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NewsTechnologyTop StoriesTrucking

Kar Q&A: The ‘ticking time bomb’ of technician shortage

Noregon Chief Strategy Officer Sandeep Kar on the key issues and goals in his new position

This week, Noregon, a provider of commercial vehicle diagnostic and repair software and data analytics solutions, announced the hiring of Sandeep Kar as its chief strategy officer. Kar will be responsible for accelerating the company’s growth, development and competitive differentiation.

Kar previously served as chief strategy officer for Fleet Complete. Before that, he was global vice president of automotive and transportation at Frost & Sullivan. “His wealth of knowledge and forward-thinking will be a major asset for the company as we prepare to achieve unprecedented growth,” Noregon CEO Bill Hathaway said of Kar. 

As he steps into his new role at the Greensboro, North Carolina-based company, Kar took time to answer a few questions exclusively for FreightWaves. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

FREIGHTWAVES: What attracted you to Noregon?

KAR: “Over the past 20 years, I have researched and analyzed connected vehicle technologies and their increasing market pull and penetration. Of these technologies, diagnostics and prognostics (predictive maintenance) have received one of the strongest demands from fleets, drivers, technicians, and other groups that represent this industry. Our industry focuses a lot on driver shortage and it is arguably one of the biggest restraints to long-term sustainable growth. 

“However, another ticking time bomb that is equally important and can have a cascading impact on all corners of our industry is technician shortage. Trucks, buses, trailers, and other commercial vehicles and their sub-systems are increasingly getting sensorized. The level of distributed electronics in these vehicles is increasing at a rapid pace and this is further exacerbating the technician shortage issue, given the fact that the industry is facing a severe shortage of skilled technicians that can service and maintain these senso-laden commercial vehicles. This is a secular trend that is impacting large and small fleets alike globally. 

“Now it is time to build innovative and sustainable business models that greatly enhance vehicle uptime and utilization. I have always been eager to leverage my commercial vehicle technology and market expertise and experience in building short, medium and long-term growth strategies for leading innovators in the diagnostics and prognostics space. 

“I have known and had been following Noregon for over 10 years now. They have brought revolutionary changes to the commercial vehicle service and maintenance industry in North America and are now positioned for strengthening their partnerships and relationships with vehicle manufacturers in North America and other regions of the world. It has also created tremendous brand equity and industry goodwill. I have also known Noregon’s Founder and CEO Bill Hathaway for many years and have admired the strong and revered business that he and his team has built. 

“So when the opportunity presented itself to lead Noregon’s corporate strategy, I decided to take it. The economies of scope and scale that Noregon enjoys provides me with a strong baseline to further enhance its competitive differentiation while creating and implementing powerful and sustainable growth strategies that will expand current revenue streams while creating new blue ocean advantages. 

“My mission is to position Noregon as a nerve center for commercial vehicle service and maintenance as digitization transforms the industry landscape and brings about massive changes to the transportation industry.”

FREIGHTWAVES: How does your skill set coincide with Noregon’s goals?

KAR: “Transportation and logistics is the backbone of nations; 80% of everything we consume daily moves on a truck. As they say, if you bought it, a truck brought it. I started taking an immense interest in this sector from a very early age. My first job out of engineering school was at a truck OEM; my master’s degree thesis was on heavy-truck dynamics; and I spent 15 years in the global commercial vehicle industry as a management consultant. Most recently, I served as the chief strategy officer at one of the largest telematics solution providers globally with strong presence in North America, Europe and Australia. 

“In summary, I have spent over two decades in the transportation industry working closely with various divisions, regional and global operations, and executive leadership at global commercial vehicle OEMs, tier-1 suppliers of vehicle systems, fleets, governments, regulators, legislators and financial industry. This has given me an opportunity to scan and identify technology, econometric, application and market trends related to the transportation industry.

“As an industry analyst and advisor, I have been advising industry stake holding groups to recalibrate their business models to embrace the change that is driven by digitization resulting in service and solutions becoming more important than the product itself. Diagnostics and prognostics are areas that enable OEMs, Tier-1s, telematics solution providers, and service and maintenance providers in creating service and solution centric business models. 

“Much of my strategic advisory work has been focused on enabling commercial vehicle OEMs and tier-1s in creating diagnostics and predictive maintenance driven revenue streams that facilitate them in moving from a transactional connection with the fleets (where relationship ends when the truck is sold) to a relational connection (where the relationship begins when the truck is sold). Noregon is the nerve center of the digitized service and maintenance industry. Therefore, my skills, expertise and experience coincide nicely with Noregon and its intended growth trajectory.”

FREIGHTWAVES: What are your initial top priorities?

KAR: “Accelerate Noregon’s market share expansion through a combination of organic and inorganic growth strategies. 

“Continuously scan the industry for accretive growth opportunities and surgically pursue the most impactful technologies, applications, and markets for delivering value to the service and maintenance industry for commercial vehicles.

“Strengthen Noregon’s competitive differentiation through product, service and solution driven innovations that enable us in further strengthening our customer satisfaction while enabling us in delivering unparalleled value to our target customer groups and segments

“Drive strategic expansion into adjacent markets and new markets globally.

“Continue to develop strong and synergistic partnerships with vehicle manufacturers, system suppliers, commercial vehicle service and maintenance providers, repair facilities, fleets, distributors and all stake holding groups.

“Strengthen Noregon’s brand resonance and centrality as nerve center for commercial vehicle health and uptime.”

FREIGHTWAVES: What do you see as the biggest challenges/hurdles?

KAR: “Commercial vehicles are now perceived by many as computers on wheels. These trucks are designed and built to deliver the lowest total cost of ownership value proposition to fleets and owner-operators alike. If we unpack a fleet’s TCO [total cost of ownership], we will notice that driver cost, fuel cost, and truck leasing and finance cost are some of the biggest expenses followed by service and maintenance. 

“Talk to any fleet manager or owner-operator and they will tell you that a properly maintained truck can reduce both fuel cost and driver cost as well as service and maintenance cost in the long run. Diagnostics and prognostics technologies can have both direct and indirect impact on reducing a vehicle’s TCO. 

“Advanced diagnostics and predictive maintenance solutions such as those offered by Noregon can help in reducing downtime, cost of servicing and maintaining trucks, and keep drivers and vehicles on roads by quickly and accurately diagnosing the problems, predicting impending failures, and prescribing the most efficient service and maintenance processes and practices.

“Commercial vehicle operators are facing rapidly rising levels of skilled technician shortage while faced with strengthening regulatory environment and sweeping changes brought by the modifications made in first and last mile logistics. In an event of a scheduled or unscheduled service/maintenance event, diagnostics and prognostics solutions can enable technicians in quickly identifying problems and in servicing and maintaining commercial vehicles, thereby reducing the burden on the service and maintenance providers and elevating their service standards that benefit truck drivers, owners, fleet managers and our economies. 

“With these technologies, the relief has reached the scene of the crisis and we are seeing a revolution where accurate diagnostics and predictive analytics is not only offering descriptive insights to the industry, but also predictive and prescriptive insights, which is leading to significant improvements in vehicle uptime. Diagnostics tools and solutions have already become trusted wingmen for 21st century technicians, delivering noticeable benefits to fleet owning businesses.

“The North American commercial industry is incumbent with several regulations spanning emissions, safety, hours of service etc. Effective and efficient diagnostics and predictive maintenance is enabling fleets in complying with these regulations. For example, a well-serviced and maintained truck doesn’t only produce a lower carbon footprint but also reduces the vehicle’s fuel consumption. A well-serviced and maintained truck brake system enabled by exceptional diagnostics can not only reduce stopping distance but also reduce tire wear and tear. And time-efficient diagnostics enabled by solutions such as JPRO can not only get a truck back on the highway again but in doing so also extract more driving time from a driver under the HOS regulation environment.”

FREIGHTWAVES: By the time next year, I’d like to see us …?

KAR: “… Further expand our market share in trucking while expanding into new adjacencies and segments in both North America and other regions. I also would like our business model to feature a good combination of products, services and solutions that work in unison in reducing vehicle downtime while enabling higher levels of fleet utilization. 

“I would like to develop iterative processes that are driven by corporate strategy induced decision-making, which will further strengthen Noregon’s end-user focused product planning, distribution models, and enable Noregon in empowering technicians to efficiently handle the service and maintenance demands placed by the new generation of commercial vehicles.”

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