What distributors are saying
Clark Simpson and Dave Nicolette provided the forklift manufacturer‘s viewpoint about the trend toward proprietary diagnostic software in this article. Since 2007, forklift distributors have been sounding off with their opinions on this topic at The MHEDA Journal Online’s Diagnostic Software Opinion Forum. A sampling of comments posted on the forum is given below.
A service technician with nearly 40 years of industry experience says, “I find it more than a little aggravating to walk into a customer with a mixed fleet and have to tell them I don’t have access to service data or equipment on some of their fleet. The trend among end-users has been to take competitive bids at each purchase, and then to contract service with whomever they most trust. Now I have to advise my customers of a new variable. They should buy the equipment from the dealer they trust regardless of cost, or else they will have to do business with several dealers for service. This will definitely harm the small equipment dealer, much of whose income is from service. It also harms the reputation of the mechanic, at least in the short term, until customers come to the understanding of the changes in the marketplace. The inability to even purchase software and cables, at any price, from some manufacturers may hurt their reputation as well.”
An employee in a distributor technology department comments, “This is one of the areas where we need to think differently than we have in the past regarding the continual updating of the software, and the number of various cables to connect, as well as finding service techs comfortable with what can and cannot be done with the laptop. It also means we must reconsider the value of service techs who are comfortable and able to work with computers. We must not only train, but compensate, techs who can be trusted to properly use computers.”
The service manager at a multi-line dealer says this trend affects the dealers on many levels. “The cost of the hardware, software and cables is straining service departments to equip each road technician with all the proper equipment. There is also the endless hassle of dealing with the different operating systems and keeping the software updated. The constant updates to the engine controllers require constant updating of each laptop. Since the bulk of the work is done in the field, this is quite a challenge.”
As one service technician says, “If the industry does not come together with some sort of standard soon, all may suffer, with customers keeping older trucks longer, and buying used equipment. EPA regulations aside, if auto manufacturers can standardize, why can’t we?”
A service manager says, “A standardized cable would be a great place to start. I hope that eventually the manufacturers get together and decide on a platform, but I do not see that happening anytime soon. Since the computerized systems are mandated on IC trucks by the EPA, there isn’t much you can do but deal with it and do the best you can. Training has always been essential to success in the service business; it just requires a different kind of training now.”
Another distributor says, “A generic analyzer is needed for anyone who requests one. This will allow the customer to choose who he wants to perform service on his lift truck. The customer is not handcuffed to a weak or underperforming forklift service provider or dealer in a certain area.”