Photo: Daimler Trucks North America
Fleet shops often rely on OEM local distribution centers.

Parts inventory technology reduces downtime

Jan. 24, 2019
Many fleets are looking to their parts suppliers and manufacturers for help developing just the right part tracking and ordering schedules for their operations.

When a truck is down and replacement parts are required, the driver wants them immediately. The managed flow of parts procurement and inventory control is essential for keeping trucks on the road earning revenue.

Luckily, these days fleets have access to more sophisticated ways to manage parts flow. That not only makes it easier to order and track them, but thanks to software monitoring, it ensures all the right parts are on hand when needed.

Essentially, good parts management is built on balancing supply with need. Fleet managers need to order and store the right mix of parts to have on hand for scheduled preventive maintenance, and they need to have a contingency system in place for procuring parts quickly for unscheduled repairs.

On the flip side, while fleets want easy access to parts, they do not want their parts department overstocked. As a result, many fleets look to their parts suppliers and manufacturers for help developing just the right part tracking and ordering schedules for their operations.

“Our parts inventories are managed by each of our shop locations based on the type of operation and type of equipment that runs out of that particular shop,” said Scott Allen, director of fleet assets and maintenance at Dupré Logistics.  

Each Dupré shop uses software from TMT Fleet Maintenance to expedite and track orders. TMT monitors and streamlines workflow, and provides reports offering a clear vision of the key drivers behind maintenance operations.

Expediting distribution

For many fleets, turning to a large supplier like Vipar Heavy Duty helps ensure they can quickly order and receive the parts they need.

Jim Pennig, vice president of business development, noted the company has over 800 distribution locations, more than $1 billion in stocked inventory, and can get products to most locations across North America “in 24 hours or less in most cases.”  He added the value for customers is that Vipar offers a large number of independent heavy-duty parts distributors in North America, so they have immediate access to the industry’s leading brands.

Vipar uses private order management software to track, fill, and invoice orders. The software portal delivers real-time information and transaction details between its distributors and fleet customers. That includes pricing, processing, and shipping information.

Of course, another avenue fleet managers use to ensure parts availability is working directly with original equipment manufacturers.

According to Ray Addison, aftermarket marketing communications manager at Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), “business moves in real time and every moment counts. If a truck is down because a part is not available, customers lose money and consumers are left waiting for a delivery. Using data and trend analysis, DTNA continues to ensure that the right part is on the shelf at the time of a service event.”

In a situation where it is not at the service location, DTNA has a growing network of parts distribution centers that can deliver parts by the next day.

Addison said the company stays in contact with fleet customers and develops suggested inventory lists based on VIN. Part of the process involves evaluating parts purchase histories on previous trucks. That makes it easier to spot emerging trends or issues that may arise. DTNA reviews the fleet reorder levels to ensure stock levels do not dip too low.

Customers can also obtain authorized parts through traditional means when a vehicle comes in for service. Additionally, more customers can take advantage of Pinnacle Truck Parts, an e-commerce platform where fleets can order parts for Freightliner, Western Star, and Sterling trucks, as well as Thomas Built Buses, and Detroit engines.

“This intuitive system allows customers to view customized pricing, dealer inventory, and inventory at the parts distribution center,” Addison explained.

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This article originally appeared in the January 2019 edition of Fleet Owner magazine. You can view the digital edition here.

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