Giving your operation a tune-up

Published in the May 2019 issue of Fleet Affiliation

Spring is finally here for most of us. Have you looked at your operation recently to ensure everything is running smoothly and efficiently? Now is a good time. Like a vehicle tune-up, the purpose of an organizational review is to discover ways to streamline processes and become more efficient. Begin with what exists today — define areas in need of a tune-up. This could be anything from shop operations, to preventive maintenance practices, and vehicle utilization. Next, identify a desired outcome. Many operations can be financially motivated with overall cost reductions; however, don’t overlook potential opportunities to reduce energy consumption and your organization’s carbon footprint.

Shop operations
Is your shop running at optimal efficiency today? Most likely it is, but over time, shop operations may have changed. This can be an opportunity to look at overall operations and make strategic decisions. Parts inventory is one of the frequently overlooked items. Continuing to stock obsolete parts is a troubling situation. First, they take up space; secondly, they depreciate in value the longer they sit on the shelf. Take a moment to delineate what is required to be on-hand and what can be procured for just-in-time delivery. Having a working relationship with parts suppliers who understand your fleet can make the process simpler. Remember, shop equipment requires maintenance, too. For example, vehicle hoists and air compressors should be regularly maintained. Similar to vehicle downtime, failed shop equipment can bring your operation to a halt, which in turn costs money.

Preventive maintenance
A solid preventive maintenance program can reduce downtime, keeping unnecessary and expensive breakdowns to a minimum. As your fleet changes, your preventive maintenance program should evolve. Reviewing and optimizing your program can increase efficiency and reduce costs. First, review new equipment and fleet additions, then become familiar with and understand required maintenance. Minimally, the preventive maintenance program should begin with the manufacturers’ required maintenance. Next, look at past failures. Much like learning from a mistake, looking at historical breakdowns can pinpoint areas to include in a maintenance program. Finally, learn from your peers. Regularly engaging with the fleet community can provide perspective you may not have otherwise seen. 

Vehicle utilization
Proper vehicle utilization is important to maintaining efficiency. Consistently looking at utilization provides indicators about future vehicle design and acquisitions. During this step, it is important to keep all stakeholders involved. Understanding reasons behind under-utilized vehicles will often produce clarity. The asset may no longer be needed, or the mission may have changed. Knowing this will position you to provide high-level support when planning for vehicle development and deployment.

The human factor
One of the more difficult things to control is the human factor — by nature we can be unpredictable and/or resistant to change. People who actually operate vehicles are in the position to reduce fuel costs. While you may have, for example, policies in place to reduce unnecessary idling and provide defensive driving training, it may be hard to see noticeable results because of the human factor. There are a few technology-based solutions available. Many new vehicles have automatic idle shutdown. Having an organizational idle policy paired with idle shutdown technology can be effective. Additionally, organizational speed limits could be employed. While a posted speed limit is the law, it may not always be followed. Using a telematics solution to monitor driver behavior can reduce overall risk exposure while providing information on violators leading to corrective behavior plans.
If you would like to discuss this, or other fleet issues with NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations.