Optimizing the fleet plan

Published in the December 2019 issue of Fleet Affiliation

Much like a business plan, it’s important to have a fleet plan. Well thought-out and calculated strategies can be a cornerstone of successful fleet operation. There are several steps, from design to maintenance plans, that can improve operations and financial aspects of the operation. 

Analyze your operations
An understanding of your organization’s operations and missions is a first step. Fleets continue to expand and grow (and experience changing needs). Whether specialized or mass-produced equipment, it is important to have the correct lens when defining the most efficient plans. First, understand operations. Understanding how, what, where and why is critical information to have before any plan can be set in motion.

Operations and missions can change continually within an organization. Taking a step back and moving away from “this has always been the way” are the beginning of advancing. Simply dusting off the last specification may be a detriment while forward thinking can save money and time. Several aspects of right-sizing need to be established. First, right-sizing does not necessarily mean downsizing or reducing the amount of assets. It’s an exercise to ensure the correct equipment and the equipment quantity is suitable to the task.

Designing a truck for streamlined maintenance
Most fleet purchasing professionals understand the principles of basic process improvement, not necessarily to the extent of Six Sigma, but understanding the value of looking at current asset performance, identifying operational deficiencies and improving the design. Often, maintainability is overlooked. Design improvements are often driven by end users and operator experiences. There is a fine line between maintainability, reliability and durability, but these are completely separate issues. Usually it’s not difficult to address reliability and durability, since these commonly include specifying more rugged components. Typically, this adds cost, weight or both. Integrating maintainability into your equipment design can result in lifecycle maintenance costs.

Simplified maintenance design can result in time savings and in bottom-line labor costs of technicians. Maintainability addresses the ease in which a unit can be maintained or repaired. Why is it important? Manufacturers are also looking at design efficiencies in their products. As the old saying goes, trucks are meant to be put together, not taken apart. How often have you had to remove a half dozen components just to get access to a specific part? Complex work trucks include components (that may or may not have been designed to be combined into a single unit) manufactured and supplied by multiple manufacturers. Lastly, manufacturers may not have knowledge about how the end user will be using their products. Taking all of these issues into consideration and looking at your vehicle design can reduce overall maintenance cost, while adding minimal costs to the initial purchase.

Understand the user
Planning and change can be challenging, especially to end users who may feel they do not have control or input. Understanding their needs, and incorporating them into long-term plans can bring multiple teams together. Operations working with management (whether fleet management or supervisory management) creates a natural symbiotic relationship that fosters efficiency. A common goal puts organizations in a strategic position to reduce costs and to continue to evolve.