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New Tech Provides Monitoring of Truck Filters and Oil in Real Time

Learn about the Filter Minder Connect solution, and its ability to monitor filters and oil in real-time for fleets.

Episode 184: Monitoring the performance of your equipment in real-time was almost science fiction 25-years ago, but today with telematics and 5g it is now a reality.

In this episode, we talk about the Filter Minder, and the problems this is solving in the trucking industry.

My guest today is Nathan Zambon the Director of Donaldson Filter Minder at Donaldson. 

Donaldson logo, and Nathan Zambon headshot. In this episode, learn about the Filter Minder Connect solution, and its ability to monitor filters and oil in real-time for fleets.

Guest Website: Donaldson.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile. Monitoring the performance of your equipment in real-time was almost science fiction 25 years ago. But today telematics and 5G networks are allowing us to do things we’ve never been able to do before. So I’m excited to talk to my guest today, who is Nathan Zambon the Director of Donaldson Filter Minder at Donaldson Filters. Nathan, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Nathan Zambon:

Thanks, Jamie. Appreciate the opportunity.

Jamie Irvine:

So, as I mentioned in the intro, technology has really advanced our ability to monitor equipment. And I was curious, from the perspective of your company, what problem does the Filter Minder Connect Solution really solve for commercial vehicle owners?

Nathan Zambon:

Yeah, the biggest problem we’re really hoping to solve is helping people optimize when to do oil and filter maintenance. You know, a lot of the say mileage or time-based intervals can be very conservative. So potentially there’s a lot of life left on the filter or life left in the oil. But then also in some situations you can be going beyond the useful life of that causing a lot of damage to the engine. So a lot of problems associated with that. As well as in between those service intervals, there can be issues with, say, for example, something fails on the engine, the oil is contaminated. How do you detect that? So we’re helping customers identify those situations as well as maybe you picked up a bad batch of fuel, filters plugged, truck’s stuck on the side of the road. You have to tow the truck, there’s downtime.

You know, we see that quite a bit out in the industry, as well as you know, right now, I think everyone’s experiencing a lot of these supply chain issues and part shortages. So I think it really helps people optimize, you know, what parts do they actually need? When do they need them? Where do they need them? And then of course there’s always issues with technician availability, right? So are the right technicians available that understand what to do and how are the service shops maximizing the time of those people. So those are really the problems that we’re looking to solve with Filter Minder Connect.

Jamie Irvine:

It’s funny that you talk about that because I think these problems have always existed and they were no less important, let’s say two years ago, but certainly with the pandemic, with the supply chain shortages, all of a sudden fleets are starting to see maybe some of these challenges and issues in a new light. And they’re recognizing how big of a problem that they actually are. But what kinds of barriers did exist in the past that now have been removed with the advancement of technology?

Nathan Zambon:

Yeah. So a couple of the exciting ones is the advent of telematics, right? So Donaldson actually was working on oil condition monitoring back in the early two thousands. So a long time ago, but one of the issues there was how do you get the data in a spot where you can actually use it? Because one of the things we’ve learned is that, you know, if you just inundate a fleet with a bunch of say, sensor data, it’s hard to decipher what’s going on. So telematics has really been a key enabler and we have a great partnership with Geotab that enables that data to be very easily transported off of the machine. So we can get that raw data and transform that into something useful. So that’s one of the key enablers. As well as cost effectiveness of the technology, right? So previously, you know, if you wanted to buy an oil condition monitoring solution, very, very expensive, hard to develop a business case from a fleet manager’s perspective. So really kind of the advent of cost effective technology and the telematics technology has really enabled us to deploy these solutions and get it in the hands of customers so they can actually put it to use.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. So for those who maybe aren’t familiar with Filter Minder Connect, what exactly is it? Maybe just give us an overview and we’ll talk about the technology that’s required to use this solution.

Nathan Zambon:

Yeah, so what we do is we’ve developed a full line of sensors analytics, and then the ways to integrate that. So basically we can go to a truck and then we apply sensors to the air filtration system, the fuel filtration system, the engine itself to monitor oil condition. So instead of say, predicting end of life, for those things, we actually apply sensors to the vehicles themselves. And then what we do is we’ve partnered with a company called STE Industries that has some proprietary wireless technology that enables really easy installation of that. And then we integrate all that data together. And then we leverage the existing telematics device and leverage the existing fleet management tools. One of the key things that we heard from a lot of the fleet managers was, you know, we don’t wanna have redundant telematic systems. We don’t wanna have to go to another app.

How do you feed it into this system that we use to run our fleet? So we’ve really then built up our entire IOT infrastructure to enable very easy consumption of all those sensor outputs into the platform that the fleet’s using. So we have a data science team that’s created all these algorithms that takes that raw sensor data, transforms that into something meaningful and actionable from a fleet perspective. So it’s very simple and easy to understand. And then it’s accessed by the fleet manager right in the platform that they used to maintain their fleet. So that’s really at a very high level kind of how the solution works and what that entails.

Jamie Irvine:

What kind of economic impact is created when people or fleets rather put this into their fleet and start to harvest this data and then start to make some adjustments to, like you said, oil intervals and when to do certain maintenance, like what kind of positive economic impact have you seen in the field?

Nathan Zambon:

Yeah, so certainly the technology has to prove a business case, right? Otherwise fleet managers aren’t gonna spend money. So generally I would say we’ve been very successful in proving the very worthwhile ROI in business case. It really depends on maybe some of the current maintenance practices of the fleet. You know, for example, in some cases maybe where there’s very, very conservative oil drain intervals can be very lucrative, greater than a thousand dollars per year, per truck type of savings opportunities. In other cases, you know, we’re still able to prove, you know, sub-year ROI, but you know, maybe they’re already doing some things to drive some efficiency, but I think in all cases, we’ve been able to prove a very worthwhile ROI to our fleet customers.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at AMBACinternational.com/aftermarket.

We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about the Filter Minder Connect solution that has been created by Donaldson. We’re talking about the economic impact of using this technology and leveraging it on behalf of fleets. Nathan, how has Donaldson Filtration changed to provide better protection for the, let’s say the latest high pressure common rail fuel systems. I know that when I sold Donaldson Filters many years ago, I always enjoyed selling such a high- quality product, but things have changed so much in the last decade or so. Just kind of give us an update.

Nathan Zambon:

Yeah. So with the advent of all the new emissions control technologies, it’s really driven a lot of innovation and high-efficiency protection requirements for those high pressure common rail systems. So Donaldson has kind of two technologies on the fuel filtration side that really we feel lead the industry from a technology perspective. The first one is Sytech XP on fuel filtration. And what that does is we’ve really focused on number one, is how does the filter actually perform in real world conditions? And I think that’s where we’re really proving a lot of differentiation. And one of the things we’ve found is that in a lot of the historical test environments, maybe the filter was efficient, but say when it gets exposed to pulsations or vibrations in the field, the filter can actually release those contaminants into the fuel system. And that’s what leads to a lot of injector issues.

So Donaldson has a leading technology to, you know, prevent those contaminants from getting into your high pressure common rail systems. You know, those systems are so sensitive to contaminants that it’s really important that they get protected well. But then the newest thing that we’re really excited to be releasing is a technology called Syntec Dry. And it’s an area where there really hasn’t been, I would say a big focus previously, but it’s on the fuel water separator. So, you know, some of the data that we’re seeing is that even today, almost 30% of all the fuel injector related issues can be traced back to water and fuel and kind of bypassing the fuel water separator. And as we’ve done testing and really kind of understood how to solve that problem for customers, we found out that in many cases, actually those fuel water separators can really stop working once they start to get loaded.

And even some of the best premium technologies on the market today might only be even 30 to 35% efficient at preventing water from getting into the fuel system. So we’re really trying to take a very real-world approach to preventing those contaminants from getting into the fuel system. Because once that happens, those injectors start wearing out. You, you know, fuel consumption goes up, the engine starts producing excessive soot, you start plugging the emission system. There’s more regeneration. So there’s a lot of negative consequences that happen, you know, even outside of say an injector replacement or something like that, which can be very expensive and cause a lot of downtime for a fleet. So a lot of critical things that we’re looking to protect on these new high pressure common rail systems.

Jamie Irvine:

So as you’re talking about that, I’m thinking the many different vocations out there, whether it’s over the road or it could be like a garbage fleet or like in the area that I live in Northern Canada and Alberta where there’s oil fields and logging and everything, there’s certain vocations that are tougher on equipment than others. Have you noticed that some vocations are more prone to water getting into the fuel system than others, based on the environment they work in?

Nathan Zambon:

Yeah, so the environment plays a big factor, right? So a lot of condensation and fuel tanks can lead to, you know, the water getting into fuel. So, you know, humidity, those types of high humidity environments can be very damaging, but you know, it really can be across the board because a lot of times maybe the fuel is it’s being too transported from fuel station to fuel station, or, you know, maybe the fuel supplier, if it’s delivered to a central location or even on hand fuel maintenance practices that like say like a centralized maintenance shop and a waste fleet, for example, you can have a lot of say homegrown water and fuel issues. So it’s something that, you know, we’ve really seen kind of across the board and it’s quite a widespread problem in the industry that we’re looking to help customers with.

Jamie Irvine:

So we’ve talked about maintenance best practices and using the Filter Minder Connect Solution to be able to get data and make intelligent decisions around maintenance. We’ve talked about avoiding some of the problems that lead to downtime with the fuel system with water. Let’s just end our conversation today talking about lowering cost-per-mile. That’s something that every fleet is interested in. Every owner operator is interested in really from a high level, how is Donaldson helping customers lower their total cost per mile?

Nathan Zambon:

Yeah, so I think for us, it really starts with this all fits together as a filtration solution. So these new engines, they’re very sensitive to contaminants. You need to be properly protecting the fuel system. Donaldson Air Filtration reduces restriction. So you get the best fuel economy. And then the Donaldson Filter Minder Connect is really about how do we ensure everything’s working properly or maintaining it properly. And it’s doing what it’s expected to. And we believe that that whole system approach really provides the best total filtration solution for our customers, which then, you know, yields the best total cost of ownership and keeps more money in the pockets of the fleet managers. So that’s what we’re going for.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s right. And so, you know, when you think of filtration, I know when I was a Sales Account Manager, one of the big concerns that fleets and repair shops always had is making sure they had that high-quality filter. They didn’t want to do anything to compromise the powertrain, the engine, you know, any of those systems because of the high dollars. One thing, if you make a small mistake it might cost you a thousand dollars or something, it’s another thing if it takes out an engine and it’s 50,000 plus.

Nathan Zambon:

That gets painful.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, that’s right. You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with Nathan, the Director of Donaldson Filter Minder at Donaldson Filtration. To learn more about Donaldson, visit donaldson.com. Nathan, thank you for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. It was nice to talk to you today.

Nathan Zambon:

Yeah. Thanks Jamie. Appreciate the opportunity.

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