Smart phones for truck techs

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No service technician can keep track of every single part of a truck. Whenever we’re unsure, we can find the necessary information here. This is sort of our Bible or telephone book.” –Mattias Roos, a Volvo service technician based in Gothenburg, Sweden, talking about Volvo Trucks’ new smart phone device

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There are tens (if not hundreds) of different technological devices truck technicians use to conduct their work – laptop computers, diagnostic code readers, handheld scanners, plus a plethora of software packages to boot.

Now Volvo Trucks in Europe – a subsidiary of Sweden’s AB Volvo, which is also the ultimate parent company of Volvo Trucks North America – is experimenting with a different, yet quite familiar, technological pathway: making the plain old “smart phone” a sort of ultimate reference book for technicians.

“Firstly, consumer products are produced in larger volumes, resulting in a significantly lower price than industrial made-to-order devices,” noted Kerstin Hanson, project manager at Volvo IT – another AB Volvo division.

“Secondly, users already have prior knowledge of the way this technology works and are therefore more likely to embrace it as a new way of working,” she added.

Bengt Persson, senior VP-quality and technical support at Volvo Trucks, said that the whole point of this research project is to figure out ways to streamline work at service workshops.

By giving technicians to all sorts of service instructions via a “smart phone” they all know how to operate saves them time and hopefully enhances the quality of their work, he explained.

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With this new concept, which was developed in collaboration between Volvo IT, Volvo Trucks and Volvo Parts, Persson said the information unique to each chassis will be easily accessible on a technician’s very own smart phone, delivered either as text or through images and animation.

[By the way, remember the quote from Mattias Roos at the beginning of this post? That's a photo of him holding this new truck tech "smart phone" at left.]

There a lot of potential benefits, he explained, such as using animation to allow for repair instructions to cross language barriers – an obvious advantage for a global company such as Volvo Trucks, which has workshops in more than 140 countries.

As smart phones are mobile and easy to carry, they will also make it easier for technicians always to be updated with the latest information as they work, Persson noted.

“Today, the service technician constantly needs new skills and information, as new technology develops and more truck models are released onto the market,” he added. “As each truck chassis model introduced becomes increasingly unique, it is impossible for technicians to know everything about every vehicle.”

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Persson pointed out that these smart phones were tested last spring among service technicians in China and Sweden, with technicians from both countries reporting what he called "positive results" in terms of the technology making their work day easier.

As a result, he said Volvo Trucks and Volvo IT will continue their joint effort to further develop and customize this truck tech "smart phone" application for worldwide use.

“The use of smart phones in service centers is an interesting solution, which will improve efficiency and ensure the quality of our after-sales services,” Persson noted. “We therefore have great hopes of launching the concept in the near future.”

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Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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