May 18, 2012 Leave a comment
Metro Magazine’s annual Bus Maintenance Survey published in the Metro Magazine, May 2012 edition indicates parts availability and obsolescence to be the number one concern for maintenance personnel in Bus Maintenance workshops.
Metro’s survey was based on the questionnaire sent to 200 transit agencies with a list of questions ranging from biggest challenges and most frequent issues they meet in the shops to training and new ways to perform services.
One of the respondents noted that “Consistent parts availability and obsolescence avoidance is an ongoing concern being addressed through product testing and alternatives, working closely with manufacturers and vendors” Another one explained that it is really hard for them to determine the spare parts ratio because of the different lead times for different types of buses. He mentioned that many of their older buses require local fabrication shops to make parts for them, as they are no longer available from manufacturers or vendors.
This approach makes it almost impossible to predict the life cycle of bus parts to be able to plan preventive/predictive spare parts replacement and significantly increases the total cost of ownership for older buses. Consequently, it increases the number of road calls because of the increased number of external service failures.
The survey also indicates that workshop managers are facing a challenge arising from transit agencies’ strategy of transferring to cleaner burning engines with new, alternative propulsion systems.
This requires significant changes in repair procedures and knowledge management. More versatile fleet requires better planning and generally increases the cost of maintenance because of the new, specialized equipment needed and more complex organization of work in all segments from procurement of spare parts to the actual repair work by mechanics.
This survey has shown the need for better long term planning of capital investments in transit agencies. What is the cut-off age of the fleet when the total cost of ownership over the remaining life cycle of a bus becomes higher than selling the vehicle and investing in a new one? What are the costs of the more complex organization and smaller spare part batches ordered because of the more versatile fleet and how fast do we want to homogenize the fleet to reduce the related costs?
These are the types of questions management of transit agencies will have to answer to successfully overcome the challenges they are facing today.