Nextran has increased the percentage of five-hour jobs it was able to get out the door in 24 hours or less from 43% to 63%. Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Nextran has increased the percentage of five-hour jobs it was able to get out the door in 24 hours or less from 43% to 63%. Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Mack and Volvo announced their Certified Uptime Center program a year ago and named its first certified dealers in the program this past spring. Wednesday it told truck reporters that the program currently includes 76 Certified Uptime Centers — 67 Mack and 57 Volvo.

And since the program was rolled out in April, average dwell time for trucks has decreased 2.5 days, according to Phillip Swaim, director of network fixed operations for Volvo Group North America.

In an event in Birmingham, Ala., home to the first Certified Uptime Center dealer, Volvo Group and local dealer representatives offered more insight into the need for the program and how it works.

After the Great Recession ended, truck dealers started having some serious problems with capacity. Increasing amounts of business were being driven back to OE dealers because of proprietary technology, including some that needed to meet emissions regulations. As the economy and freight came back, so did demand for repairs.

But at the same time the technician shortage, like the driver shortage, came roaring back with a vengeance. Fleets became increasingly frustrated when their trucks sat for days at dealer shops, often for what turned out to be a relatively minor repair.

To help address that, Mack and Volvo have invested heavily in their dealer network since 2010.

Mack reported a 5% increase in the number of locations, a 40% increase in the number of service bays, a 90% increase in the number of technicians and a 250% increase in Mack master technicians.

Volvo said it has invested more than $500 million in its dealer network, adding 63 locations, a 50% increase in bay capacity, a 109% increase in technicians, a 372% increase in master techs, and a 63% increase in service capacity.

Remote diagnostics and telematics systems have reduced diagnostic times an average of 70% and repair times by 21%.

Nearly 50,000 Mack trucks are equipped with its Guard Dog Connect remote diagnostics system. The company announced Wednesday that starting in the first quarter of 2017, it will make it standard on its full line of LR and MR models. Volvo said there are now more than 120,000 trucks on the road with its remote diagnostics.

The end of first-come, first-served

But all that still wasn’t enough. So Volvo Group representatives started traveling the country to visit dealerships, and hired a third party consultant to do an industry survey to determine the issues behind excessive downtime.

What they found what that trucks were down for an average of four days, and the average time for the actual repair was only 3.5 hours, explains Swaim. Under the traditional first-come, first-served method of prioritizing repair work, you’d have a one-hour repair sitting stuck behind a 14-hour job and a 42-hour job.

Working with dealers who already were implementing programs to change this, Volvo developed the Certified Uptime Center program for Mack and Volvo dealers, rolled out earlier this year. By implementing standardized workflows and service processes – including redesigned service bays — dealers are providing faster, more efficient repair service for customers.

Certified Uptime Centers are based on four pillars, Swaim explained:

  • Clean and organized. Tools need to be in the right place, driving efficiency for technicians;
  • Check-in that’s fast and efficient;
  • Communication with customers so they can make business decisions about their loads and drivers; and
  • Workflow changes, including dividing the shop into uptime bays and advanced repair bays.

“It’s a proven methodology — we got this from the dealer network; this is not something we came up with” at the corporate level, Swaim said. “It’s a bottom-up approach from shop floors, and the dealership has the flexibility to see how they deliver that." It’s also a flexible program that can be used by dealers large and small, new and old, he explained.

Swaim emphasized that “this is not a check-the-box implementation. We’re being very cautious of how we hand out certifications.” Five uptime managers are in the field working with dealers. Certified dealers, he said, have seen an 8% increase in service efficiency and a 22% average increase in the number of repair orders.

How it works at Nextran 

Nextran Truck Center of Birmingham, Alabama, the largest of a 14-location dealer network in the Southeast, had been developing a similar program when Volvo Group started designing its Certified Uptime system. The dealer worked closely with Volvo Group headquarters.

In studying its own data, Nextran found that over half of its service events were for repairs that took less than five hours — but trucks would be down for days. Greg O’Connor, director of service operations for Nextran, said the first-come, first-served basis was no longer working.

Dedicated uptime bays at Nextran are a key part of the Certified Uptime Center program. Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Dedicated uptime bays at Nextran are a key part of the Certified Uptime Center program. Photo: Deborah Lockridge

“Today our customers expect more from us,” he said. “It’s always been a pledge of Nextran to exceed our customers’ expectations, and with that, ‘first-come-first-served’ had to go.”

The dealer, and eventually the Certified Uptime Center program, moved to a system that uses dedicated uptime bays for triage and short repairs. If it’s a repair that will take less than four hours, it goes into the uptime bay. Longer repairs will be scheduled into an advanced repair bay.

The system uses some key technological tools, including a JPro diagnostics tool for initial triage that is tied into the ASIST tool from Decisiv, which enables real-time communications between customers, dealers and service staff.

Nextran staff explained that when a truck pulls into the dealership for repair, whether that’s a result of the remote diagnostics/ telematics call center routing the driver to the dealership or a more traditional phone call, the service writer uses a JPro tool to pull customer truck information and fault codes.

He does a triage diagnosis to determine whether this is a repair that can be handled in just a few hours, or if it’s something that needs additional diagnostics or is going to be a more involved and longer-duration repair. It incorporates a service dispatch system to match the needed repair to the technician best versed in that repair.

Since implementing its own program and then tweaking it to become a Certified Uptime Center, Nextran has increased the percentage of five-hour jobs it was able to get out the door in 24 hours or less from 43% to 63%.

In addition to the technological tools, O’Connor said, a team of people focuses on these trucks. Technicians were chosen because they had the skills needed to make rapid assessments and communicate with customers, plus the ability to make small repairs right there.

“I have experienced many, many OE initiatives, and from my experience, the Certified Uptime process is more than an ad campaign — it’s the real deal,” said Jim Ussery, executive vice president of operations at Nextran.

The Mack and Volvo Certified Uptime Centers training programs recently won a Brandon Hall Group gold award in the Best Learning Program Supporting a Change Transformation Business Strategy category, which recognizes how learning programs are developed and applied in support of major organizational changes.

Five criteria were used by the Brandon Hall Group during its evaluation of award entries: the design of the program, functionality, innovation, how it fit the needs of the business and measurable benefits.