Sharing Data Throughout the Supply Chain Helps Keep Commercial Vehicles on the Road 

Imagine: a check engine light appears on the dashboard, and your connected car sends alerts to an auto parts store so they can make sure they have the parts on the shelf and to a repair shop so they can have the information they need to make the repair. 

Better yet, imagine an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform that monitors mileage, maintenance history, driving behavior and other factors, predicting when a part will fail and proactively sending out those alerts so that maintenance can be scheduled before the problem even occurs. 

Commercial fleets can deploy solutions like that today, enabled by telematics and other technologies. One such solution for fleets’ light-duty vehicles has been developed through a partnership between smart fleet technology provider Zonar and digital transformation service provider SRM Tech. 

“Connecting the vehicle to others that are in a supply chain, maintaining the uptime on that vehicle, is critical,” Mike Byington, vice president and general manager of aftermarket and OEM Solutions at Zonar, told PYMNTS. 

Scheduling Maintenance When Needed 

Traditionally, fleet managers would schedule vehicle maintenance based on time or mileage. Today, the AI component of the platform predicts when the next maintenance will need to be performed based on other factors as well. 

“That completely avoids the downtime piece,” Bill Cook, AVP of business development and business solutions at SRM Tech, told PYMNTS. “These fleets lose a lot of money when the vehicles are off the road and they’re down.” 

For example, because the AI takes into account driving behavior, it can see that someone who is driving their vehicle harder should come in for such things as an oil change or a brake service sooner. 

“It’s all about avoiding the breakdown; it’s all about maintaining the uptime,” Byington said. “You can take your chances, end up behind a tow truck and the vehicle’s out of service for several days, or you can do it on a proactive basis and your vehicle’s out of service for an hour.” 

Sharing Information Throughout the Supply Chain 

What’s more, that data about the vehicle’s parts and service needs can be shared with others. 

“Up to now, it’s been, okay, the fleet manager needs to know and maintenance needs to know,” Byington said. “Okay, that’s great, but who else needs to know? We need to make sure that we’re monitoring things like the order management, accounting and billing, fulfillment, scheduling maintenance, scheduling parts — all this can be gleaned from the information we’re getting off that vehicle.” 

While larger fleets often have their own in-house maintenance and service, many small and mid-size fleets depend on aftermarket auto parts retailers and service providers for parts and service. Having several parties involved has complicated the process of diagnosing the vehicle’s problem and ordering the parts. 

“What we’re doing here is we’re actually automating that process,” Cook said. “It’s providing operational efficiencies and it’s providing an opportunity to the aftermarket auto parts companies to be able to get out in front and bid at being able to have those parts ready when the vehicle comes in for a service.” 

For aftermarket parts retailers, having this data enables them to do outbound marketing campaigns and promotions based on the vehicle’s needs as well as make sure they have the parts on the shelf where needed — something that’s especially important during the current global supply chain problems. 

Maintaining Commercial Vehicles’ Uptime 

Zonar and SRM Tech are working with aftermarket auto parts companies to build application programming interfaces (APIs) into their systems so that a fleet manager can look at a dashboard, see a marketplace and select a source based on their brand preference, price, delivery speed and other factors. 

“This is a great way to streamline and automate those processes, driving efficiencies, driving revenue and creating a great customer experience,” Cook said. 

While fleet managers have had access to information needed for preventive maintenance, having the ability to automatically share it with others in the supply chain is something new, Byington said. 

“It’s now progressing to the point where more people can benefit from the knowledge of this information,” Byington said.