The Dilemma of Choosing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software Solution or a Fleet Management Information Software (FMIS) System to Manage Your Fleet

Have you purchased Enterprise Resource Planning software with the expectation that it would have all the functionality required to run your entire business operation only to find out that it does not meet all of your needs?

The Push for Streamlining

As organizations look at streamlining and automating organizational processes they want to include every group within the enterprise. While most ERP companies are good at specific core business areas such as human resources, accounting, production, shipping and receiving, etc. most fall short in the fleet management arena. As the trend of incorporating fleet management into the rest of the enterprise continues to gain momentum, it is becoming more and more recognized that these systems are simply not robust enough to manage the demands of fleet. The complexity of fleet processes and the management of such significant asset investments require a system designed and focused on fleet operations.

“The complexity of fleet processes and the management of such significant asset investments require a system designed and focused on fleet operations.”

Many of the ERP systems handle parts ordering, work order processing (typically Facilities Work Order Processing) and payment for fleet managers. They also generally offer (for a substantial add-on cost above the main system) a fleet module. Although, the fleet module may improve a fleet’s ability to manage some basic processes, ERP fleet management software can:

  • Be cumbersome and overly complicated for mechanics and staff
  • Make it difficult for mechanics to easily interface with work orders in real-time
  • Provide overly generic work order reports that are often misinterpreted by end users
  • Make the creation of reports, document management, and linking to other systems difficult due to a lack of flexibility
  • Limit your ability to interface with fuel or parts inventory control systems
  • Often require manual entry and/or duplicate entry of data
  • Lack detailed reporting that provides fleet specific performance measurements and KPI’s
  • Lack a method of providing electronic self-service support to your customers

The True Reality

The reality is that ERP fleet modules still fall short of providing key functionality required for running a fleet such as audit reporting, life-cycle costing, utilization for right-sizing, accurate replacement forecasting of assets, and real-time billing of technician time to a work order, and so forth.

The Usual Course of Events

Unfortunately, in many organizations the course of events that transpires is:

  1. The organization decides to take a hard stance of forcing fleet to use the ERP System.
  2. Thousands of dollars are spent for the corresponding ERP fleet module add-on.
  3. Time is invested installing, customizing and implementing the ERP fleet module add-on.
  4. Within 12-36 months of implementing the ERP fleet module, it is determined that the organization needs to invest in a more robust fleet-specific system.

The common realization these organizations come to after using an ERP fleet module is that in addition to the system not being user friendly, the ERP fleet module does not provide the information that the fleet manager requires to help other business units within the organization drive efficiencies and create intelligent data reporting to support the overall enterprise.

There are many fleet management systems out there to choose from that range from low-end, simplistic systems to highly sophisticated enterprise-level fleet solutions. When low-end systems in the fleet software market are compared to ERP systems, they can serve to justify an organization choosing the ERP system over a fleet system because such systems do not offer much more functionality than ERP systems.

The Real Question

The question that an organization really should be asking is: “Is there a fleet management system that can fulfill my requirements for running my fleet and allow other departments across the organization to use the data from the fleet to drive business decisions across the entire enterprise?”  This is an important consideration. Whereas an ERP system is generally a central repository for data collection, a true robust fleet management system is designed around fleet best practices and is a tool used not only for gathering data but to further perform strategic planning and make decisions.

The only solution that adequately responds to the question above is a Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) web-based, enterprise-level fleet management system. The system needs to be designed around the workflow processes of fleet, be easy to implement, easy to use and maintain, and be flexible enough to allow for easy integrations and minimal customizations.

First, let’s explore the list of names that can be on the box that fall under the fleet management family:

  • Fleet Management System (FMS)
  • Fleet Management Information System (FMIS)
  • Fleet Maintenance Management System (FMMS)

Next, what should be in the box that makes it a complete Fleet Information Management System (FMIS)? 

  • Architecture that permits full integration with other vendor solutions throughout the enterprise 
  • Asset Management 
    • Asset acquisition and disposal 
    • Multi-department access 
    • Forecasting capital replacement cost for budgeting 
  •  Parts Management 
    • Provide comprehensive inventory management and parts tracking, which encompasses the entire procurement process from order and receipt through issues including warranty replacements, core tracking/ returns, and vendor credits through the accounting system 
  • Maintenance Management 
    • Maintenance costs calculating available for budget planning to all departments 
    • Track Preventive Maintenance (PM’s) per asset 
    • Vehicle downtime reporting 
  • Fuel Management 
    • Fuel usage costs calculating available for budget planning to all departments 
  • Accounting 
    • Billing integration including multi-department access to billing data 
  • Vendor Management 
    • Full integration with any partner vendor you choose through a variety of methods including web services 
    • Notifications to your partner vendors for stock reorders 
  • Risk Management 
    • Accident reporting for operators from any part of the organization 
    • Accident information accessible for risk management as well as to other departments 
  • Information Management/Business Intelligence 
    • Reports 
      • Standard reports based on fleet and business best practices 
      • Powerful, comprehensive onscreen searching capability 
      • Quick exporting of any search results data to Microsoft Excel 
      • Ability to create custom reports 
      • Native web deployment of reports 
      • Dashboard providing at-a-glance overview of the key performance indicators of your fleet 
    • Communications 
      • Any organization employee should be able to request a service appointment online 
      • Any employee should be able to check on the status of vehicle repairs during the repair process 
      • Provide email notifications for scheduling upcoming preventive maintenance 
      • Fully integrateable with any internal systems you choose through a variety of methods including web services for things like finance, fuel, purchasing, HR functions such as payroll, and others

Another major pitfall that customers fall into is the added cost and time for customizations. If your COTS fleet management software requires customizations to meet the majority of your fleet software needs be sure that it is identified in your initial pricing to avoid overages in the time and budget of your project. 

All of these are things to consider as you evaluate ERP and FMIS solutions. It should arm you with the information you need to ensure making the best choice for your fleet and organization.