The new process with its planned maintenance and the continually updated reports of what’s going to be needed has afforded Metro to reduce its parts inventory. In 1999 there was about $6 million in parts on hand and in 2011 it was down to about $2.5 million.
With an improvement in system reliability, the agency has seenimproved customer satisfaction with a tremendous drop in customer complaints. The bus mean distance between failures has jumped from less than 5,000 miles in 2000 to nearly 25,000 in 2012.
And, the customers and the drivers can’t tell the difference between the old buses and the new buses because of the quality. On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being new, Thiessen said the condition of his fleet — except for the buses they’re getting rid of in a year or so — is a 4. “Every year we want to get rid of about 1/15th of our fleet, about 27 buses.”
With the way they do maintenance today, Thiessen said, “We don’t participate in the busmaintenance roadeo because that’s all about diagnostics; our folks don’t do that anymore.”
Friem talked about what this means for the system. “There are about 53 less employees than in 2000 [in the maintenance department]. In 2006 a new rail line opened and we had to hire.” He said, “The efficiencies allowed a reduced staff, and we opened another rail line in St. Louis. Efficiencies paid for it.”
He stressed, “What can this mean to an agency? That’s what it meant for us.”
What they did for bus maintenance, they did for facility maintenance. And they did some of the same up a layer. “Everyone gets a score,” Friem said. “Maintenance operations, scheduling, we’re all equally responsible for on-time performance.”
The Next Level
The Smart Bus Project is taking maintenance to the component level. The information is stored on the bus and every night while fueling, the information is wirelessly sent over the network onto the servers. That information is used to direct maintenance activities.
Such things as how many times the starter button is hit is recorded and it’s forecasted out to when it will need to be replaced. If it’s found that it typically is hit X times by 11K and at that time it fails, they’re replaced at 10K, before there’s a failure.
“Any electrical component on the bus, we can monitor it,” Friem stated. “There’s so much data — data overload — going right to the server.
“We’re picking what we want and then adding to it,” he explained. “Something acts weird, we’re looking for what else happened at that time. Anything weird, it will be set up with a code. When ‘this’ happens, you’ll have to change ‘that.’”
Thiessen added, “We’re using data to do triage; we’re seeing what was going on in the vehicle that we didn’t know enough to see.”
Friem said, “We want to be a partner to Navistar, Voith, Allison, Cummins, Thermo King; they can go in and get their information out, but not the others. “ He continued, “They can also pay to see their bus in real-time — information they can’t get anywhere else.
“They can see how long components will last and all of the conditions around it.”
One of their partners is Complete Coach Works. CCW Regional Sales Manager Jay Raber says he’s very excited that St. Louis is trying out the Maxxforce engine because it’s his customer. “We were looking for the best property to try this on in regard to record-keeping quality.”
The multiplex system could have been put on a selection of vehicles, but Friem said they opted to put it on all of them so they could monitor everything and get more accurate data.
To start Friem said they will have to make some assumptions with historical data and update as they continue to refine the system.