Using Data as a Tool: How the Smithsonian's FMIS Helped Streamline Operations

The Smithsonian Institution's fleet department has utilized the data harvested by its fleet management system to reduce fleet size, reduce administrative time, hire more technicians, and improve overall operations.

November 2011, Government Fleet - Feature

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

At a Glance

 The Smithsonian Institution's Web-based fleet management information software allowed it to:

  • Reduce its light-duty fleet from 600 to 490 units.
  • Decrease administrative time devoted to records to one analyst, freeing others up for alternative tasks.
  • Produce accurate and detailed statistics for federal reporting.
  •  Automate preventive maintenance alerts for customers.

The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum complex and research organization, comprised of 19 museums, nine research centers, and the national zoological park. Along with this comes a diverse and spread-out fleet comprised of more than 1,500 units ranging from low-speed electric vehicles all the way to construction equipment. While a good portion of these units and maintenance facilities are located in Washington D.C., fleet assets and facilities are also located in Tucson, Ariz., and Panama.

The vehicles and equipment are used for facility support, law enforcement, animal transportation, administrative purposes, road maintenance, and agricultural work, in addition to other uses. A fleet this large and diverse requires special attention, and just four years ago, the Smithsonian didn't even have a fleet manager in charge of the museum's vehicular assets. That changed when a review of the fleet recommended the creation of a fleet manager position, and Bill Griffiths was hired. Under Griffiths' leadership, the Smithsonian purchased the FleetWave Web-based fleet management solution from Chevin Fleet Solutions that produces the data the agency used to optimize its fleet. In the past four years, according to Griffiths, the fleet has reduced its unit size, eliminated tedious hours of manual recording, provided the metrics and analysis needed to back up the department's requests for new vehicle purchases and technician hires, more accurately determined preventive maintenance cycles, and improved customer service.

Creating a New Fleet Department

Griffiths is not only the Smithsonian's fleet manager, but also its transportation director. He has 20 years of experience in fleet, working first in the military as a heavy equipment mechanic and moving into a management position. He was most previously fleet manager for the White River National Forest in Aspen, Colo.

Because there was no previous fleet department, Griffiths was able to construct the department in a way he thought most efficient. The previous staff handling fleet consisted of four administrators, called transportation specialists, one of whom handled fleet maintenance. He consolidated all the fleet operations and developed a replacement policy where one didn't exist before, developing classes, lifecycles, and even a preventive maintenance (PM) program.

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