Oftentimes, innovations in the automotive industry solely focus on the primary market – the actual purchase of a vehicle. New service solutions or alternative means of transportation are the results of advancements made with this market in mind.
But this primary market is followed by another, often neglected market that is no less significant: the aftermarket. Called the secondary market, it includes all the services that are included after the purchase of a car or truck. Whether this is repairs, maintenance, or retrofitting, the scope of the aftermarket is gigantic. And the implications of new digital services can be far-reaching as well. So how does one use digitisation and other innovations to transform the way in which these services are organised for commercial vehicles?
Nils Hollmann of Alltrucks spoke on the impact of new technologies (such as autonomous or connected vehicles and alternative powertrains) on workshops. These new technologies require technical know-how and highly trained personnel. For example, fuel cell drives, which work like a small power plant, are quite complex in their design. In the fuel cell, hydrogen is oxidized, and during a complex chemical process, electricity is ultimately produced for the powertrain. Repair shoops need special equipment, tools and training to meet these challenges and to ensure fast and efficient service in the future.
In this context, the increasing usage of connected vehicles is a curse and a blessing at the same time. While this ultimately adds to the complexity of the systems as well – and requires technically sound mechanics – it also allows the continuous exchange of data between vehicles and garages. The resulting benefit: Predictive Maintenance.
Felix Piet Krüger from MAN Truck & Bus spoke of the ingenuity of predictive maintenance. By connecting the vehicle to the workshop, the mechanics can be informed of any problems with the vehicle before arriving at the repair shop and can adjust and prepare for eventual repairs. This way, time expenses and misdiagnosis can be drastically reduced. The next step would be Advanced Predictive Maintenance. Although this is not yet a case for practical application, many companies are already working on its implementation. Not only can workshops read the data of vehicles in real time, but they can also carry out first repairs via the computer by adapting some systems and areas of the vehicle.
An example of how this can work was given by David Dohnal of ZF. Their solution: They developed a device (a kind of black box) which can be installed in a wide variety of vehicles, whether this is a car, a tractor, or a heavy-duty truck. This device then collects various data about the vehicle, reads it and uploads it to a cloud platform. From there on, the drivers, shippers or workshops can retrieve information and analyse it by using the platform.
Another example of digital solutions for the aftermarket was given by Philippe Jacquin of Michelin: Smart Tires. Various sensors in the vehicle, in the tire itself and by external providers (for example, weather reports) are collected and read by Michelin’s algorithms. Afterwards, they give the drivers information about which tires are best for the upcoming journey and route, warn the driver – for example about dangerously low tire pressure – or inform workshops in advance about possible problems and necessary repairs.