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Mar 30, 2021
4 minute read
Fleet Management Blog
6 steps to creating an effective fleet maintenance process.
A fleet maintenance process is crucial for efficiency and cost savings. The difficult part is knowing where to start or how to improve upon it.
Steps to improve your fleet maintenance processes
We have outlined six steps to an effective fleet maintenance process based on our webinar Simplifying Fleet Maintenance for SMBs with Josh Adam, fleet maintenance consultant and founder of inta maintenance .
Step 1: Identify - “What we see or know”
This step is two-fold— identify what you know or find out about an asset and then communicate it to the right people.
You can learn more about your assets through preventative and corrective maintenance.
Frequent meter readings are crucial for preventative maintenance and driving your maintenance strategy.
Corrective maintenance includes breakdown maintenance and scheduled corrective maintenance. Scheduled corrective maintenance is the pot of gold for uptime because you can plan fleet maintenance services for when it is convenient to your business while operating the asset in the meantime.
It’s key to ensure engaged personnel do not feel ignored. If someone on your team initiates a maintenance request but is declined, provide clear feedback explaining your reasoning. Otherwise, team members may feel discouraged and will not sustain their efforts identifying potential corrective work.
A fleet maintenance software is a useful tool to be your eyes and ears here, aggregating information about your fleet vehicles that relevant fleet personnel can keep tabs on.
Step 2: Plan - “What we need to do”
Well planned work addresses:
- What needs to be done?
- How long will it take?
- What skills are required?
- What materials are needed?
- What tools or procedures are required?
The important thing to keep in mind in the planning stage is to be sure you’re solving the right problem. You may have a worn tire that needs replacement but the true root problem may actually be an out of tolerance steering adjustment. So while replacing the tire helps, the underlying problem remains.
Quality planning leads to quality work which will lead to increased productivity and reduced downtime.
Step 3: Schedule - “When the work will be done”
The end goal here is to maximize the success of your schedule. If work is scheduled but isn’t actually completed, it will be added to the ever growing backlog. This means more work and longer downtime.
In order to complete your work on time:
- Agree with your operations team or service provider on the maximum permissible downtime for an asset and the best time for it to commence
- Gather all the work for that asset that can be completed in the agreed time frame
A good rule of thumb is the 80:20 rule. About 80 percent of a technician’s time should be allocated to scheduled work and the remaining 20 percent should be allocated for administration and unexpected repairs.
Before the next work week begins, know what you’re going to tackle. Scheduling everything ahead of time will allow you to better measure the accuracy of your planning and scheduling efforts. It will also help you be prepared for the upcoming week and avoid assets sitting idly in the shop.
Step 4: Execute - “Doing the work”
A good maintenance process allows technicians to get work right the first time.
You can achieve this by:
- Ensuring personnel receive proper training and are equipped to undertake their assigned tasks, or if you’re outsourcing, verifying your suppliers’ quality of work
- Creating high quality work instructions that are clear and concise and define what work needs to be performed and the repercussions if standards are not met
- Supervising work periodically by “dropping-in” to observe service providers (if included in your contract). Crucial tasks should include checks by supervisors or independent assessors to ensure a second set of eyes signs off on the work
Step 5: Complete - “Following up after the work”
Even when the repair is complete, the work doesn’t stop there. The next step is keeping accurate records. Otherwise, what good was all that effort if you don’t know how to improve and avoid repeating mistakes in the future?
Detailed work orders and following a fleet maintenance checklist in a fleet maintenance software will allow you to record all relevant information about a repair to determine actual downtime, costs and more. This will lead to more reliable equipment and hence fewer unexpected breakdowns, accurate planning for task times leading to increased uptime and better quality work instructions.
Step 6: Analyze - “Measuring the work"
“If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” -Henry Ford
You’ve got the data now, so use it! Get the most bang for your buck and act immediately on discrepancies or opportunities like:
- Task duration
- Materials or quantity of materials
- Work steps out of sequence
- Labor requirements under or over resourced
- Data changes to tasks or intervals
While creating a fleet maintenance process is key for completing repairs efficiently, it’s also crucial to track it effectively and get your people to buy in. You can leverage fleet maintenance VMRS codes to categorize your maintenance data. We cover these topics in our blog post How to Monitor Metrics and Get Team Buy-in for Your Fleet Maintenance Process .
You can fully automate the maintenance process with shops our maintenance provider network . Get discounts on service at our network of shops, consolidate billing to get one invoice from all vendors and populate data automatically in our fleet maintenance software. Get started for free .
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Fleet Maintenance Strategy: How to Keep Your Vehicles in the Field
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Without a proper fleet maintenance strategy, your business could spend thousands of dollars on vehicle repairs caused by wear and tear, breakdowns, and shortened vehicle lifespans.
A preventative fleet maintenance strategy is the only way to keep vehicles on the road longer and reduce the cost of upkeep.
Managing vehicle maintenance for an entire fleet is not an easy task. Whether you have 10 or 1000 vehicles, keeping track of all compliance documents, routine inspections, and service history is challenging. Accounting for expenses and repair history helps you to better plan for future vehicle service. And proactively catching small issues before they become big problems takes maintenance strategy even further.
So what is a “good” maintenance strategy, and how do smart fleets keep track of the moving pieces?
What is a good fleet maintenance strategy?
A preventative fleet maintenance strategy is a program designed to catch and fix vehicle issues before they become major headaches. The goal of a fleet maintenance strategy is to reduce downtime and increase the useful life of vehicles and assets. A proper fleet maintenance strategy is collaborative, with fleet managers, business owners, maintenance and safety teams all involved.
But what separates a good fleet maintenance strategy from an ineffective fleet maintenance strategy? Here are a few key components of a successful maintenance program:
- Digitized : From daily vehicle inspections to vehicle service, strong fleet maintenance strategies aren’t reliant on manual paper processes. Instead, teams use fleet maintenance and inspection apps to digitize workflows and forms, saving time and increasing accuracy.
- Preventative : Good fleet maintenance programs schedule regular, proactive vehicle service for all assets. But more importantly, they require daily inspections designed to uncover issues and get damaged vehicles in the shop fast.
- Automated : Advanced programs automatically alert managers and initiate service when a vehicle fails a pre-trip inspection or a DTC code is detected.
- Connected to the field : Your mobile workforce has the power to catch and report issues in real time as part of simple daily routines.
What do you need to track in a preventative maintenance strategy?
In order to prevent small issues from snowballing, you need to keep an eye on critical vehicle functions and safety features on a daily basis. This is done through a combination of telematics data, daily inspections and back office tracking systems. But how do you know what to look for?
In some ways, the specific preventative maintenance checklist you use will depend on what you’ve learned about your unique fleet operation. For example, you may find that a specific Diagnostic Trouble Code is a big leading indicator of a costly fix or accident. And you may have heavy equipment that requires more regular maintenance than a standard truck or delivery van. You should study your most costly maintenance or accident records regularly and see if there were noticeable indicators that simply didn’t get timely attention. These should be at the top of your checklist going forward.
Here are some of the critical pieces to track and inspect regularly:
- Past maintenance records and costs
- Engine oil changes
- Engine filters
- Tires, wheels and rims
- Headlights and tail lights
- Interior lights
- Fuel lines and system
- Transmission and transmission fluid
- Engine cooling system
- Steering and suspension
- Windows and windshield
- Windshield wipers
- AC and fans
- Frame and undercarriage
- Dash cams and other collision avoidance systems
- Body and decals
- Auxiliary systems
- Ignition and power
- Electrical lines and plugins
How do you keep track of fleet maintenance?
Spreadsheets are by far the most popular way of keeping track of fleet maintenance, but are they the most efficient? Here are the pros and cons of using spreadsheets to track fleet maintenance:
- Cost: There is no upfront cost of managing fleet maintenance on a spreadsheet.
- Barriers to entry: If you have a computer, you probably have Microsoft Excel or a similar program that allows you to create spreadsheets.
- Control: You have full control over the spreadsheet if it is on your own computer.
- Organization: Unless you are a wiz at creating organized spreadsheets, chances are your document can be difficult to follow.
- Consistency: Using a spreadsheet to track fleet maintenance means that you must remember to update it after every event.
- Missing details: Whether you misplace receipts, or don’t remember to update the sheet regularly, you are bound to miss important details about your fleet’s service history.
Overall, spreadsheets are an inexpensive option, but they require serious discipline and organization. If you don’t have hours to spend chasing down details from drivers and manually updating, spreadsheets aren’t a good option.
Some people choose to keep track of fleet maintenance history by using their own memory and their driver’s recollection. While this is a bad idea, it is a lot more common than it should be. This option is absolutely free, but it is the most ineffective way to keep track of vehicle maintenance. Maintenance managers need to track service history, compliance documents, vehicle status and more. As your business grows, tracking everything the old fashioned way is increasingly impossible.
What do you do when a driver forgets to bring his vehicle in or you forget your last oil change? Managing fleet maintenance by memory is the most inefficient method. In order to keep your vehicles on the road, you need to make sure that they stay compliant and functioning properly.
You should avoid tracking fleet maintenance by memory at all costs.
GET THE PRODUCT SHEET: Vehicle Service
Best fleet maintenance software
Most successful fleet maintenance strategies rely on fleet maintenance software to track and schedule vehicle maintenance. Typically, this includes a powerful fleet maintenance app connected to the shop, and a digital inspection form app that operators can use in the field.
With a fleet maintenance app, fleets track of records electronically, stored in a cloud, accessible from anywhere. This gives fleet managers full visibility into maintenance history of all vehicles. At the touch of a mouse, managers can access regular maintenance schedules, repairs, parts, inventory, incident records and associated costs. These apps also help you initiate maintenance and track the progress of a given vehicle or asset. And though they come with an upfront cost, they drastically improve asset uptime and reduce maintenance costs over time.
Digital inspection apps take preventative maintenance programs a step further. By arming operators with digital forms on their mobile devices, you ensure they can do inspections quickly, correctly and with photographic evidence. When a driver submits a failed inspection , it alerts a manager in real time. The manager can then decide on necessary action flag the vehicle for service if it is needed.
With these tools integrated in a maintenance program, issues are caught and fixed in minutes rather than days. Software is an increasingly necessary component preventative fleet maintenance strategy.
Learn how to maximize multi-use fleet longevity. Speak to a Fleet Maintenance Expert.
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How to develop a fleet vehicle management plan.
Operating a fleet of vehicles is a top-five business expense. Learn how a proactive fleet vehicle management plan can decrease expenses and drive profit.
Skills covered in the class
Operational efficiency, financial management, data-driven decision making, optimal vehicle health.
Often times, organizations with a fleet of vehicles react to issues as they come and accept the high cost of doing business. The reality is, as a top-five buisness expense fleet vehicle operations is costly, but the costs can be controlled. A proactive fleet management plan improves overall operational health by capturing expense details and making stragegic decisions based on the data within.
When we partner with clients to develop a customized fleet vehicle management plan, the first step is to benchmark our clients’ performance against the standards in their industry. Often comparing vehicle performance to industry averages quickly reveals which assets need immediate attention.
Making a fleet vehicle management plan
Once the benchmarking process is complete, the creation of a strong fleet vehicle management plan has two phases:
Phase 1: Examining all current vehicles to make sure their specifications are optimal for the functions they are required to perform. Phase 2: Thoroughly reviewing company purchasing policies to achieve maximum discounts.
To develop a fleet vehicle management plan, we help clients do an in-depth analysis of each vehicle. Analyzing fuel economy profiles is a good basic performance indicator. Fuel, especially in times of high gas prices, is a primary cost component in fleet vehicle management. With improved gas mileage, every mile driven is money to the bottom line: just good fleet vehicle management.
Phase 1: Identify vehicle lifecycle strategy
Examining maintenance records and forecasting maintenance needs is another important element of good fleet vehicle management. Scheduling and tracking maintenance costs can help identify how your fleet vehicle management is working for you. Looking at the strategy (or lack of strategy) involved in cycling your older vehicles can provide important insights. Cycling too soon or too seldom can cost money in fleet vehicle management terms, and more importantly, can drag down your profit picture.
Phase 2: Vehicle funding and acquisition strategy
The second phase of creating the fleet vehicle management plan, reviewing company purchasing policies, can yield considerable savings. It is important to understand the cost impact of acquiring vehicles from a dealer versus acquiring them direct from the factory. Fleet vehicle management means managing each vehicle as a component of your fleet, not as an individual business purchase. For many clients, advance planning and acquiring vehicles direct from the factory can mean substantial cost savings.
Alternative acquisition strategies can save money. Cost savings can be realized through careful analysis of decisions to buy or lease. Our clients can choose from closed or open-end leasing plans, as well as purchase-leaseback options. It is crucial to have these strategies properly quantified and analyzed for the individual business circumstances. Once you make the right choices for your business, your fleet vehicle management will reflect your balance sheet goals and corporate capital concerns. With proper fleet vehicle management, you can reduce risk and deliver more profit into your business.
Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and consistently measure results
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of your fleet operations should be established and routinely monitored. With ongoing internal benchmarks, performance metrics will help your fleet meet your corporate goals. Partnering with a fleet management partner who is knowledgable about industry metrics can help.
When choosing to partner with a vehicle fleet management company , ask the following questions of each of the companies you are interviewing:
- Do they help you choose programs to give you the best fleet vehicle management for your specific business needs?
- Do they have experts on staff who advise you on how to reduce your administrative burden while optimizing your Cost Per Mile (CPM)? For example, helping to establish a maintenance program to ensure that repairs are aligned to your overall budget or helping to keep you in registration compliance by handling title and licensing for each of your vehicles.
Learn about how we approach our client's fleet managagment plans with Fleet Science .
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8 fleet management best practices.
When it comes to effective fleet management, best practices can make a real difference.
They can lead to lower costs, revenue growth, employee satisfaction and enhanced customer service…
…but what fleet management best practices are most effective, and where should you start?
Here are eight steps to consider:
Establishing goals and monitoring progress towards them is a must. Perhaps more importantly, these goals should be well defined and well communicated throughout your business.
Striving for a common set of objectives will also help to unite your team, and communicating these goals – whether to directors, senior management or the rest of the workforce – is critical for success.
Within your fleet operation, typical goals and objectives might include – but should not be limited to:
- Improving vehicle utilization
- Lowering fuel consumption and costs
- Optimizing fleet maintenance and repair programs
- Enhancing safety for employees, customers and other motorists
- Automating compliance
Implement an asset management plan
By implementing an asset management plan , you open up a dialogue between key stakeholders in your organization – and communication is key!
Ultimately, making this type of information accessible to all participants in the decision-making process leads to a better understanding of trade-offs and return on investment.
With targeted analyses, an asset management plan can address current performance and lead to accurate and realistic performance goals.
As a fleet manger you are at the forefront of any successful vehicle and equipment program . Your knowledge helps to keep track of trends and issues that both clients and internal departments might need to address.
For that reason, your availability is essential for meeting fleet management objectives.
Choose the right fleet vehicles
Another important issue to address relates to choosing the company’s fleet vehicles . Depending on the industry you serve, procuring equipment that meets operational needs should be at the top of your checklist.
Vehicle reliability is also a crucial consideration. From determining the most cost-effective vehicle replacement cycles to meeting maintenance requirements, remarketing and disposal options, the choices you make can determine the success or failure of your fleet management programs.
Think about drivers
This may seem like an issue for your HR department, but considering driver credentials goes hand-in-hand with effective fleet deployment. For example, if your equipment requires special skills or training, the recruitment process becomes a critical part of meeting those needs.
Employing the right drivers with the right skills will lead to measurable benefits, and drivers with relevant operational knowledge will help to reduce costs for unnecessary repairs and cut fuel usage and CO2 emissions by driving economically, i t’s equally important to train drivers within your fleet who fall short in any required areas.
Over time, these savings all add up!
Focus on control
When it comes to Fleet Management, cost control is key . Without an understanding of operational and life-cycle costs – from the initial purchase of an asset through its resale – it is impossible to identify strengths and weaknesses within your operation.
In many ways, fleet management and finance management are one in the same. With an effective approach to vehicle and equipment acquisition, maintenance, fuel, driver and other associated costs, you can make informed, cost-conscious decisions.
Optimizing the use of available capital is a critical fleet management component. Whether vehicles and equipment are purchased, leased or rented, financing rates, prices, incentives and taxes all need to be taken into account .
An effective capital spending plan should be based on your understanding of trade-offs and return on investment . It also requires knowledge about available resources, fixed or flexible strategies, projected maintenance, operating costs, resale values, changing future business and operational needs.
Invest in fleet management software
Effective fleet management is the result of a comprehensive, integrated approach to problem solving, allowing managers to make fact-based decisions. Today, the use of advanced technology makes it possible to utilize meaningful fleet intelligence to improve operational efficiency.
Advanced fleet management software systems will allow you to home in on key variables associated with your fleet in order to optimize fleet-related processes, including the usage, performance and cost of an asset across its entire life-cycle .
With an effective approach to fleet and asset management, it is possible to continually improve efficiency and productivity, lower costs, enhance employee and customer satisfaction and drive revenue growth and profitability.
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