The City of Oxnard, Calif., prides itself on being a "business-friendly" community. Since its incorporation in 1903, the City has gone from cattle grazing to intensive farming to servicing the defense industry, and finally to diversified industrial, housing, and commercial development.
Today, the City houses more than 200,000 residents, two U.S. Navy bases, and the only deep-water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The city's Mediterranean-style weather, beautiful beaches, and year-round temperate climate add to its broad appeal.
Not only business-friendly, the City also promotes technological advancement in its educational institutions, police and fire departments, and water resources division, among others. This technology focus might best be observed in the City of Oxnard's Fleet Services Division, rated No. 3 in the 100 Best Fleets in North America listing for 2008 and No. 10 in 2009.
"We're honored to be in a company of fleets that are that good," said Daniel Berlenbach, fleet services manager. "We scored high because we took some chances to do advances across the board, and we addressed many areas to do well."
While reassessing its operations, Fleet Services focused on strategic planning and reviewed the entire spectrum of customer services. Division management also assessed how to better serve customers and make employees happier.
"These key areas result in increased productivity. That was a big part of us getting this recognition," Berlenbach said. "We set a standard of excellence, not just a standard of satisfaction."
Assuring customers they receive value services for their money means validation for taxpayers and employees alike.
Big-Picture View Important
Implementing changes across the board made Berlenbach's job much easier. His day-to-day responsibilities include:
- Spec'ing new vehicles.
- Working with procurement.
- Overseeing maintenance and fuel operations.
- Updating policy.
- Managing personnel.
"We service about 40 different organizations in the City, so it's important I understand the big picture of our operation," he said. "Updating our policies and ensuring our fleet operates as efficiently as possible is critical."
Fleet Services, which manages 900 vehicles or pieces of equipment and 42 technicians, is responsible for acquisition, disposal, fueling, maintenance, and repair of the city's $34 million vehicle and equipment fleet.
A 34-year fleet industry veteran, Berlenbach was a fleet manager in the Air Force before joining the City of Oxnard in 2004.
Also critical to Fleet Services operations is mentoring, which Berlenbach considers a high priority, along with streamlining policies and procedures through technology.
The city's Fleet Services Division also emphasizes environmental friendliness wherever possible and has been recognized twice by the California EPA as a certified "Green Shop."
"We excel in pollution prevention techniques," Berlenbach said. "We recycle antifreeze and oils, are looking to go aerosolfree, are now lead-free, and in 2009, we received our third ASE Blue Seal for our shop. Eighty-eight percent of our techs are certified."
Fleet Services is also expanding a partnership program with the community college, under which two interns work with the City on a three-quarter time basis. This partnership also includes the development of advanced courses for city technicians.
"This will help fill a gap for us because we need this training," Berlenbach said. "And we'll jointly share this program with some other municipalities around here."
Moving to Paperless Operations
The Fleet Services Division's move to state-of-the-art technology systems began in 2005 through the deployment of Asset- Works' FleetFocus, allowing for a smooth transition to a paperless operation.
Fleet deployed FleetFocus with InfoCenter and kiosks on its shop floor, allowing technicians to real-time system interaction.
"We converted to AssetWorks software from a homegrown database with paper work orders and little-to-no historical data," Berlenbach said. "Our technicians were able to master the software almost immediately, and our efficiency quickly improved."
The software's capabilities are almost limitless, noted Berlenbach, and the fleet team has been successful at exploiting those capabilities to better serve customers.
"We're now a paperless shop with excellent data integrity and the ability to offer the information that our customers demand," he added. "I especially value the software's strong analysis and reporting packages that have enabled us to implement fact-based management of the fleet."
In early 2008, Fleet Services moved from shared workstations to individual technician laptops, allowing independent, real-time work and ability to capture vehicle information and reporting the labor for each task.
In addition, laptops allow technicians immediate access to diagnostic data transmitted directly from a vehicle's onboard computer. Once the issue has been diagnosed, the technician updates the work order on the spot, in real-time, with no lost time awaiting a turn at the kiosk.
"Our strategic planning allowed us to see where technology was going," Berlenbach said. "We now have fewer paper manuals and more information online and in DVD or electronic formats. It made sense to get laptops and wireless networks, allowing each technician to be more productive."
Response Time Speeds Up
Fleet Services eliminated technician wait time after implementing individual laptops, saving over 2,200 staff hours a year.
"That's waiting time for using Asset- Works and doing historical research, etc.," Berlenbach said. "Now the techs don't have to walk to the office to look for work orders, and they don't have to wait to get on the Internet to do research. The diagnostic software is right there. The technical data is right there on the system."
Also helping streamline each tech's job is customized software, geared to heavyor light-duty diagnostics.
Another major benefit of the laptop rollout is improved communication. Posted online for each techs' access are shop standard operating procedures (SOP), minutes for safety or staff meetings, and announcements. All techs have e-mail accounts, and fleet management can send a broadcast message that arrives to all technicians simultaneously.
"They love the program because they don't have to wait," Berlenbach said. "Now, they don't even have to leave their bays where they're working."
Berlenbach also noted the management team realized techs were most productive when they could stay with the vehicle and focus on the tasks at hand. Thus, putting software and hardware at their fingertips and allowing them to order parts instantly without moving from one location to another yielded significant tech wait-time savings.
Outreach Program Saves Fuel
Another aspect of the Fleet Services Division's communication program includes an outreach program to city drivers. The program's numerous benefits achieved include better vehicle care, more knowledgeable driving behavior, and reduced fuel consumption.
Communication methods include a fourpage, quarterly publication, City Wheels. Distributed to the entire city workforce, the publication features helpful tips, including how to check tires, new driving-related laws, fuel savings through anti-idling, and vehicle turn-in instructions for city drivers.
"The information is applicable to city vehicles and private vehicles and provides specifics that drivers need to know, such as the new California law about GPS devices being in the left-hand corner of a windshield or the proper guidelines for tinting windows," Berlenbach said.
Another important Fleet Services communication is a two-page, quarterly brochure, City Fuel News, which covers the city's fuel consumption, prices paid, and tips on saving fuel. The publication basically reiterates how to save fuel and why it's important.
"Our communication doesn't stop there," Berlenbach said. "Another outreach group is getting vehicle liaisons together from various departments and holding vehicle user group meetings over lunch."
Liaisons discuss critical issues concerning fleet performance and customer service monitoring. For example, recent meetings have focused on how Fleet Services should most effectively interact with drivers who have questions, need to turn in or make changes to their vehicles, or are looking for news and updates.
"We also survey our customers on our performance, and the liaisons then share the information with their drivers," Berlenbach said.
The City also holds a two-day driver training class with employees every three years. A Fleet Services presentation covers safety, fleet policy, fuel savings, and effective hands-on vehicle operation.
"The results of these outreach programs were better driver care of vehicles, as well as lower fuel consumption in 2008 (9.6 percent in gallons) while our fleet was actually growing," Berlenbach said.
Awards Promote Productivity
In addition to tech communication throughout Fleet Services, the division recognizes employees on an ongoing basis through several team and individual awards. Management feels this program helps motivate a higher level of productivity and workplace pride.
A pit crew team award is presented quarterly to a swing shift, light-duty PM, heavy-duty PM, fire and heavy-duty equipment, transfer shop, or light-duty repair crew based on an evaluation of productivity, safety, come-backs, housekeeping, and appearance of area. This "travelling trophy cup" follows each winner.
Another coveted award is the Tech of the Quarter Award, based on nominations by mid-level supervisors (senior mechanics). The recognition comes with a plaque, reserved parking spot, and jacket.
The "You've Been Mugged" award recognizes any act of excellence above and beyond, and can happen at any point, Berlenbach explained. Anyone can nominate a Fleet Services colleague for this award, recognized publicly on the spot with a thank-you coffee mug.
Fleet Services also holds a monthly allhands safety meeting, during which management presents information to techs on topical issues and customer survey results.
"It's critical to our success," Berlenbach said. "Recognition is foundational to superior job performance, and it's usually free or low-cost. So if you're trying to reach any sort of upper-level performance, you can't do it without great teamwork, and recognition is foundational for that."
KPIs Help Assess and Improve
Another vital aspect of the City of Oxnard's Fleet Services Division is its Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The City assesses 26 KPIs and uses them to track performance internally, as well as to let customers know how the team is performing.
"Our KPIs are specific for each area and are tailored to the specific work and what is being worked on. So, whether for a supervisor or a tech working on the lightrepair side, each KPI is tailored," Berlenbach said. "I'm a firm believer in what gets measured gets improved."
Areas measured include direct time, repair cycle time (percentage of repairs completed in 24 hours or less), come-back rate, overdue PM inspections, parts issue effectiveness from NAPA (a NAPA IBS store is located in the shop), and number of critical vehicles in service on a daily or monthly basis.
Daily KPIs are shared with the City's biggest customers and various technicians via an Intranet home page. The KPIs are displayed via dashboards and include overall fleet availability rate and the cycle time for the entire fleet across the board. Drillling even further, techs see their specific KPIs based on their team's work.
The KPI assessment began about a year and a half ago and was rolled out using the AssetWorks FleetFocus dashboard module about 12 months ago.
"Because resources are always of concern and even more limited nowadays, the KPIs help us focus our resources where they will do the most good or where we have a problem area," Berlenbach said. "So any time we're looking at metrics in our fleet operation, we have the right balance between speed, cost, and quality. Focusing on one over the other comes at a cost, and we have to strike the proper balance."
The city's KPIs also allow techs to pinpoint areas that need improvement and where to put extra effort. In addition, the performance assessment system helps management focus training efforts, ultimately improving operational efficiency and lowering costs.
"We have come a long way from looking out the window to see how many cars we have," Berlenbach concluded.