Better Maintenance Planning

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Too many pieces are sleeping in the warehouse. Photo: Autosphere Archives

At the NAFA Institute & Expo, which took place virtually from September 14 to 17, experts delivered tips on how to better manage park maintenance operations.

Amanda Wilson, Fleet Manager for Indiana University and Josh Turney, co-owner of RTA Fleet Management Software, spoke during this video conference. The topic of their talk was clear: how to plan maintenance work and make sure replacement parts are running efficiently.

In her role, Amanda Wilson manages a fleet of 400 vehicles, both light and heavy, that revolve around the university campus. “There’s a balance between having the parts needed to maintain the fleet, but avoiding having unnecessary or obsolete parts in inventory. When I first started, I found that when you buy a bus, you always stock up on spare parts. However, we keep these buses for 20 years and some parts are never changed. »

She also points out that when a vehicle in her fleet reaches the end of its life, the buyer is offered the opportunity to purchase all replacement parts. There is no need, she says, to clutter up the inventory of forgotten parts for types or makes of vehicles that are no longer in the fleet. In addition, the offer would be appreciated by the buyer. And it would lighten the inventory even more.

Ms. Wilson manages parts inventories as closely as possible. She discourages suppliers from managing the parts they supply themselves in the warehouse and prefers just-in-time delivery. Good maintenance planning, we’ll come back to that later, allows her to order only the parts needed for the work planned in the short term.

It also recommends that maintenance department managers keep track of expensive spare parts and those that have not been running for a long time. “There are large sums of money lying dormant in our warehouses. Sometimes they don’t fit on any of the vehicles in our fleet. We have to return them to the suppliers and get credit for them if there is still time. »

Managing Parts

Josh Turney of RTA Fleet Management goes as far as to say that the parts inventory manager should implement a traceability system. “There are warranties on the components of the vehicles you buy,” he explains, “but there are also warranties on replacement parts. If you replace an alternator on a vehicle, you need to know when it was last changed and whether that part is covered by a supplier warranty. »

Each piece should therefore have its own history. If it is covered by a manufacturer’s or supplier’s warranty, it should be used. This is also a good way to determine which suppliers are the most reliable in terms of warranty compliance.

Being able to document the use of parts also makes it possible to identify which vehicles, at the time of a future purchase, would benefit from being covered by an extended warranty program or avoided altogether.

Money to be recouped

One thing is certain, if a part is covered in one way or another by a warranty, it must be followed up when it is returned to the supplier. “It takes an average of 30 minutes to make a claim with the supplier. But 88% of the time, you’ll get a credit or a refund. Our statistics show that the average rebate is $434,” says Turley. “That means every hour spent on this task earns $870. That’s money that can be invested in training or equipment for the shop, for example. »

A real maintenance policy

In her presentation, Amanda Wilson emphasized the importance of implementing a rigorous maintenance program when this is done in-house. “The goal is to reduce breakdowns,” she explained. “We’ve calculated that a part worth $15 will cost $225 if it’s repaired on the road. Preventive maintenance is key. ”

She explains that there is a direct relationship between increased inspection time and reduced repair costs. She recommends an inspection program with computerized records, ideally on a digital tablet, which allows for rigorous follow-up. It emphasizes the importance of adapting the maintenance program to the reality of vehicle use in the fleet. For example, relying on mileage would be a mistake for a truck that runs a lot but only covers short distances.

Adjusting Inspections

The electronic form also allows the detection of anomalies on a particular type of vehicle. Knowing, for example, that after a certain number of hours of operation, a weakness is detected, we can add a follow-up on the other trucks during maintenance periods. The manager recommends that vehicle inspections be performed by the best technicians in the shop. They will be able to more easily detect problem parts, but also analyze their impact on the connected systems.

The last piece of advice from this specialist is to put a reminder on all recent vehicles in the fleet to indicate to the manager, when the manufacturer’s warranty or extended warranty is about to expire, 30 to 60 days before the expiry date. This is the signal for a thorough inspection of the vehicle in order to have anything wrong repaired before the end of the warranty.

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