• Stig Palm, the workshop consultancy manager of Volvo Trucks,
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claims that Swedish Volvo workshops are 50% more efficient than their UK counterparts. Speaking at the workshop conference, on creating an efficient workshop, he said that efficient use of labour is the critical factor.
The goal in the Volvo Workshop is to keep the mechanic working productively all the time. By the time a vehicle arrives in the workshop, the work, its time, who will do it, where it will be done and which parts are required has already been worked out. The tools and information required to do the job are also kept ready to hand.
Palm was making the final presentation of the day to the conference together with Mike Hitchins of Volvo UK, and was winding up a day which chairman Roger Denniss summed up by saying "the bottom line is increased profit." His summing up also drew attention to the calls for quality at a fair price, but also increased performance from all components.
The most topical, and seasonal session came after lunch, when the problems of diesel fuel waxing were discussed. The session was introduced by Paul Snell, fleet engineer for Anglo-Danish Foods, who doubts that diesel fuel additives make any "significant contribution" to keeping vehicles rolling.
He drew attention to wax settlement, which occurs when the fuel remains below cloud point for any length of time. He has used a jam jar to demonstrate that wax leaves the fuel at the bottom of the jar thick and sludgy, while the fuel towards the top of the jar is left clear.
Snell was joined on the panel by John Savage, an independent fuel consultant. He predicted that fuel companies will not use more kerosene in the fuel to improve the cold weather performance, as argued by Paul Snell, but will go in the direction
of sophisticated techniques of catalytic dewaxing. Such techniques are already used to dewax lubricating oils.
He said that the improvements that fuel companies can make to their product by secondary additive treatment is reaching its limit, and if operators are not happy with the performance from fuel, fuel heaters are currently the best answer. This heralded the introduction of Trevor Humphrey of Raychem UK, which makes fuel line heaters, who pointed out that the top three customers for the Raychem Thermoline are all oil companies.
The panel was completed by John Bullock of Shell, to represent the UK petroleum industry. Referring to Paul Snell's comments about guaranteed operability, he said that the oil companies alone could not guarantee that a vehicle will keep running. The design of fuel systems, and the maintenance of vehicle fuel systems, and fuel storage systems are also vital.
The first comment from the floor came from Douglas Chappel, from the Highland Regional Council. He said that when his council investigated their fuel problems, they found that the storage tanks
were lined with four centimetres of scum, and the fuel was sitting on 30 centimetres of sludge and water in the bottom of the tank. He added that of 12 additives tested by them, only two came "near the standard."
John Savage said that fuel storage systems must be cleaned out at least annually, depending on the operating conditions, and John Bullock added that water should be drained off weekly. Paul Snell reiterated that fuel supplies must be constantly monitored "just to see that no-one has unwittingly slipped us a crippler".
Exposed fuel systems
Bill Montague of BTAC said that UK vehicle manufacturers are particularly bad at keeping fuel systems tucked out of the way. This prompted Roger Denniss to ask John Savage and Bullock to explain chill factor. John Bullock described chill factor as "something of an old wives tale" which humans feel because they have a source of heat, but which does not affect fuel tanks in the same way. He ascribed the legend to exposed areas having a lower ambient temperature than more sheltered areas.
John Savage said that although the wind chill might not affect the temperature to which the fuel falls, it may affect the rate of cooling, thereby having an effect on wax settlement. He therefore recommends parking vehicles in a sheltered area, as a step in the right direction. The common conclusion was that wind cannot take the temperature below the ambient temperature.
David Brooks of Deans Farm Eggs
said that his drivers fill their vehicles right up when they return from a day's driving, as this prevents the warm fuel attracting condensation, so getting water into the fuel. Paul Snell agreed that this would get rid of condensation, but would increase the amount of wax settlement, as there is more fuel getting cold in the tank.
By adding the fuel in the morning, he added that a freshly agitated tank of fuel is less likely to suffer from wax settlement. John Savage said that because the fuel from the storage tank is likely to be warmer than that in the vehicle tank, it will slow the rate of cooling. John Bullock said that the fuel is best left in the bulk storage tanks overnight, where wax settlement is less likely to occur, and put up with the extra condensation as the lesser of two evils.
The last question came from Alan Woodhead of Beatson Clark, who asked how to get rid of settled wax in bulk tanks. John Bullock said that the only way to redisperse the wax into the fuel is to raise the temperature; no amount of additive will disperse the wax. He then recommended getting agreement from your local customs officer to dissolve the wax with kerosene, or get a fresh stock of warm fuel from your supplier.
John Savage suggested that finding a way to agitate the fuel might help. Paul Snell said that kerosene, which can be added to diesel with special dispensation from the customs and excise, must never be added to bulk storage tanks. He thought the best way to get rid of the problem would be to get the oil company to pump out the tank, and give a refund for the amount removed.
Fuel additives got little or no favourable comment from this particular panel of experts, and it might have livened up the debate if an additive manufacturer had been on the panel. Certainly anyone visiting the Intro stand in the accompanying exhibition would have heard a very different point of view.
If the theme of the afternoon session was keeping vehicles rolling, the morning looked at keeping parts in top condition through remanufacturing, or in the case of tyres, retreading and regrooving. The most contentious debate was inevitably about remanufactured air-brake equip ment.
The case for the original equipment manufacturer was put by Roger Bates, afterrnarket sales and service manager of Bendix Ltd. He described what brought Bendix back into remanufacturing brake parts, and how the parts that they remanufacture are updated to the latest specification.
Quoting from the August issue of Workshop, which contained an article that referred to brake remanufacturers ACE, he disputed the view of one of their spokesmen who had described spring brake actuators as not being 'safety critical'. A harrowing tale of a vehicle running out of control, with failed actuators supported his argument.
Roger Bates also gave details of a survey done in conjunction with Air Products, which concluded that air brake parts need only be repaired at failure up to 640,000 km (400,000 miles). The spring brake actuators, foot control valve and hand control valve should then be replaced as routine.
This prompted Roger Denniss to ask the floor, if anyone was prepared to say that they stuck rigidly to manufacturers recommendations when replacing parts. Only one hand was raised. Graham Ranger of Rubery Owen Rockwell asked if the recommendations are universal, or just for that one fleet and its operating conditions, and whether any servicing, such as replacing diaphragms, had been done on the parts in the survey.
Roger Bates said that most people know the nature of the Air Products operation, and their workshop practices mean that the exact history of every component is known. Each fleet would have to do a similar exercise, but based on the Air Products experience "there are some quite substantial savings to be made."
He continued by saying that "the irnpor
tant thing is the fleet engineer, having done the exercise . • can say I have done everything possible to ensure that the costs are as low as possible without affecting the safety of the vehicles."
During his paper, Roger Bates had been damning of non-original equipment remanufacturers who remanufacture parts that have been the subject of a recall, but without modifying them, and others who use the same coloured paint as Bendix in an attempt to pass off their product as remanufactured by Bendix.
Colin Rothwell, managing director of Fleet Parts presented the next paper, and put the point of view of the independent remanufacturer. He explained that Fleet Parts had gone into the business to satisfy a demand that was not, and he claims is still not, met by the original manufacturers. His essential point is that remanufacturing is a part of the automotive industry, that is destined to grow much larger, and although there is a dangerous cowboy element in remanufacturering, not all independent remanufacturers can be tarred with the same brush.
The problem of identifying remanufactured components was raised after it was pointed out that labels can be lost when the vehicle is steam cleaned. For the past eighteen months Bendix has been using a label that will not come off with any form of steam cleaning.
Colin Rothwell said that Fleet Parts remanufactured components can be identified by a number stamped into the body of the part. Roger Bates had referred to a company which had attempted to make its remanufactured parts look as if they had come from the original manufacturers. Rothwell stated that "we don't paint our products gold, we don't try to pass it off in any way shape or form either."
Both speakers agreed with Martyr'
Withvall of Royal Mail letters, that a code of practice, or British standard needs to be established to protect the operator from badly remanufactured parts. Fleet Parts has been in consultation with the original equipment manufacturers through the Motor Factors Association, but the talks failed on a condition laid down by the manufacturers which would have deprived Fleet Parts of its their business. Roger Bates referred to the code of practice that comes from the European Truck Maintenance Council on remanufacturing.
Prior to brake remanufacture being discussed, the morning had started with two papers on engine remanufacture. The first was presented by Bill O'Donnell of Diesel ReCon UK, which is a division of Cummins Engines Company Ltd. He described the advantages of remanufactured engines as greater availability, at a cost of 50% to 70% of a new unit. He warned that claims by non-genuine manufacturers to have the original manufacturers seal of approval should be taken "with a pinch of salt".
O'Donnell's presentation effectively argued the case for using a remanufactured engine, rather than a new one. Paul Rickaby of Reliance Tankers pointed out, overhauling the top end of an engine can soon add up to more than the cost of a remanufactured engine.
Diesel ReCon claim to deliver over 90% of orders within three days of the order being received, and 95% within ten days. Standard models are kept on the shelf. Peculiar specifications can be satisfied in seven to ten days from good core being received.
By access to information such as the engine history warranty file, product improvement can be built into engines remanufactured by the original manufacturer. Every manufacturer who fits Cummins engines is an outlet for remanufactured engines, which means that there are MK) outlets.
Colin Hicks, commercial manager of Beans Engineering put the case for the independent engine remanufacturer. Beans has worked under contract for large engine manufacturers Ford and Leyland. Subsequently it has launched its Dieselmaster range of manufactured engines which are available through eighteen outlets.
Scrap procedures must be totally watertight. Used parts are the life blood of the business, and if too much is scrapped, overheads are too high. 'One should apply the same goods inwards techniques to worn units as would be applied to any other component.' A surcharge, that can vary between £300 and £2000 has been introduced by remanufacturers to ensure a supply of good quality core parts. Both speakers emphasised that remanufactured engines are all tested to make sure that the power output, and consumption are all within the manufacturers original limits. Roger Denniss recalled a brand new engine, which he had tested, and found that it was delivering 40% less power than the manufacturer claimed. He suggested that a properly tested remanufactured unit might be more likely to product full power than a new engine.
Hicks summarised by saying that the independent is in a good position to satisfy the operator who runs more than one type of engine. The original manufacturer is only in a position to supply his own engines, so cannot supply all the needs of operators with varied fleets.
Both speakers referred to core parts, ie those parts that are reconditioned rather than replaced as the engine is rebuilt, and although they were defined as all moving parts, no strict breakdown was given. Tony Newman, fleet engineer of Boulton and Paul, asked what proportion of crankshafts are replaced, and whether there are any steps that the operator can take to extend the life of major core parts, such as the crankshaft.
Beans replace around 35% of all the cranks that are returned, Cummins Diesel ReCon replaces 40% of the cranks in the NT range, and up to 70% of cranks in the Vee engines. Neither speaker had any suggestions beyond regular and thorough servicing for prolonging the life of the major core parts.
Colin Hicks claimed that the lower overheads of the independent remanufacturer allowed the product to be offered with a 15% to 20% saving compared to units remanufactured by the original manufacturer. Dieselmaster engines are bench tested for up to eight hours, and all carry the Federation of Engine Remanufacturers guarantee.
Regroove or retread
Tyres came under the spotlight with a debate about reclaiming tyres by either regrooving or retreading. The case for regrooving was put by Tony ShawDavis, Technical Liaison Officer for Michelin Tyres PLC. He pointed out that Michelin tyres are designed to be regrooved, and even before the tyre is fully worn, the tread tends to close up. Regrooving will widen the grooves back to their original size, so improving the wet weather performance of the tyre.
Brian Lawton, director of the Retread Manufacturers Association, said that bad regrooving techniques have resulted around 200,000 illegal truck tyres being operated on UK roads, according to an RMA survey. Of the cases returned to Michelin, 60% have been regrooved, but only 14% are rejected, according to ShawDavis, but the RMA estimates that 35% of regrooved tyres are done badly.
The remanufacturer of the tyre can tell whether a tyre has been regrooved correctly, and without access to such expert advice, the operator is at the mercy of the regroover. He may well be doing the job correctly even if the original tread has not been followed. In Austria, if a vehicle is running a regrooved tyre, a sticker man must be placed in the window saying who did the regrooving, and it cannot be used on a steering axle, or used for hazardous loads. Lawton suggested that a similar system operated in the UK would improve safety.
A recent survey, done in conjunction with a home delivery company, showed that most tyre damage was from pinch ruptures on the sidewalls, and although a reinforcing band can be added to the sidewall, this will not cure a bad rupture. Both speakers agreed that regrooving is an essential stage in the life of a tyre, and although the process is safe when practiced correctly, rigorous inspection techniques must be used. It was stressed that once a ply has been exposed, the tyre must be taken out of service. The paper that attracted least response from the audience, but had perhaps the greatest relevance was presented by Eddie Farley, General Manager of City of Bristol Transport Services. He started by addressing the question of why have a workshop at all. As condition maintenance, and the use of diagnostic equipment increases, workshop costs and practices are becoming more predictable, allowing the operator to define his reason for having a workshop:profit.
Farley is currently helping to compile the Workshop Standards Manual under the aegis of the Institute of Road Transport Engineers. When it is available early next year, it will be required reading for every workshop manager. The Workshops Standards Manual is expected to continue the tradition of the Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards, and will be made up of 16 modules.
All aspects of the Workshop will be comprehensively covered, and modules can be added as advances are made in the industry. Farley stressed that the reason for running a workshop is to increase the profit of the operation; if it does not,