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Personalized Preventative Maintenance for Fleets

Learn how Senzit is helping fleets predict maintenance and reduce downtime.

Episode 240: When it comes to repairing and maintaining commercial equipment, things have really changed over the years. With these changes come emerging technologies that are enhancing our ability to not only fix trucks when they break but predict maintenance ahead of time.

My guest today is Chris Scott the CEO of Senzit.  

My guest today is Chris Scott the CEO of Senzit.  In this episode, learn how Senzit is helping fleets predict maintenance and reduce downtime.

Chris Scott is an expert in data-driven technologies with years of experience in technical leadership and implementing digital initiatives. As Venture Lead at Senzit, he ensures both product and business success of the corporate start-up for MANN+HUMMEL focusing on heavy-duty filtration maintenance monitoring. 

Guest Website: Senzit.io

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re 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 keep trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering costs per mile.

When you think of repairing and maintaining commercial equipment I know I personally think back to the way things were when I first entered into the industry, still very much the traditional methods of identifying parts, getting the right parts to the technician, having the technician diagnose and fix the vehicle. Things have really changed in 25 years and there’s a lot of emerging technology that are enhancing our ability to not only fix trucks when they break, but actually predict maintenance ahead of time. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today.

So my guest today is Chris Scott. He is the CEO of Senzit. He’s an expert in data driven technologies. He’s got years of experience in technical leadership and implementing digital initiatives. As Venture Lead he ensures both product and business success of the corporate startup for MANN+HUMMEL focusing on heavy-duty filtration, maintenance monitoring. So this is a person that I’ve been looking forward to talking to about predictive maintenance. Chris, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Chris Scott:

Thank you, Jamie. It’s pleasure.

Jamie Irvine:

Let’s start our conversation just by talking about some of those trends. When we think of the way things were in the past, maybe a driver would notify the maintenance department that there was an issue with their equipment.

A technician would go out and diagnose it through a combination of training and experience that that technician had themselves and maybe perhaps doing visual inspections and then they would order the part, repair the vehicle, get it back on the road, and that’s the way it was done for decades. But with the emergence of new technology, all of that’s changing. So what are the overarching trends that you’re seeing and how is that going to change the way we approach keeping trucks and trailers on the road?

Chris Scott:

No, I mean I think you hit the spot on. If you think about the way things were in the past, you’re doing a job, you might be farming a field, trying to construct a new building, new power plant, whatever it might be, something goes wrong. Okay, wow, the job is halted. And so how do you maintain business from going forward? I mean, you send the technician out there, you have kind of less value add, but more just trying to get things up and running, process going on. You might be overnighting spare parts.

This is a rough way of doing things, but you try to force it to make it work. And then really over the past decade or two decades, we saw the whole emergence of what people are calling preventative maintenance. You really need to know your machine or know your equipment or with that you can understand what kind of service cycles am I going through, if I know I am serving this combine every three months, four months, whatever it might be, you’re always making sure you have parts in stock, the labor capacity kind of ready, and so you’re more prepared for being able to do the job you need to do rather than running around with it with a chick with it’s head cut off trying to get something up and running for that job site.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, so you make a good point because everything was very reactive, right? You almost had to wait, I mean, yes, there was regular maintenance intervals. Of course we were changing oil and changing filters and things like that, but you basically waited until something went wrong and then your company sprung into action. And that’s where I see the big shift is that if we can front load as much of the maintenance and making sure that equipment will run longer, then we have a ability to really dramatically change the composition of the cost of downtime.

Chris Scott:

Spot on. I mean, previous this role I was with a tier one auto supplier and really looking at the data, it was 80% cheaper to do a PM schedule fix something before it actually had a catastrophic failure versus the all hands on deck, let’s get this operation back up and running. But I will say though, I mean that has shown a lot of gains for the industry in the past 10 to 15 years. Operations are more streamlined.

We’re talking about lean, uptime, efficiency, meantime to repair the whole works. But really now with the past decade, you really start seeing these new technologies on the field. And I’d say beforehand when you understood that preventative maintenance schedule is either going off the OEM requirements, changes, our performance service every 250 engine hours per se, I think that was a good coverall. But there’s also the risk of if you really are in a harsh environment, is that 250 hours accurate for you?

But also you kinda get the flip side is maybe that 250-300 hours is a little bit too soon and you are kind of wasting some labor, wasting some parts or supplies before you actually need to perform that change. So really that’s kind of where we see the big trend is the internet things, artificial intelligences, buzzwords, everyone’s starting around.

How do you get more data on those specific assets that kind of indicate the machine health or equipment health? And being able to use that actual data of that real piece of equipment to perform your maintenance, to assign your labor, to use those fair parts and really try to tie it in from more of a one size fit all number of we’re gonna perform this service every 300 hours and it’s really making operations a lot smoother, cleaner, and ultimately more efficient.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, you bring up a great point. When I was selling heavy-duty parts to commercial fleets, one of the things that I would see happen is sometimes the economic environment would change in a region. And so you’d have a fleet and they would say, okay, well in order for us to respond to this change in the economy, we’re going to rig a bunch of our trucks for a new application.

So they would go from maybe hauling something in the oil field and then they’d switch to logging. Well, all of a sudden you’re in a completely different working environment, but you’re using the same PM schedule for both applications. And to me there was always that missing piece of customization to the needs of the vocation, the environment that the fleet was working in. And then on top of that, you would also have fleets that were some of their trucks were doing a lot of over the road, other pieces of equipment were in the field.

And those again, are very different environments with different needs. So I think I am excited about seeing the gains that can be achieved with this new technology. We’re gonna take a quick break. When we get back, we’re gonna talk a little bit more about your specific solutions and how they’re going to impact people. So I’m looking forward to having that conversation. We’ll be right back.

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Jamie Irvine:

We’re back from our break and before the break we were talking about the overarching kind of trend towards the ability to not only have predictive maintenance built into the way that you take care of your equipment, but also to customize it to your specific needs. So Chris, let’s talk a little bit about the technology that you’re bringing to the market. I’d like to learn a little bit more about it and the applications that it’s being used in.

Chris Scott:

Absolutely. And so again, I’d say the main business we’re really focusing on is maintaining uptime and improving operational efficiencies. The main product we have here is actually the Senzit unit. You can kind of see right here, you just bolt it onto your heavy-duty diesel equipment. Kind of what we were talking about earlier is the personalization aspect. It has all these sensors in here and it’s really monitoring vehicle metrics such as health of your engine, potentially health of your oil, what are your utilization might be, engine hours miles driven, really trying to give those fleet managers or those equipment users full breadth of specific equipment.

But kind of what you’re talking about, the personalization aspect of it sensors are great, but really what we see in the trend of artificial intelligence, we engineer this solution to have what we call self-learning. And so every time we deploy one of these Senzit devices onto our customers, a piece of equipment is learning that individual equipment.

It’s taking all the historic data that we have from man hums seven years of filtration expertise, but personalizing it to that piece of equipment based off the environment’s working on, based how the operator or the technician is driving or operating that vehicle. And it’s really trying to fine tune and personalized insights for that operation rather than doing a blanket statement of here’s your health. But no, it’s very much individually tailored.

Jamie Irvine:

So for those who are just listening on the podcast you held up this unit, it’s about the size of a softball and it has this cord attached to it. So yeah, maybe it’s a little smaller than a softball, but this unit is the hub. And then is there a bunch of additional sensors that need to be added in specific places and where does this unit get installed?

Chris Scott:

So we try to keep it as easy as possible. I mean kinda like we were talking about the value that we bring, we do not want our customers to be spending all this time to install this solution. We want our customers to be able to do the job that they’re meant to do. So with that, you get the unit, there’s really two main cables you need to care about. The engineer service port, plug that in as well as a source for battery.

Once that’s kind of taken care of, your device is onboarded and it starts it self-learning process. It understands this is my John Deere, whatever it might be, here’s the current mileage on it and here’s how it’s tracking the overall performance. So I think what I’m most excited about though is we’re talking about, you mentioned potentially adding on future items to this.

We really view this technology as kind of the hub and we’re really trying to work with our customers cuz every single customer has a different pain point. So we wanna be able to offer them almost a la carte menu. I care about monitoring oil condition or looking for oil anomalies. Okay, we’ll get the oil package. I care about my battery health, I potentially care about ECU integration. Being able to see alerts from a fleet manager in their remote office in Spokane versus their equipment being in Seattle, really trying to be able to future proof this.

So when you buy this solution, you are really buying the overarching package and you can buy further things that you might necessarily need to really fine tune your operation and try to be as specific and benefit our customers as easy as possible.

Jamie Irvine:

And is this only for agricultural equipment and construction equipment or can you put it on any diesel engine? So a class eight tractor or even a one ton pickup truck?

Chris Scott:

Yeah, I will tell you looking outside my window right now we have a Chevy 2500 with a Senzit unit mounted on it. We have school buses, we have combines, we have over the road trucks. It really is, as long as it’s a diesel engine, we’ll work with you to see are we actually providing value or what kind of value do we want at target for making your operations more streamlined. But yeah, so far we haven’t seen any issues.

Jamie Irvine:

So we just recently did an interview with Flo Below and they’re an aerodynamics company and they’ve got these bolt on packages to help people with fuel savings. But in order to get the savings, you kind of have to be doing a certain amount of mileage a year. You have to be more highway speed than if you’re just kind of around a local regional area or municipality.

So they have an ideal customer and there’s kind of some specific needs for that product. And once you hit that then wow, does that ever provide value. Is there some vocations that this application is more useful in than others? Who’s your ideal customer?

Chris Scott:

No, that’s a great question. And so if you really think about what we’re trying to solve, we’re trying to make you be able to run your business more smoothly and make sure your equipment keeps up and running. For me, if my car goes down, I’m gonna have a bad day, I’m probably gonna complain, right? But it’s not necessarily like a fleet manager.

So I’d say that’s really our main target. Someone who manages a fleet, it could be anywhere from 20 vehicles to 500 vehicles. And when they’re dealing with day to day tasks, the minutiae of how many engine hours were rack up on all my equipment across the board, how many miles were driven based off this, am I understanding the filter health or the engine health of those vehicles? We’d really try to shoot out there. Here are your top 10 most problematic ones. You wanna allocate your technician’s time to focus on those.

So really people in the mining industry, construction, agriculture, sometimes over the road really those dusty and dirty environments, oil and gas that we’ve seen the price approved these days, those people really need to ensure that their business stays up and running and they wanna spend less time doing minutia checklist, trying to track all those things but really doing the job to be done.

Jamie Irvine:

A great example of vocational differences in the oil field. You have some equipment that are like vac trucks and things like that and they drive a hundred miles and then they park and then they run in almost a high idle mode for eight hours straight and then they drive a hundred miles back to the shop at the end of the day.

That same fleet also might have trucks that is pulling tankers and they’re just running all day long on gravel road and then some highway. So same fleet, couple different applications, totally needing different sets of data to make good decisions on maintenance. I just see that as being an awesome piece of technology that will help. But let’s talk a little bit about how much it’ll help.

So what’s the economic impact to some of these companies when they start deploying the assets in different ways? So you give them a recommendation, you give ’em this hit list, they go and focus on the top five problem areas. What kinds of economic impact are you seeing for your customers?

Chris Scott:

So we’ve seen it really is across the gambit. So we’ll try to break it down into maybe three categories. One would be streamline management. If you’re automatically gathering all this information about your fleet, engine hours, alerts, whatever it might be, you’re spending less time having your technician go down pen and paper. We’ve all seen it before. Write down all the specs, they bring it back to the back office, that it gets inputted in some software solution and eventually it all kind of trickles down and sometimes the data’s not accurate.

So we see labor savings from that perspective, really trying to automate a lot of the non-value added operations of technicians across this industry. Then we kind of talk a little bit more about how we really start saving our operational dollars. We’ve seen some counts where we’ve reduced the amount of times they have to service their vehicle by 10 to 15%.

So if you’re talking about pure labor savings, consumable savings and being to actually spend more of the equipment on the job site, potentially billable hours, that’s a big one. And then where we really see a lot of value drivers is this one firm we work with. You can I encourage everyone to check out the case on our website, it’s called Garco, very big construction outfit in the Pacific Northwest.

We’re able to reduce their downtime by 75%. If you talk about a dusted engine, those can run you about $50,000, preventing one dusted engine more than enough covers your entire fleet operations being outfit with the solution. And you still get those operational efficiency bonuses on top of it. So yeah, really is across the gambit and happy to spend more time talking about that.

Jamie Irvine:

Well that is a great summary of it and I think anybody obviously realizes it’s very dependent on your specific situation. So we’re not gonna be able to give you exact numbers, but I really like that overview. So two things, I wanna pull on two threads. So the first one, we have a labor shortage issue in all of the vocational trades and industries, whether it’s trucking, construction, farming, mining, it’s just tough.

It’s really, really tough to attract new people. And so we’ve got this problem where technology is a big part of the solution because if we can get more done with less people, nobody’s losing their job technology’s just helping us do some of the work that we used to have to have someone physically do. And that person doesn’t even exist in our company cuz people are retiring, it’s hard to find replacement.

So I like that. And then the other part, and this is the one that I wanted to talk a little bit more about. What impact are you seeing on the way people buy parts? When they have this technology in place how does their buying behavior around parts change?

Chris Scott:

Yeah, no, absolutely. And so really all across the board, we are a MANN+ HUMMEL company. We sell some premium filters across the board when we go to our customer sites and also with our channel partners like at Napa O’Reilly’s, GPC, their customers are complaining about part availability, whether they need a filter, whether they need oil, any type of consumable, they’re not necessarily able to get their preferred brands on the time that they necessarily need them. Heck, even in my personal life, there’s an avocado shortage on, I feel like there’s always some type of shortage.

Jamie Irvine:

No, not the avocados.

Chris Scott:

But being able to have a tool like Senzit and really streamline your maintenance practices. That unit right there logs every single time you do a filter change, perform a service, change the oil, whatever it might be. And so once you operate that enough, you have a lot of data on your fleet of a hundred, here’s how much filters are consumables, you guys are actually consuming.

Here’s what your prediction might be for the next two months, three months out there. And really having actual data that you’re just not sending your technicians to gather, it’s automatically being cured for you. And so if you have better idea, you can have the automated forecast and it just makes the job to be done so much easier.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, it’s so great. So on the one hand we’re maybe alleviating some of the pressure on our human resources and on the other hand, we’re maximizing the efficiency of the parts that we’re buying, right? We’re either buying parts more regularly, but we have ’em in stock ahead of time because we know it’s coming or we’re not wasting money on parts by changing them too soon.

So either way we win. When you’re talking about those kinds of gains, there is a way to quantify it, but there’s also a part of that that’s almost not quantifiable because it just takes pressure off of everyone in your company. So that might even affect your retention rates. How awesome is that?

Chris Scott:

Completely agree. And even just yesterday we were talking one of our customers they’re trying to reduce their oil servicing. This is a huge locomotive, per oil change is using about 250 gallons. Price of oil’s not cheap. Imagine just trying to just a 10%, 15% reduction and then you can still guarantee that your equipment’s gonna be running at full health. I mean that’s big. And I don’t think anyone from management turned that blind eye towards that one.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with Chris Scott, the CEO of Senzit and if you’d like to learn more, go to senzit.io and you can learn more about their technology and predictive maintenance and how it’s gonna help you. Chris, thank you so much for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts report. I was very, very much looking forward to this conversation and you didn’t disappoint.

Chris Scott:

Awesome. Well thanks for having me and happy back in the future.

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