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Leveraging Big Data to Keep Big Trucks Up and Running

By Terry Kline, SVP & CIO, Navistar

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Terry Kline, SVP & CIO, Navistar

Navistar International Corporation traces its roots back to 1831 and Cyrus McCormick’s invention of the mechanical reaper. Known as International Harvester through most of the 1900s, today Navistar manufactures International brand heavy-duty commercial trucks as well as school buses and diesel engines. For more than 180 years, technology and innovation have been embedded in the company’s DNA and today the company utilizes a number of Big Data, Cloud and mobile technologies to build and deliver its products.

While there are obvious parallels to the mass production seen in building passenger cars, manufacturing commercial trucks requires mass customization for the unique, specialized tasks heavy-duty trucks are intended to perform. The over-the-road tractor-trailer that delivers furniture to the local retailer is designed and manufactured with componentry and levels of sophistication that differ greatly from other trucks the company builds like cement mixers, tow trucks, ambulances, dump trucks, or school buses.

By utilizing the latest technology solutions, Navistar is able to manage through a high level of complexity to manufacture high quality trucks that deliver industry-leading uptime. “We have a singular focus when it comes to utilizing technology in manufacturing, selling and servicing our products—it’s all about uptime,” says Terry Kline. “From how our products are designed and built to the way we serve and support our customers in the field, our aim is to maximize the time that our customers’ vehicles are up and running and ensure that unplanned downtime becomes scheduled, routine maintenance.”

In recent years, Navistar has rolled out a next generation Manufacturing Execution System (MES) in its operations to deliver the right data at the right time, improving first-time quality and streamlining processes. High level features of Navistar’s MES include tracking parts usage, monitoring critical torque information from assembly tools, allowing mobile repairs and enabling image-driven inspections.

Navistar also uses web-based analytical tools to bring data to life, aggregating real-time information from multiple disparate systems. Through a constant feedback loop, engineers and product experts are able to track real-world, real-time customer experience to more accurately predict and prevent component failures by model, feature and part. Beyond higher initial quality, increased uptime and improved customer satisfaction, the company is able to reduce warranty claims and expenses, drive accountability through the supply chain and enhance profitability throughout the cycle.

Another way Navistar is utilizing Big Data is through the information generated by the vehicle. Today’s heavy-duty diesel engines utilize a sophisticated electronic Engine Control Module (ECM) to monitor and adjust a wide range of factors including temperature, air, fuel and emissions levels, all of which can impact the performance of the engine and vehicle. The ECM tracks thousands of data inputs and communicates with a truck’s on-board diagnostics system, similar in many ways to a passenger car’s “check engine” light.

As Big Data gets integrated into telematics and fleet management systems, playing an increasingly larger role in how large truck fleets dispatch drivers, route deliveries and monitor fuel consumption, Navistar has answered the call. The company recently introduced OnCommand™ Connection—its open architecture remote diagnostics tool that leverages the data tracked by the ECM and integrates that information with a fleet’s existing telematics solution. OnCommand Connection provides value-added, real-time information aimed at increasing vehicle uptime and reducing repair and maintenance costs. As an open architecture system, the tool can be used to monitor any truck model in a customer’s fleet, not just the International brand—a valuable feature as many trucking companies operate mixed fleets with vehicles from multiple manufacturers.

“By utilizing the latest technology solutions, Navistar is able to manage through a high level of complexity to manufacture high quality trucks that deliver industry-leading uptime”

When that ECM identifies something not operating normally, it will trigger fault code data which is then aggregated into the OnCommand Connection system to categorize the severity of the code and provide a streamlined solution. If the ECM notices something minor, it will provide a simple alert to the driver and recommend that issue be taken care of during the next scheduled maintenance. Something more severe would alert the driver and maintenance manager to have the issue resolved as soon as possible. The OnCommand Connection includes an online portal that integrates the telematics data with additional GPS data and parts inventory information to locate the closest dealer service location, ensuring that dealer has the necessary part in stock and ready for installation. Dynamic mapping features are also included, displaying nearby dealer service locations, vendor information (tires, truck stops, hotels, towing, rental/leasing locations, etc.) as well as other nearby vehicles in the customer’s fleet.

Launched in 2013, there are more than 50,000 vehicles across 75 fleets currently utilizing Navistar’s OnCommand Connection system.

“One of our large fleet customers has been using the diagnostic data from OnCommand Connection for six months—they’re seeing a 28 percent reduction in down days and a 31 percent reduction in repairs,” Kline added. “It’s a true game changer in the industry and has generated a tremendous level of enthusiasm from our customers. But, we’re really just scratching the surface. As we accumulate more data, we can provide our customers with a solution that drives significant improvements in uptime and deliver’s real value to a customer’s bottom line.”

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