Learning Zone

The importance of an effective defect management process

By Sarah Wilkinson
23 January 2021

How up-to-date is your fleets’ defect management process?

Managing defects can help ensure compliance as well as preventing unscheduled downtime. But if your system isn’t covering the basics, your fleet can suffer.

a technician using a laptop to perform the defect management process on this red vehicle

Unscheduled repairs are one of the mostly costly fleet management issues. Breakdowns and the downtime to remedy these problems leads to higher costs that can negatively impact both employee and customer satisfaction. Effectively managing your defect management process is about getting ahead of the issues by applying proven practices. With these initiatives, you can greatly improve fleet efficiency and reduce unscheduled downtime.

Start with data

Working with the vast information inside defect management software is the first step towards avoiding defects. Asking questions about high cost categories for vehicles, systems and components helps you identify areas that require attention. For example, if your fleet or a group of vehicles is experiencing a large number of specific component failures after a certain mileage interval, a maintenance or fleet replacement plan can offset future failures.

Pinpointing problems and working to address them can improve your defect management process, but can also benefit your fleet’s safety performance. With the telematics data that is now commonly available from onboard systems, you can identify drivers with a tendency for unsafe behaviors, such as speeding, rapid acceleration or hard braking events, and then act on that information with coaching and training.

Make inspections a priority

Unscheduled repairs are always more expensive and typically result in downtime that negatively impacts on your company’s ability to do business – industry estimates for fleet downtime costs can exceed $400 a day in lost productivity in addition to the actual vehicle repair costs. Many of these issues, however, are easily avoided when drivers perform proper pre-trip inspections. Ensuring vehicle operators are in the habit of completing routine checks – which you can facilitate with easy to follow procedures and checklists – will make costly, unscheduled events less likely.

Technician training also plays a key role in removing the cost of unscheduled repairs from your bottom line. A preventive fleet maintenance program that spells out inspection procedures can help trained technicians identify problems when they are much less costly to repair in the workshop than on the road.

Detailed records of inspections and issues they address can be helpful in developing and revising more effective procedures on an ongoing basis.

Ensure compliance with regulatory and legal requirements

Keeping on top of regulatory and legal compliance requirements, such as inspections and safety checks, is more about adhering to the letter of the law, but should also be a key requirement of any defect management process. Compliance programs reduce the unnecessary cost of fines for violations found during roadside inspections.

The ready availability of violation data can also be a factor in a customer’s decision to utilize your company’s services or purchase its products. Your fleet’s credibility and its reliability is a reflection of the care you take to avoid defects, unnecessary repairs and unscheduled downtime.

Go mobile

Today, mobile devices can be used to follow inspection procedures and accurately and quickly record defects. These solutions can automatically feed data into your fleet’s management system to create a repair order and ensure needed parts are available when the vehicle reaches a workshop. They can also provide an auditable trail of each inspection, including time, date, photos, signatures and GPS location.

mobile devices can be used for inspection procedures to quickly and accurately record defects

In our increasingly paperless world, paper-based vehicle inspection reports aren’t able to help you eliminate defects in timely manner. Thankfully, modern management systems can manage inspections thoroughly and not rush through the paperwork just to get the vehicle on the road. Making it easier and more convenient to do inspections properly leads to more reliable and accurate about potential failures.

With instant feedback from driver inspections, fleet managers are also able to react quickly to problems that may cause an unsafe condition. Inspection issues can even trigger email or text alerts so necessary repairs can be scheduled quickly.

Information technology is the answer

Earlier, we suggested that you begin the process of more effectively managing defects by asking yourself questions about the high cost areas of your fleet’s operation. With inspection and defect management software, you can find the answers you need, often in real-time from the field or the workshop.

You can also relieve the traditional paperwork burden in your mobile workforce by allowing them to conduct inspections using mobile devices that are fully integrated with your management software. Eliminating the need for paper forms also means a drop in administrative costs for associated time consuming and error prone data entry.

The defect management process that these advanced solutions facilitate can be simple yet highly effective. For performing inspections to eliminating defects, they can present procedures for daily checks and provide the ability to comment on potential problems and even capture images. With a mobile forms app, recorded defects can create work orders and be part of a detailed, fully auditable history that is securely transferred to your enterprise platform.

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