Capital Equipment News

At this year’s Volvo Days, Volvo Construction Equipment cast the spotlight on Total Cost of Ownership and Uptime, two principal parameters of sheer significance for every earthmoving equipment owner, writes Munesu Shoko.

Investments in capital equipment, such as earthmoving equipment, are such big-ticket purchases. It’s also important to note that the ongoing costs once you have signed on the dotted line are as important as the upfront capital price. This brings to the fore a very important subject matter – total cost of ownership (TCO) – which is a key consideration for today’s machine owners when making those buying decisions.

Addressing crucial operational parametersIn today’s operating environment, there is need to look at the bigger picture, not just the upfront equipment cost. When buying a machine, purchasers consider how much that equipment will cost over time. There are many definitions of TCO, but to put it in simple terms, it is a performance measure meant to uncover the lifetime costs associated with the piece of equipment, both before and after it’s purchased.  

Apart from TCO, another important parameter is uptime. Equipment owners pay big bucks for their mission critical assets they need to keep their businesses running. No matter how good the product is, any unplanned downtime leads to the end users’ loss of productivity, increased costs and ultimately no income. Therefore, it’s important that these pieces of equipment must be kept running at maximum capacity, 24/7/365. Uptime is now the mantra, the figure of merit. Unexpected downtime can be extremely costly as loss of output has a direct, negative impact on revenues.

Informed by these important trends, at this year’s Volvo Days, Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) put greater focus on both TCO and uptime. The original equipment manufacturer has developed some innovative tools aimed at helping customers reduce their TCO and maximise their machine uptime.

Focus on TCO

Volvo CE is launching three novel tools that – alone or in a combination – can help to considerably lower customers’ total cost of ownership. Stefan Petterson, application engineer at Volvo CE Sales Region EMEA, reasons that as more and more machines get connected across the region, terabytes of data are racking up on servers. But what are customers actually doing with this data to improve the efficiency, productivity and profitability of their operations?

“Customers expect to gather data on their machines these days but it’s not always easy to make sense of it and use it in a meaningful way,” says Pettersson. “At Volvo CE, we have come up with a range of tools that can help customers to use data to their advantage.” 

Insight Reports

First among the three tools are the new Volvo Insight Reports. Fuel Efficiency Reports have been available since bauma 2016 but the new Summary Reports and Health Reports – along with the Insight Reports portfolio name – were launched at Intermat in April this year. The reports remove the need for customers to interpret complex data themselves and can be compiled based on an individual machine or an entire fleet.

“If a report shows that a customer has a high idling or waiting time, then it’s immediately obvious that they don’t have the right machines or set up, which can waste a huge amount of money,” says Pettersson.

“Insight reports enable customers to see at a glance the actual payback they are getting from their fleet and provide a starting point for further analysis and tangible improvements, using Volvo SiteSim and or simulator-based operator training,” he continues.

SiteSim with 3D drone photography

Volvo launched an updated version of SiteSim in January this year with some impressive new features and benefits. Chief among them is the use of drones to input 3D photos of the customer’s site into the programme. The other main improvement is that the programme can now run several different jobs at the site in the same simulation. Previously it could only handle one at a time.

SiteSim calculates the optimum set-up for an entire site to give the lowest possible total cost of ownership. By inputting the type of material, distance from the loading to dumping points, and topography of the site, a Volvo consultant can recommend the ideal number and capacity of machines, as well as the optimum routes operators should drive, based on the tonnes per hour and the cost per tonnes. The programme can run simulations for up to a year of operation.

Site studies such as this are regularly carried out in the mining industry, but Volvo CE is unique in its ability to offer comprehensive simulations for small and medium-sized sites too.

“The fact that we can now input 3D images of a customer’s site into the programme and simulate multiple jobs is very exciting. We can demonstrate with confidence and accuracy what a few tweaks to the set-up of the site and machine fleet can make to their bottom line,” says Pettersson.

Realistic simulator training

From 2018, Volvo CE is also able to input 3D images of a customer’s site into a machine simulator. “It sounds like a fantasy thing but it’s real! Operators can practise the exact tasks and routes they will take on the jobsite so that they can fine-tune their skills and become more efficient in real life. It’s also a very cost-efficient way of training operators,” says Pettersson.

First launched in 2011, Volvo CE offers machine simulators for wheel loaders, articulated haulers and excavators and is the only supplier on the market to include high-reach demolition and pipelayer software. The simulators are designed to incorporate the same software and data used by Volvo CE’s Technology function for R&D purposes, making them as close to the real thing as possible. They are currently used at dealer and customer facilities all round the world. Volvo can even transport the simulators to offer training directly at a customers’ site, minimising the time taken out of operators’ working day.

“Through all of these tools, the customer is able to see where the money is going and know where to focus time and resources to fix issues and reduce cost. If a customer has 637 hours of idling time, for example, divided by 40 hours per week that equals 16 weeks. That’s a lot of production time to lose – and time is money!” says Pettersson.

Focus on uptime

Volvo Construction Equipment’s focus on uptime is based on the fact that customers only make money when the machines are running. That’s why Volvo CE is working closely with its dealers to further improve common processes and systems that will provide service technicians with more efficient access to information and support than before – ensuring shorter resolution times for the customer.

Solving machine issues instantly is such an important contributor to customers’ success, that Volvo has placed uptime at the heart of its latest strategy in sales region EMEA. Using digitalisation tools, such as telematics, as one enabler of improving efficiency and waste, the company is adopting an extended enterprise view to be even more proactive in the support to customers. 

“In today’s tough business climate, Volvo and its dealers have to further strengthen their common approach. We have to collaborate on everything we do – with common processes and systems – to deliver the slickest service imaginable for our customers,” says Aram Mahmoud, director of product support for Volvo CE Sales Region EMEA.

First Time Fix

This year, Volvo CE has embarked on two specific projects to ensure mechanics have access to the right information and support when they need it. The first is called First Time Fix and aims at identifying the root cause of an issue as early and as quickly as possible.

At the moment, Volvo CE is working together with SMT Netherlands as a pilot dealer on this project with the aim of rolling it out to all its largest dealers in future.

As part of the project, Volvo CE and SMT Netherlands will define a diagnostic guidance document. This is a comprehensive set of questions to guarantee that those interacting with customers on an issue get all the detail they need in order to understand what has gone wrong and the right course of action to fix it.

“With First Time Fix, we want dealers to be able to understand issues immediately and be prepared with the right parts and tools to make just one visit to the customer. Case solved,” says Mahmoud. 

One communication platform

Volvo CE is also working on a new case handling system for all Volvo CE products. Its purpose is to speed up the quality improvement process by using a unique tool to integrate systems and collaboration between dealers, and Volvo’s regional product support and product maintenance teams. The ‘one communication platform’ enables mechanics’ feedback goes upstream in the process all the way back to Volvo R&D.

When a machine component is behaving unusually and the issue is too complex for a dealer mechanic to solve on their own, they can enter the case into the systems’ app on their phone. They upload photos of the component and fill in as much detail as they can, which then goes to the dealer site. If this issue cannot be solved at the dealer site, the case can then be escalated in the same system to a product specialist at Volvo.

“Previously, when there was no common case handling system, there was a potential for information to get lost along the way, or not even be added in the first place. Communicating via one system now allows for greater transparency in the problem-solving process between Volvo and the dealers as we can see how many cases are open and how long they have been active,” Mahmoud explains.

Training is ongoing and the plan is to launch the system to all EMEA dealers at the end of September. The system went live for selected pilot dealers on 11th June.

The role of connectivity in uptime

Volvo CE currently has a large number of connected assets in the EMEA region. Connected machines hold huge potential as an enabler to streamline Volvo processes and tools in order to maximise uptime.

“If Volvo CE and the dealer already have a wealth of data on individual machines – how they are performing in terms of fuel consumption, cycle times, campaign status, software updates and idling hours – then we have a massive advantage before we even visit the customer. Such data allows us to build up a thorough picture of possible root causes and be fully prepared for the task ahead,” concludes Mahmoud.

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