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Why you need to use VMRS during truck service

Jason Morgan is the editor of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 14 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

Truck-Repair-Shop-Using-VMRS-NOREGON

VMRS was ahead of its time. The Vehicle Maintenance Report Standards (VMRS) was established by the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of American Trucking Associations (ATA) back in 1970. Think about that for a minute: VMRS sought to establish a standard for maintenance data back when “telematics” was a piece of paper, a pencil, your memory and a telephone. Today, VMRS is the foundation of sophisticated connected service software that will soon enable predictive maintenance solutions. But there’s a catch: You have to use it. And use it correctly.

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“VMRS makes enticing service benefits possible, in theory, but its lack of adaptation causes many organizations to not recognize its value,” said Jason Hedman, Noregon’s JPRO product manager. “If your diagnostic and repair solution captures VMRS data, your business systems that utilize that data must support VMRS codes as well, otherwise it is a wasted effort. Technicians should receive ongoing training and education to remain knowledgeable, efficient and ensure VMRS training is a routine aspect of these initiatives if you wish for it to be successful.”

VMRS is an expansive structured system to code maintenance information. Instead of in the coding details, the first question you need to answer is a two-parter: Are you currently utilizing VMRS, and does your service software incorporate VMRS into its platform?

If your answer to both is “yes,” then great! Jump to the “Getting VMRS Right the First Time” section. If your answer to the first part is “no,” then consider implementing it. The VMRS system is set up so that no matter what terminology is used by each party involved in the service process, they will all be able to be universally translated, so to speak, into VMRS. Examples include: Code 1: Equipment Vocation; Code 2: Equipment Category; and Code 14: Reason for Repair, to name a few.

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And if you answered “no” to the second part, consider switching to a service software that does incorporate VMRS.

“Good fleet maintenance software will capture VMRS data—system-assembly-component, fail code, repair reason, work accomplished, etc.—as part of the natural workflow of performing the service,” said Dan Weider, fleet management consultant for Dossier Systems. “VMRS data is then available for historic reporting and analysis using any of the VMRS code keys as the metric for trends in cost, performance, repetitive repairs, etc.”

Getting VMRS right the first time

Among all of the experts we interviewed, incorrect or incomplete VMRS data is the biggest process pitfall. Just check out what the experts had to say:

• “Many heavy-duty operations fail to audit the VMRS coding that is entered by their employees. If the incorrect codes are entered at the start of the repair process, then the data will be meaningless.” — Jack Poster, VMRS services manager for the ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC).

• “Inaccurate data is worse than no data. Inaccurate data encourages managers to make bad decisions with confidence.” — Jim Buell, executive vice president of sales and marketing, FleetNet America

• “Recording a repair for brakes, but only coding it at the system level [Code Key 13] without the assembly and component information omits critical detail that is useful not only for cost/performance tracking, but also part benchmarking, etc.” — Dossier System’s Weider

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As Dave McLaughlin, Trimble’s program manager of professional services–VMRS specialist, put it: Good data is imperative to making good, informed decisions.

“Using a VMRS process aligned with best practices will give you a standard to data entry,” he said. “This standard will give you a baseline. You can then see trends and make informed decision from the data.”

VMRS is the perfect place to start putting a service data capturing plan in place. Just make sure that you’re doing it right, and that starts with the right training.

“VMRS provides the basis for establishing the economic breakpoint between parts replacement and parts repair. This allows the end user to spot maintenance trends in a timely manner,” Poster said. “It also provides the maintenance data for measuring performance and reliability of specific components and/or parts. A determination can be made of the first failure, normally attributed to the manufacturer, and subsequent failures, normally attributed to maintenance.”

“Like any skill, accurate VMRS coding can be achieved with training and follow up,” FleetNet’s Buell said.

Here are a few VMRS data-entry tips

• When on-boarding equipment, make sure you have a streamlined process to input detailed equipment info. “Too many times we see companies taking the build sheet, handing it off to an admin to manually enter and not utilizing technology to import the data into their fleet operations systems,” Trimble’s McLaughlin said.

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• Don’t overlook valuable info: “Not capturing valuable information such as Work Accomplished, Repair Reason, and Fail Code means that subsequent analysis will be difficult if not impossible,” Dossier Systems’ Weider said.

• Ensure that all of your tools are speaking the same VMRS language: “If the fleet’s diagnostic and repair solution does not capture VMRS codes, for example, they either need to request that feature be added, or find a solution with the existing capability,” Noregon’s Hedman said. “The same process is true for the business systems that rely on that data to drive decision-making.”

• Make sure that you’re reviewing the data, both for accuracy and insight. “Having the ability to see repair trends at a component or part level gives you the ability to make informed decisions when buying equipment or warranties,” McLaughlin said.

The future of VMRS

It may be surprising, but VMRS as a data set is relatively flexible. Three years ago, VMRS Code Key 24: Maintenance Status was developed to improve communication and make the information about where each part or truck is in the maintenance process easily dispersed to each interested party. And while you might think that integration into remote diagnostics is a feature of the future, it’s happening today.

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“Companies, today, are looking at more of a predictive and proactive approaches to the exceptions,” Trimble’s McLaughlin confirmed. “In a connected maintenance world, having the GPS location while cross referencing the fault to a VMRS, gives systems the ability to run analytics. In turn, providing the most efficient route to shop and dealer networks avoiding service failures, increasing driver retention and improving repair cost controls. A key piece to making this happen is having a common VMRS background language and best practice process. ECM information can then be digested in fleet operations systems to notifications and standard jobs.”

Consider fault code integration. McLaughlin said that many systems can correlate a fault code to a specific part or assembly. Using VMRS as the common language for both parts and assemblies, fleet maintenance systems can work for you in transaction creation and routing.

“Here’s an example,” McLaughlin began, “if your electronic control module [ECM] records an ABS failure, the system can cross reference that failure to VMRS code 013-011 [Anti-lock sensor assembly] creating a work pending. The Work Pending notifies a maintenance manager that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. This can be scheduled immediately if an out-of-service item, or scheduled in conjunction with customer commitments to avoid a service failure.”

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The key, according to McLaughlin, is implementing a solid VMRS process, including continuous communication and training. The next generation of service software that offers predictive analytics can compile all that historic data, analyze it and predict failure lead time. This is all before the component failure or engine light comes on essentially turning an unplanned maintenance event into a proactive scheduled event.
Today, VMRS can, at very least, provide a window into the service process and the proper fix.

“For many faults, particularly proprietary ones, the associated data does not always make clear which subsystem on the vehicle is affected. VMRS creates the bridge that makes it easier to go from fault to fix,” Noregon’s Hedman said.

Integration is important, but both FleetNet’s Buell and TMC’s VMRS Service Manager Poster urged caution when it comes to diving too deeply into the fault code/VMRS data weeds.

“There’s no relation between a fault code and a VMRS code,” Poster said, noting that VMRS codes can be used to designate both the parts used and labor actions that were performed to correct the problem.

“There is a danger in trying to rely too much on correlating fault codes and VMRS results,” Buell added. “Fault codes and reasons for repair, on the front of a maintenance event, are only an indication of what might be wrong. Only when the event is complete and all of the information of what was repaired can the event be fully understood. As a result, VMRS data—assuming it is correctly coded—provides more accurate and detailed information than a fault code.”

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VMRS contains two Code Keys that can be integrated into a remote diagnostics platform. Poster explained:

“Code Key 15: Work Accomplished contains more than 60 concise codes that describe the work performed or accomplished by the technicians. Code Key 18: Technician Failure Code contains more than 100 codes that identify the apparent failure of a suspect component.”

(Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in Fleet Service Technology, March 2019.)

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