One of the biggest responsibilities of many public fleet managers is managing a staff of technicians and office employees. With the “aging” of the fleet industry, a shortage of skilled technicians, and more fleet managers worried about budget cuts, efficient employee management is now more important than ever. A Sept. 15 webinar sponsored by Long Beach Clean Cities and presented by Government Fleet, MEMA, and Mercury Associates delved into how managers can make sure they have the right number of workers they need to care for a fleet.
Titled “Business Process Efficiency Improvement and Staffing Levels,” moderator Lexi Tucker, senior editor of Government Fleet magazine, guided a presentation by Tony Yankovich, managing director of Mercury Associates and Marc Canton, manager of Mercury Associates, that discussed new processes managers can implement to ensure maximum productivity.
Calculating Staffing Requirements
Fleet service professionals know fleet cost and service effectiveness can be tied directly to the resources allocated to a fleet operation. These resources include vehicles and equipment, fleet maintenance facilities, tools and shop equipment, the people that work the organization, technology, and information.
Every fleet operation has three essential elements:
- Workload: What needs to be done
- Workforce: The people required to get the work done
- Workplace: Where the work will be accomplished
Fleet managers need to know the workload before they can determine workforce requirements, and they need to know the workforce numbers before they can determine the number of maintenance bays, size of the shop, and other space requirements for the workplace.
There are four steps to take when attempting to determine staffing level requirements:
Calculate the workload
Convert every asset in the fleet into a vehicle equivalency unit (VEU). Then, based on the total VEU calculation for the entire fleet, you can identify the total direct labor hours, or demand hours, required to maintain the fleet.
Identify workload to be complete in-house versus sublet and adjust VEU analysis
The second step is to identify if all of the workload will be maintained by the in-house shop. In some cases, a portion of the work will be outsourced to commercial vendors, or to some other shop. Identify the VEUs for what work your organization is not responsible for maintaining, and subtract that from the in-house workload demand.
Determine technician workload tolerance level
How much work can you expect your technicians to perform in a given year? How many VEUs can each technician support? How many direct labor hours can we expect technicians to achieve each year?
Do the math
The first step is to assign VEU values and calculate the workload. Every asset can be assigned a VEU value, which corresponds to the level of effort required to maintain that unit. For example, a standard passenger sedan would be rated at 1.0. VEU, while a law enforcement patrol sedan might be a 2.5. This means it would take two and a half times the effort to maintain it compared to a typical passenger sedan
“It's important your organization determines its own VEU values through analysis of your own data, such as the age of the fleet, utilization of the fleet assets, condition of the fleet, application of the unit, and the historical maintenance and repair experience for the organization,” said Yankovich.
Once you’ve assigned a VEU to every asset in the fleet, you can then calculate the total number of VEUs for your operation. When you know how many VEUs your shop is maintaining, you need to determine how many hours of direct labor are associated with each VEU. A general rule of thumb is each VEU represents about eight to 12 hours of labor each year.
The next step includes determining if any of these assets are not going to be maintained by your operation. You would then decrease the total VEUs and hours by that amount to determine the remaining in-house workload demand.
You must then determine how many hours you can expect your technicians to account for each year. Assuming a full-time fleet technician with no other responsibilities, start with the standard number of available work hours and then subtract other activities.
13,500 hours of M&R required / 1,512 hours per technician = 8.93 technicians required
For information on staffing the rest of your fleet organization, be sure to watch the full presentation at government-fleet.com/elearning, starting at the 15:02 mark.
Improving Business Processes
The goal of improving your business processes is to reduce waste, improve quality, reduce effort, decrease cost, and/or improve the customer experience.
“It’ll be fairly easy to pinpoint which of your business processes need improvement, as they’ll probably be items either your fleet customers or staff are regularly complaining about or dreading having to do, or there'll be things you know yourself that are much more difficult than need to be or take too long,” explained Canton.
A few examples of areas ripe for improvement include procurement (having multi-year contracts with suppliers, piggy-backing existing contracts, blanket purchase orders or contracts); PM parts kits (prepared by parts specialist based on PM schedule for the day); PM checklists and detailed instructions (defines optimal order of operation); and policies and procedures (helps to curtail “brain drain”).
Here are a few traditional process improvement approaches that may work for your operation:
- LEAN (also known as Lean Manufacturing or Lean Technology)
- Originated with Toyota and implemented to streamline production. The key idea is to base improvement on the customer perspective, find out what they value, and make changes to reflect this focus.
- Six Sigma
- Focuses on the root cause of problems, defects, and variations that reduce the effectiveness of processes. Philosophy of constant improvement.
- Total Quality Management
- Focus is on the elimination of errors by holding everyone accountable for the overall quality of the product or service.
Using Tech to Drive Improvement
Technology driven process improvements continue to be some of the most popular and effective.
Integration can reduce the effort required for certain tasks and increases the visibility and accuracy of data and information by ensuring formerly disparate systems, applications, and devices “talk to each other.”
Automation involves programming one action to trigger a series of actions without additional user input. The goal is to simplify and streamline workflow.
Predictive analytics is the analysis of integrated data to calculate the probability of various future outcomes.
What Else Can Optimization do for You?
When you’ve optimized staff and the processes within the organization, the next step is consolidation and centralization. Eliminate duplicate efforts by talking to your staff to discover whose way is the best way. What can you all learn from each other?
Look to increase economies of scale and streamline processes. This will ease coordination and prevent having to deal with too much red tape. You’ll get much greater consistency, which in turn improves quality. This way, everyone in the organization knows what's going on and can plan accordingly.