Our fictitious fleet department finds some much needed solutions to some very common problems.
It’s time to wrap up our case study concerning Bob Bertram in his new job as a municipal fleet manager at a fictional city.
Bertram was given a list of complaints at a meeting with three other managers in Public Works. The single-shift operation at the municipal garage was a major conflict and was driving up the retention of spare vehicles by the users. The fleet manager was accused of arbitrarily sending vehicles to auction instead of repairing them, if he felt the repair cost was too high. And there was a strong feeling that downtime was excessive and that priority was given to the wrong vehicles.
The first move should be to establish an afternoon shift within the collective agreement (mechanics in this case are represented by a union). Four 10-hour shifts are attractive to some, and would encourage volunteers. Another option is three 12-hour shifts and pay for 40 hours, which could be Friday to Sunday.
The budget for fleet in this case is assigned to the fleet manager, who can justify selling vehicles that are facing high maintenance costs as defending the budget. If the users had the budget, they would make these decisions themselves and the fleet manager would focus on providing a higher level of service instead of conflicts. This is a much better outcome for both sides.
Dealing with downtime
The complaint about downtime seems to be almost universal. Recently I have been experimenting with improving communication by using “virtual whiteboards.” Fleet creates a whiteboard that users can view on their computers in read-only mode. There are three “lanes” on the whiteboard representing work that needs to be done, work that is being done, and work that is finished. The lanes can be vertical or horizontal.
The first lane contains vehicles that have been presented to fleet that need work. This becomes the funnel and includes scheduled work such as inspections, breakdowns and new vehicles being commissioned. The funnel is managed by a fleet employee such as a service analyst, lead hand or foreman. As work is assigned to a fleet technician, or sent to a commercial vendor, the vehicle moves into the next lane and a timer appears with the expected completion time.
When the work is done, the vehicle moves to the next lane and the timer stops. A report can be run with actual downtimes. This has reduced the volume of phone calls and emails asking for status updates.
The City’s asset management system was not set up to provide any reports that might be useful for finding the drivers of fleet costs. The fleet manager should look for some basic metrics such as:
- Cost of fuel, labour, parts and overhead
- Kilometres travelled
- Litres of fuel used
- Repair labour hours
- Number of work orders issued
With this information, Excel can be used to calculate information that is useful to users, including suitability, availability, and affordability. Affordability is expressed as cost per kilometre, suitability as the number of kilometres travelled, and availability as the total labour hours or work orders issued. Fuel is a big part of cost, so fuel use information and trends are essential.