Volvo will soon monitor all its trucks from Ghent

Source: De Tijd (12/05/2017); Author: Barbara Moens

Having your car break down along the motorway can be very annoying. When a truck breaks down en route from Zeebrugge to Barcelona however, the company may incur a penalty for the late delivery but also risks losing a client.

Twenty-nine-year-old Pieter Gheeraert, who works in Volvo Trucks’ Ghent division as Manager Connected Services Support, felt there should be a way to avoid this. That is why he developed a new application that centrally stores the technical data for trucks. Dealerships with customers who have a Volvo truck no longer have to store all the data. Instead they will be regularly sent a list of vehicles that require maintenance.

Pieter Gheeraert - Volvo Trucks
Take the Lead participant Pieter Gheeraert convinced Volvo to monitor its trucks and avoid unexpected breakdowns.

Unexpected breakdown

But Gheeraert wanted to up the ante by monitoring Volvo trucks around the world in real-time from Belgium. This allows Volvo to prevent unexpected breakdowns, for example by notifying the driver a few hours beforehand of the imminent breakdown. He did not receive the required support from the Swedish headquarters for this however.

“They always told me that I was moving too fast.”
Pieter Gheeraert (Manager Connected Services Support Volvo Group)

So Gheeraert changed tack, taking advantage of the Take the Lead training programme that Vlerick Business School organises together with De Tijd and L’Echo. “Initially my months of lobbying within the company were rather fruitless. They kept on telling me that I was moving too fast. Sweden would reply, “We’re getting there.” Take the Lead helped me tailor my pitch and better define my digital strategy. I told them that we have no time to lose and that the time to invest in this is now.”

He succeeded in convincing Karin Falk, the Senior Vice President of Volvo Trucks. “She agreed that my project was the right approach and said other projects would be put on the back burner for this. All she wanted to know was how many millions I needed.”

SIM card

The budget for his project was increased from a few hundreds of thousands of euros to a few million. Gheeraert will now develop a platform, with a team of 15 people in Ghent, that will continuously monitor all the trucks in real-time, using GPS technology or through the Internet.

“For companies operating in the competitive transport industry, monitoring can make a world of difference.” Pieter Gheeraert (Manager Connected Services Support Volvo Group)

This can be achieved by activating the SIM card that all Volvo trucks have been fitted with since 2012. You can also integrate a SIM card in older trucks. “We can guarantee our customers that their trucks will never break down unexpectedly because of a monitoring system. This can make a world of difference for companies in the competitive transport industry.”

Data

The monitoring must first and foremost avoid unscheduled stops but the project does much more than that. Volvo notifies its trucks that an intervention is necessary within a few weeks. Customers are also sent “health” reports for their trucks. The data are also part of an internal quality process at Volvo, allowing the company to analyse how and where the production process can be improved. “This helps us produce even better trucks.”

Last but not least, Volvo is testing whether it can remotely upgrade the software in its trucks. The proverbial icing on the cake. “Even if you schedule an appointment beforehand, the maintenance of your car or truck at your dealership can be a time-consuming process,” says Gheeraert. “We want to evolve towards a system that allows us to click just one central button after which all the trucks can download a general update, like on your iPhone for example. We are already testing this and Sweden gave us the green light to go full steam ahead.”

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