USE* SERP Support for Commercial Vehicles

Commercial vehicles is the natural and ideal arena for SERP. High production volumes and emphasis on cost optimisation from fleet buyers means that returns from investment in design serviceability support more than justify the cost.

Russell Davey, USE* SERP Engineer
Digital serviceability support from USE* Automotive promotes and enculturates a design for serviceability mindset into product development activities. USE* classify these services as SERP (Service Evaluation and Repair Process), reflecting both the competent expertise that we deploy to support this function and our out of the box process toolset that we can provide and adapt to any of our clients’ product development PLM systems.

In January 2010, USE* was engaged to provided SERP support to commercial vehicles engineering within a prestigious household-name automotive OEM. Beginning this project, our engineers knew that the key test would be - how to adapt our proven methods to a new client-environment while transitioning our expertise from passenger vehicles to a commercial vehicles context.

The Challenge

Moving from a passenger vehicles environment to commercial vehicles presented USE* engineers with some challenges, not least because there are substantial differences between commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles in terms of different priorities through the product development cycle.

If we look at what a customer wants and requires from a commercial vehicle, then it becomes obvious why the design process is different from that of a passenger car. The customer in this case is not a typical consumer going back and forth to work to the sum of 20K miles per year, but companies wanting fleet vehicles that will not only be constantly on the road throughout a year’s worth of unpredictable weather, but also performing a plethora of heavy duty tasks at the same time.

A company buying a fleet of vehicles will essentially consider two criteria: the appropriacy of the vehicle for the job, and cost. Cost, however, is a lot borader than cost to buy the vehicle, but also the cost of running and insuring the vehicle (Cost of Ownership or CoO). Both running and insurance costs can be influenced by the work undertaken by USE* SERP engineers.

The other part of commercial vehicle production that changed the approach of USE* engineers was the physical vehicle itself. In most cases a commercial vehicle programme includes hundreds of possible variant combinations. The sheer variety of vehicles and environments for just one commercial vehicle programme puts a bigger emphasis on the assessments list driven by SERP engineers: long wheel base, short wheel base, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, van, bus, tipper, camper, and so on, each with a possible range of engines. Not only are there in-house variants, but commercial vehicles come with an increasing number of licensed aftermarket customisations, from industrial equipment to powertrain conversions. Considerations also have to be made for how these changes to the base vehicle will affect serviceability in the future. It is also common that variants can be developed along different timelines.

As commercial vehicles come in so many different shapes, SERP engineers also needed to get used to unfamiliar components, as well as finding familiar components in unfamiliar places. Things like cargo and sliding doors, cab bulkheads, and false floors are components you would not expect to see in passenger vehicles, while due to limited package space offered by a cab design, engineers find more and more ingenious ways of locating commonly accessed components such as batteries and fuse boxes.

The Solution

The team developed and implemented new processes which have already proved their worth in a number of different ways. Alongside this, a quantity of work which could not have been managed without the experience and processes that USE* deliver to our customers could not have been achieved.

The USE* team introduced new check sheets, different to those used on passenger vehicles, allowing SERP engineers to document the environment in which an assessment has been completed and to show a justification for this choice based on production volumes, risk, and complexity of package.

Total fix cost for the top 22 non-schedule service items were designated as a very high priority for SERP support. A 0.5 hour labour saving on just one of the non-scheduled items could move a vehicle from competitive to best in class. This means the SERP team has to look at these items very closely and fight for design solutions resulting in the smallest of reductions in labour time, even if the financial benefit is not obvious as warranty saving.

The SERP team prioritised damageability checks at early stages of a the development cycle, working with safety engineers to ensure that no unacceptable damage was encountered during varying levels of crash, and also to ensure that damage can be fixed as cheaply and as quickly as possible - the customer could be losing money every second their vehicle is off the road, and low speed impact was therefore deemed a key driver regarding both insurance costs and broader Cost of Ownership.

Damageability checks also included sheet metal assessments, looking at how much of the external surface can be fixed from the interior, as well as vulnerable component R&I strategies, allowing the SERP engineers to request changes to the structural body and chassis if necessary.

The wide array of vehicle variants also meant that SERP engineers had to do a careful pre-planning prior to commencing work on a programme. This ensured that resource was used efficiently and that, at the same time, the quality of work and the range of checks were not compromised. With the overlapping timelines, if things were prioritised correctly, SERP engineers demonstrated that they could maximise the number of checks done across variants.

Its Benefits

Benefits from the team’s work so far have included shorter service times and commensurate cheaper labour costs and warranty costs, and of course more competitive cost of ownership: all in all a commercial vehicle more attractive to fleet buyers.

In addition, process improvements that USE* have delivered in order to accommodate the commercial vehicle programes have also led to changes and improvements in our business elsewhere, most particularly regarding passenger vehicles.
Our Achievements

With all this to take on board, the guys have not flinched, and have impressed our customer’s team with their enthusiasm and dedication. In just nine months, USE* SERP engineers’ efforts on our customer’s commercial vehicle programmes could deliver an estimated warranty avoidance of over £6 million.

Case Studies

Engineering Standards

Engineering Standards

‘Design for Service’ requirements from USE*
Rear Underseat Design

Rear Underseat Design

Cost effective high frequency repairs
USE* and New Technologies

USE* and New Technologies

‘Engineered in’ service strategies
US$164 million benefit

US$164 million benefit

Affirming the value of SERP with warranty data

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