Another key challenge MTL faced was the reduction in its available labor force. A smaller number of skilled laborers meant that MTL needed a way to do more maintenance with fewer people while maintaining the same service levels.
In addressing these three challenges, MTL wanted a strategy to fit all districts and maintenance centers – they needed a “cookie cutter” solution. That solution needed to provide a consolidated view of the maintenance centers across all districts with the ability to proactively report status to the Chief Mechanical Officer.
As MTL developed its proactive approach to bus maintenance, they focused first on performance enhancements. They wanted to reduce the labor needed to do costly in-field maintenance, with a particular emphasis on reducing the amount of time that mechanics needed to repair a bus in the field.
To meet this goal as a critical component of the K Plan, the MTL developed a new “Smart Bus”. The Smart Bus generates machine data as it operates. That data helps the Smart Bus predict and schedule its own maintenance work. After other Smart Bus approaches stalled, MTL chose to partner with LHP Telematics (LHPT) and Hortonworks to enhance their maintenance program and bring the Smart Bus idea to fruition.
MTL currently leverages the existing electronics on a bus as well as data from all of the main bus subsystems. The LHPT system uses the existing CANbus to gather over 330 data points taken at 10-second intervals from various components. The data is compressed, transferred into the LHPT backend system, and then stored on Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP).
Using HDP, the LHPT data science team runs algorithms for pattern recognition to correlate events to component failures and weed out maintenance inefficiencies. The data scientists look at fault codes collected from the bus and then match the codes to failure events on the bus. With this process to recognize recurring patterns among the day-to-day driving events, MTL is able to better predict when a component on a particular bus will fail, which allows them to proactively service the bus and avoid having to take it out of service for a prolonged period due to unscheduled maintenance events.
Currently, over two-thirds of the MTL buses have been equipped with the LHPT and Hortonworks solution, with complete implementation expected in 2018.
“We did not expect to get as much information as we did with access to data from HDP,” says Darren Curry, Chief Mechanical Officer for MTL. “We are always finding something new, finding things that we didn’t know about.”
MTL is now able to run highly granular reports that give their maintenance centers an unprecedented level of visibility. MTL migrates more and more data into HDP, including telematics functionality and predictive analytics. The algorithms now run automatically and can look at much larger amounts of data than they ever had before.
According to Curry this access to machine data brings 3 important benefits to MTL:
For example, before implementing this solution MTL faced an average Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) of 4,000 miles. Today with the K Plan, the MTBF has been improved to 21,000 miles and MTL estimates that with the LHPT and Hortonworks solution on the Smart Bus, the MTBF can be further extended to 30,000-35,000 miles.
With these results, MTL soon realized that they could run the buses for much longer, thereby increasing their return on investment in their fleet. Previously, buses were being retired after 35,000 miles per year at 12 years and currently MTL is able to continue using the buses up to 60,000 to 70,000 miles per year at 15 years. This is a 2x improvement on mileage and 30% increase in bus lifespan.
Originally MTL thought the K Plan would cost more to install, because it involved retrofitting their existing buses with new hardware, but the reality has proven to be quite the opposite. MTL was able to cut its original operating, maintenance and fuel costs by 50%. With the newer solution from LHPT and Hortonworks on the Smart Bus, operating costs have decreased from 92 cents per mile to 43 cents per mile, and MTL estimates that it will be able to reduce costs by another 20-30%.
The K Plan and Smart Bus have not only enhanced MTL’s maintenance program, they have changed the way MTL does business.
Curry sees these benefits continuing to grow. “I believe that we will not only sustain our current performance, I still believe that we will be able to increase our performance with LHPT and Hortonworks another 2-3 times on top of what we have achieved,” he says. “Everything is very positive and I am really excited about how we move forward from here. This solution will give us a lot of tools to analyze data and look at things differently than what we were doing before. This really changes everything.”
MTL envisions a series of next steps to help refine the Smart Bus implementation. Using machine-learning algorithms, MTL wants to isolate the important events on its buses and create a predictive model for these events.
These predictive capabilities will allow buses to:
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