we take very personally.”

Metro Lifestyle

5 thoughts on “When Buses Talk, Maintenance Listens: Smart Bus Maintenance Means Greater Efficiencies, Big Savings”

  1. Jimmy Z says:

    Sounds like a great program and the type of investment that pays back in the long run. Plus, there’s that non-monetary savings of not leaving riders stranded when a bus does break down. Congratulations!

  2. Patrick Richmond says:

    I love learning how the new automatic stop announcement system works. However for MetroLink, if we ever go to an automatic stop announcement system on the trains, I like the guy that you hear at the stations that does the announcements. In San Deigo, they have one where the accouncement is started off with a bell that rings once. What would sound so cool, would be a bell ring following the announcement saying “This is —-, transfer to MetroBus route # at —“.

  3. dkhII says:

    Did Metro just get some more new buses this week? I think I happened to see one on the news sitting at a rest stop.

    1. Courtney says:

      Illinois MetroBus has received some new buses recently, so maybe you saw them on the road! Good eye!

  4. dkh2 says:

    Im sorry I think my first comment didnt make it…I was wondering if any more of the new buses came in this week because i saw one on Fox2 News Tuesday at a Rest Stop in Missouri

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