• Uptime keeps trucks rolling.

  • Uptime keeps trucks rolling.

    • 15. September 2016
    • Connectivity
    • Illustration: Julian Pacaud
    • Text: Walther Wuttke

    The new, telematics-based service innovation Mercedes-Benz Uptime reports necessary maintenance and repairs at an early stage, keeping the logistical chain moving.

    Only a truck on the move is a good truck – that is the simple truth in the transport sector. Reliability and punctuality are the key attributes that decide the commercial success of logistics companies. After all, the slightest delays have large effects on the logistical chain. From the transport operator’s point of view, it is therefore advantageous to recognise and resolve impending problems before they cause a truck to be unavailable for a longer period.

    Real-time data allow predictive maintenance and analysis

    With the new telematics-based service innovation Mercedes-Benz Uptime, personnel in the logistical chain can now work together with far less stress. Unplanned downtimes can be considerably reduced thanks to constant monitoring of the connected truck. “Previously we have only been able to react to breakdowns. In the future we will take preventive measures with Uptime, and avoid unforeseen downtimes,” Stefan E. Buchner, Head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, explains. Because “the connected truck can detect the signs of an imminent problem – and it can alert us to that problem in good time.”

    Mercedes-Benz Uptime not only identifies imminent defects, it also supplies data that indicate easily avoidable carelessness. When a manual regeneration of the diesel particulate filter is required, for example, or the topping-up of service fluids such as AdBlue, or a correction of the tyre pressure, Mercedes-Benz Uptime provides the information and specific instructions promptly via the customer portal. This means that necessary measures can be performed by the customer himself, avoiding unnecessary garage downtime and repair costs.

    ' The connected truck can detect the signs of an imminent problem – and alert us promptly. '

    Rob Houben, CAC-Business Consultant

    Data analysis in real time

    Mercedes-Benz Uptime uses the sensor systems already available in the truck, and controls all the vehicle’s systems via the new FleetBoard Truck Data Center. As soon as something unusual occurs, the truck automatically sends a report to the server at Mercedes-Benz service. This is where the reports are automatically analysed and interpreted. Only a few minutes later, the measures required to keep the truck on the road are available. The recommended procedures can vary: Sometimes it is enough if a component is replaced during the next vehicle service. In more urgent cases a recommendation is made to carry out a repair in a nearby Mercedes-Benz garage, and this can be arranged in close consultation with the customer if required.

    The centrepiece of Mercedes-Benz Uptime is the newly developed connectivity hardware. The A5-sized module is installed in the vehicle and communicates in real time with the infrastructure, with other vehicles or other links in the logistical chain via Bluetooth, WLAN, 4G signal, GPS or a USB interface.

    If the analysed damage threatens to lead to a breakdown, the Customer Assistance Centre (CAC) in Maastricht is called in. “We then contact an employee in the relevant transport company and discuss what should be done,” says CAC business consultant Rob Houben.

    ' Rather than reacting to breakdowns, we are able to act proactively with Mercedes-Benz Uptime, and can intervene much sooner. '

    Rob Houben, CAC business consultant

    Mercedes-Benz Uptime saves time and money

    The work of the CAC has fundamentally changed with Mercedes-Benz Uptime. “Rather than reacting to breakdowns, we are able to act proactively with Mercedes-Benz Uptime and can intervene much sooner,” says Houben. For each truck featuring Mercedes-Benz Uptime, there is a nominated contact person in each transport company with whom further action is discussed.

    If a repair is unavoidable, the CAC takes all necessary further action, searches for the nearest garage, finds out whether there is space available for the vehicle and whether the required parts are in stock, and finally alerts the driver who probably does not yet know that a serious defect is impending. After a final consultation with the transport company, the garage then receives the repair order.

    In countries such as France, where roadside repairs are illegal and the defective truck must be towed away, Uptime saves time, money and administrative effort if the truck is able to reach the garage. “If necessary, we alert the emergency mechanic, whose name is also stored in our database – even in the middle of the night,” Houben explains. “So we are able to develop a tailor-made solution in each case.”

    In the electronic network that constantly monitors the vehicle, Maastricht is the centre where all the pieces of information come together. The CAC employs roughly 850 people from 22 countries. “We consider it important that our conversation partners are spoken to in their own language. This is why we only employ native speakers for contact with drivers and fleet managers,” says CAC boss Hans Mertens.

    The CAC employs approximately 850 people from 22 countries.

    Tested – and found to be good

    Mercedes-Benz Trucks is the only manufacturer able to automatically generate specific instructions for further action in real time on the basis of the registered vehicle data, thereby helping to keep trucks on the road. From the International Commercial Vehicle Show (IAA) in September, Mercedes-Benz Uptime can be ordered for the Mercedes-Benz Actros, Arocs and Antos in the twelve key European markets.

    During a pilot phase running since the end of 2013, Uptime has been tested in 1400 trucks in 16 fleets in four countries (Germany, Great Britain, Austria and Poland). “The participating transport operators are very enthusiastic, as the high level of transparency means less unforseen incidents and they receive information and solutions without delay,” says Houben at the CAC. “My scheduler can sleep much more soundly now, as he knows that the truck is back on the road much quicker after a problem occurs,” is how a transport operator participating in the test phase describes the new mood in his company.

    Fault rectification over the air

    What next? In the future it is certainly conceivable that semitrailers and bodies could be integrated into Uptime, so that the entire truck/trailer combination is covered. It might also be possible to repair defects “over the air”. For example by deleting the fault memory and transferring new software to it. It could also be possible for individual vehicles facing certain geographical challenges such as e. g. the Alps to be able to generate extra power for a short period of time. Once the gradients have been overcome, the truck’s output is reduced back to normal. This way Uptime keeps the logistical chain moving.

    During a pilot phase running since the end of 2013, Uptime has been tested in 1400 trucks in 16 fleets in four countries.