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OnCommand Connection (OCC) telematics services enable fleets to convert reactive vehicle maintenance into predictive maintenance for improved uptime. (Navistar)

Truck OEMs intensify focus on customer experience, telematics to keep fleets up and running

Navistar International’s recently rolled-out Vision 2025 represents a fresh, collaborative effort to further enhance service operations across its entire network.

With a customer-focused strategy and aftersales division in place, Navistar International’s recently rolled-out Vision 2025 represents a fresh, collaborative effort to further enhance service operations across its entire network. At a media event in August, Navistar executives discussed the strategy and how it came to be. In spring 2018, the manufacturer’s Executive Leadership Team and the Executive Dealer Council worked together to develop and support an agile, forward-thinking committee to differentiate the International Truck network from others in the industry.

Comprised of eight members, the Vision 2025 Committee is half represented by Navistar and the remaining half by the dealer network. Friedrich Baumann, president, Aftersales and Alliance Management, explained that when he joined Navistar International in April 2018, the company was going through a significant change. The company’s mindset was changing from one of survival into one of growth and innovation. “We want to create this very customer-centric service mentality in our business, and quite frankly, for the industry,” he told media.

Forming the Aftersales division within the company was one such step. Customer centricity, uptime and total cost of ownership are already core concepts for Navistar and the International dealer network. “While many future actions are still in the works, the foundation of Vision 2025 is already in place and is starting to provide significant benefits to our customers, who are at the center of this strategic direction,” Baumann said.

During the event, Baumann and the Aftersales leadership team also provided updates about two customer-focused initiatives that are part of the Vision 2025 strategy: Navistar’s operating launch of its new partnership with Love’s Travel Stops and the company’s opening of its new Parts Distribution Center near Memphis, Tenn.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the same week Navistar discussed its new initiatives, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced an entirely new customer experience (CX) organization and appointed DTNA veteran Paul Romanaggi as chief customer experience officer, demonstrating its focus on the customer.

The new CX organization will lead what the company says are future “transformative efforts” across the DTNA business, including Freightliner, Western Star and Detroit Diesel for new truck sales, used truck acquisitions, and aftermarket service. The group aligns multiple departments, including aftermarket fleet service, warranty, call centers, aftermarket service products and service systems to provide streamlined customer communication and support.

“We are fully embedding a focus on customer culture into the DTNA organization. I believe strongly in changing the customer experience and I will continue to prioritize from the top-down. Paul’s leadership and team will be integral to driving this transformation,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of DTNA, in a release.

Talking telematics
Telematics have become integral to satisfying these goals and, importantly, increasing vehicle uptime. Navistar’s OnCommand Connection (OCC) system integrates a cellular-enabled hardware platform with a range of technology solutions, including telematics and the OCC Advanced Remote Diagnostics platform. “Think about OnCommand Connection as a central repository for everything that you need, including the vehicle health rate, the vehicle’s location and a comprehensive fault-correction plan,” Navistar’s Chintan Sopariwala, VP, Uptime Initiative, told Truck & Off-Highway Engineering.

As an open-architecture platform, OCC allows Navistar to partner with about 27 different telematics service providers who continuously feed the company real-time information. The OCC portal works with any hardware available such as Geotab, PeopleNet (a Trimble company) and Omnitracs, and sends Navistar the data. Since fleet owners operate multiple brands of trucks, an owner can see the real-time status of all brands, not just International.

According to Sopariwala, OCC is in use on about 400,000 vehicles—40% of which are International trucks and 60% are other brands. Each of those 400,000 vehicles send Navistar a GPS signal and several other parameters including fault codes, engine parameters and anything related to the engine control module (ECM).

Navistar’s telematics along with the new Vision 2025 initiative allow the dealer network, like Lewisville, Texas-based Summit Truck Group, the opportunity to catch issues with the trucks at the “sniffles stage before it becomes the flu,” explained Justin Fink during the Navistar media event. Fink is president and CEO of Summit Truck Group—one of the largest International Truck dealers in North America. Taking these measures helps his team reduce downtime.

As soon as Navistar knows the fault code, there is a comprehensive “fault code action plan” for the A26 engine platform. “The fault code action plan tells you how to do the repair, which is the nearest dealer, the dealer’s availability, and especially when it comes to the parts it gives you multiple options where to take the truck for maximum uptime,” Sopariwala explained. “It is all about uptime. As long as the trucks are on the road, they’re making money for the customer.”

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how much these connected technologies save in downtime, Sopariwala shared that through a combination of different initiatives on both the parts service and the technology side, Navistar has been able to improve the amount of trucks that are repaired in 24 hours by 73%. “So today, compared to the first quarter of 2018, we have 73% of the trucks being done faster,” he said.

Over-the-air programming contributes to increased uptime. Navistar is able to push a lot of programmable parameters to the ECM using telematics. “One key advantage is the truck owner does not have to take the truck over to the repair shop anymore. It can be done remotely,” he shared.

There are several other areas where Navistar has found telematics to be extremely useful, the supply chain side of the aftersales or aftermarket parts division being one. That group has built a huge data lake through its use of telematics, Sopariwala said. “Data is super powerful and what we have been able to do is most supply-chain systems rely on historical demand to predict future performance. Even before the demand of the part actually hits, we are proactively stocking distribution centers because we know that the truck is now upgrading in those areas.”

Discussion of Navistar’s new Vision 2025 initiative will continue at this year’s North American Commercial Vehicle (NACV) Show taking place in Atlanta in October, in addition to other anticipated news from the company.

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