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