Getting the Most from Your Fleet System

When implementing a fleet system, fleets commonly focus on basic features to meet core needs, missing such valuable tools as warranty management, shop scheduling, flat-rate labor times, parts inventory stocking, and reporting.

July 2010, Government Fleet - Feature

by Bradley Kelley

Fleet management software is much like the human brain, and we only use a fraction of its potential. The most underutilized fleet systems tend to be those in which initial software setup, training, and use were designed to meet the operation's basic business requirements (i.e., just enough effort and resources to get things back to business as usual).

This common scenario occurs when, during a system's implementation, the organization focuses solely on getting the system up and running to meet core business needs, such as work orders, parts inventory management, and basic reporting. The system then tends to remain in a remedial state with little emphasis on rolling-out features such as warranty management, shop scheduling, flat-rate labor times, part kits, part catalogs, inventory stocking levels, ­accident management, motor pool scheduling and administration, and ­management ­reporting.

Identify Unused Features & Develop Implementation Plans

To get the most from a fleet system, define a list of features in the system that are not fully implemented or are used poorly. Select two to four features that can be implemented within a 12-month period, establish an implementation plan with timelines and resources defined, and create an implementation team(s) with the time and resources required for success. Be sure any one fleet operation area is not overburdened.

Commit to funding implementation services, such as training, to ensure the initiative's success. If uncertain how to plan the next phase(s) of features to implement, contact the software provider or contract a third-party business advisory firm to develop a comprehensive strategy. Don't be too proud to ask for assistance.

A complete system implementation can take years and multiple phases of new-feature roll-out, revising work practices and system use processes. During this time, maintaining progress is ­imperative:

  1. Don't get bogged down on any one initiative.
  2. Contract assistance when needed.
  3. Make sure the fleet staff is involved with the project.

If implementing a feature becomes too onerous a task, the project will lose momentum and user support.

Valuable System Modules Often Overlooked

Several key modules in fleet systems are often overlooked, undervalued, and under-implemented. However, they are often the most frequently cited as the justification for investing in a fleet system in the first place. The following are a few commonly overlooked modules in a fleet system.

1. Cost-of-Service Analysis

Every fleet manager should know the fully-burdened cost for each and every service his or her organization provides. While this may sound obvious to many fleet managers, as industry consultants, we often see clients who do not have a good understanding of their costs.

One consequence of poor costing practices relating to fleet system use can be improperly priced work orders. For example, if the labor rate (as well as other rates and markups) used on work orders does not appropriately include indirect expenses and overheads, labor costs will necessarily be understated. This inaccuracy impacts a host of fleet management activities, including replacement planning, lifecycle cost analysis, repair-versus-replace decisions, make/model selection, etc.

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