Managing maintenance matters

In an interview with BUSRide, Ryan Harshbarger, Avail Technologies’ Fleet-Net® and business intelligence specialist, speaks about how technology enhances maintenance management, and how agencies can benefit by including maintenance managers as part of crucial decision-making processes. Avail Technologies, State College, PA, is a totally integrated solutions provider for the public transit industry featuring CAD/AVL, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and real-time passenger information solutions for fixed route and paratransit systems.

How can maintenance managers use technology to leverage data from CAD/AVL and ERP solutions to improve their operations?

For CAD/AVL, it really depends on the type of system. At the base level the system is going to provide a location, which is helpful if the maintenance department must coordinate switching out a bus for a road call or to complete maintenance that can’t be deferred until the bus is finished in revenue service.

A richer CAD/AVL system can provide a higher level of information. MyAvail, for example, uses a communications system to transmit data that’s generated on the bus via a J1939 interface in real-time. In this case, the shop can monitor a fleet for a potential point of failure, like low oil pressure, an engine fault, or a transmission fault.

An ERP system is more of an end-to-end solution for a property, and typically comes with a full-featured maintenance component. The inventory module allows managers to track the parts on-hand, set stock levels and maintain inventory cost for their systems.

In what ways are the needs of maintenance managers often overlooked when agencies purchase ERP or CAD/AVL solutions?

A lot of times these projects get started without having maintenance seated “at the table” from the beginning. A CAD/AVL deployment represents a lot of equipment going into the fleet. That means the manager needs to be planning for training, including staff time to receive training from whichever vendor’s doing the installation. Plus, these systems always require some level of maintenance.

Another overlooked step is the maintenance group weighing in on deployment schedule. They already likely have service campaigns planned out for the year. They know where their spare ratios are. They know the times when they have available space. If agency executives miss that, the repercussions are felt beyond the maintenance department.

How can agencies better address those needs? What should they be looking for in a product?

Scheduling of the project is paramount. Get plenty of feedback from the maintenance group, especially in regard to system installation.

Work with your vendor to optimize an ERP system for the maintenance department. Many business rules for agencies exist on spreadsheets or in a manager’s head, so put them in writing so the software can account for them.

Finally, identify the maintenance manager’s goals for an ERP system. What do they hope to get out of it? Because if the software can’t deliver the things they’re looking to get, it probably won’t work very well or be adopted in the long run.

Ryan Harshbarger serves as the Fleet-Net® and business intelligence specialist for Avail Technologies. Visit for more information.