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Real-time responsiveness has become the gold standard for addressing customer challenges, including disruptions to operations and unplanned downtime. Innovative solutions such as the Guided Repair model developed by Hitachi in collaboration with Penske, which operates and maintains among the largest and most diverse fleet of trucks in North America, helps fleet maintenance technicians provide that level of response to get vehicles up and running. But can the customer experience be elevated even further? Can organizations identify potential problems and resolve them days or even weeks before they occur? That’s the question Penske and Hitachi set out to answer for their customers.
After having co-developed Guided Repair solution several years ago, Hitachi and Penske believed they had the capacity to extend the model from troubleshooting existing mechanical issues and addressing maintenance needs to anticipating and responding to problems before they occur. By harnessing Hitachi’s advanced expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), the partners took their existing model and expanded it into a predictive model they called Proactive Diagnostics. Now, Penske can flag vehicles with impending mechanical problems and repair them before they fail — saving drivers time they otherwise would spend dealing with breakdowns and waiting for replacement vehicles.
The result: Penske customers are better equipped to meet their scheduling commitments and delivery deadlines, and they are more able to prevent disruptions to their end customers’ businesses.
Fleet companies have been confronting a perfect storm of maintenance challenges. Equipment breakdowns represent a huge operating expense, which is further aggravated by a shortage of transportation industry mechanics. And although fleet systems generate a large volume of data — an important tool to address these challenges — until recently the industry has not mined or analyzed that data for insights into potential solutions.
Hitachi and Penske set out to address this challenge by analyzing that data, applying AI and ML to develop their Guided Repair solution. Guided Repair generates highly accurate diagnoses and recommendations, enabling anyone with basic mechanical skills to manage troubleshooting. By accelerating the time required to assess and respond to mechanical problems, this solution reduces overall downtime, extends the life of the asset and supports higher levels of customer satisfaction — and it achieves these targets without being hampered by labor constraints.
The Guided Repair solution is now being used by more than 9,700 Penske fleet maintenance technicians in more than 880 locations. “Our techs have completed over 80,000 repair projects this year alone using Hitachi's Guided Repair solution,” says Bud Denker, president of Penske Corporation.
With that implementation as a foundation, Hitachi and Penske partnered to explore how AI and ML could make fleet maintenance even more responsive — to not merely address problems swiftly, but to anticipate and resolve them before they happen.
“Guided Repair was the first step,” says Hicham Abdessamad, chairman and CEO of Hitachi America, Ltd. “Based on that success, the next logical step was to predict failures before they even happen and build a Proactive Diagnostics capability, which takes this solution to the next level. Using machine learning, the Proactive Diagnostics solution monitors fleet vehicles and tracks anomalies that indicate future potential failures.”
The solution addressed Penske’s core challenge: how to optimize use of its data. Penske’s Connected Fleet technology was already tracking maintenance and repair issues, which are identified by fault codes that emerge during the life of the vehicle. The company knew that those fault codes revealed patterns over time, but it was not equipped to collect and analyze that data in real time to predict upcoming failures.
The Proactive Diagnostics solution provides data archived over days and weeks to give Penske that predictive power so it can act on its knowledge. It marks an advance in Penske’s ability to make use of information that was already available — and to do so more swiftly and with greater precision. With its enhanced capacity for analysis, Proactive Diagnostics enables Penske to compare fault codes and search for patterns that signal a potential failure. The company can then notify the customer and bring the truck in for a scheduled repair before the failure occurs on the road.
“Proactive Diagnostics gives our Penske technicians the ability to use Connected Fleet data to process fault code information virtually in real-time applications,” Denker says. “This service is being utilized in over 100,000 vehicles currently in our fleet, as our Penske techs proactively service engine and telematic systems through our operations.”
With greater confidence in the information now available, Penske employees can act decisively to ensure that their customers’ schedules are not interrupted, which reduces stress and frustration not only for the drivers, but also for everyone depending on those schedules across the entire supply chain.
“Any time we can notify a customer of a potential failure, that failure then has less impact on them being able to support their customers,” says Mike Krut, senior vice president of information technology for Penske Truck Leasing. “On a daily basis, they have their schedules to keep. If we can identify a potential failure days or weeks before it happens or notify the driver that it's going to happen shortly, they can get that vehicle in for repair instead of experiencing downtime.”
Although Hitachi is the source of the technology behind this solution, Abdessamad credits Penske’s “early-adopter mindset” for making it possible for the partners to “co-create, adapt and solve problems at scale.” The models the partnership developed now provide a basis for exploring how Hitachi’s customers in other industries, such as energy or manufacturing, can also reduce downtime, manage maintenance expenses and increase operating efficiency through similar solutions customized for those sectors.
The Proactive Diagnostics solution is just one example of how the long-standing collaboration between Hitachi and Penske is raising the bar on innovation for a more sustainable transportation industry. Learn more about how our strategic partnership is making advances in electrification and sustainability.