There are various reasons why fleets may not have the fleet management software its fleet managers want and need — there could be an agency-wide mandate on the software that can be used, it could share the same software as another department, or perhaps a robust fleet system is just too expensive.
Fleet management information systems (FMIS) are a big investment, and although user fees can be directly correlated to fleet size, the high implementation cost can keep small fleets from purchasing a state-of-the-art fleet-specific software system.
That’s where shared use comes into play. In Minnesota, what began as a collaborative procurement for a new FMIS has now turned into a system shared by four small public fleets, with additional fleets also talking about joining. For these fleets, shared use has not only broken the barrier to purchasing a high-end fleet system, but it led to additional efficiencies through collaboration as well.
Implementing a Shared Fleet Management Software
In 2014, a few agencies within the Scott County Association for Leadership and Efficiency (SCALE) — a group of public agencies seeking to collaborate with one another — were looking to purchase a fleet system. These agencies wanted to replace non-fleet-specific or outdated software, some from the ’80s. They decided to issue a joint request for proposal (RFP). Scott County competitively bid for the software, signing a contract that all agencies could also use.
In August 2015, the shared FMIS system from AssetWorks went live, hosting three agencies’ fleet data — Scott County’s 200 units, Carver County’s 247 units, and the City of Burnsville’s 300 units. As of December, the group has added one more fleet waiting to go live, the City of Shapokee, with 165 units.
The fleets did face challenges in getting to this point.
“I will say that we struggled a little bit [with implementation]. The unique part about AssetWorks is it allows everyone to be independent. We can have different rules and different setup processes for each organization. But we acted as the host, so everything went through us. That did slow down the setup process because everyone wanted to set things up a little bit differently,” said Troy Beam, transit and fleet manager, Scott County. “But in the long run, it worked out much better for all of us because then we all understood the rules of the other organizations and we learned from that.”
Scott County serves as the lead administrator of the software. It provides a main administrator, Jason Allen, who is the go-to person for the software. Allen works with the various fleets on projects such as training and setup, and serves as the point person for the software.
Each agency has its own rules for data management, but they also established global rules, agreeing to the same set of repair codes and vehicle class codes, for example. Each agency has an administrator responsible for data.
These administrators can see every agency’s data, but technicians can’t. And while an administrator can see data, departmental security measures prevent him from opening up a work order for another fleet. The agencies participating in this program prefer sharing data, but Barry Johnson, national account executive for AssetWorks, said the system can be set up so that no one has access to another fleet’s information.
Sharing Efficiencies and Costs
Cost savings is the main benefit for fleets sharing the new FMIS. The agencies split hosting fees and the high implementation costs, collectively hiring trainers to come out. Now, there are internal trainers that can help with software training, as well as training videos, as more agencies come on board.
In addition to reduced costs, sharing software has opened these fleets up to better communication.
“It was a pretty in-depth process when we started setting up our preventive maintenance (PM) procedures, and it got us a good chance to see who was doing what and [how] things were getting done differently,” said Aaron Kotila, shop supervisor for Scott County. “We shared a lot of different ideas and looked at different maintenance practices and had a lot of conversation.”
The administrators looked at each other’s PM cycles to see whether one method was better than any others. They determined the differences in how squad cars are set up and discussed whether they should change their practices.
If someone gets a new piece of equipment, whoever gets the first of a certain type sets up the PM. Other agencies purchasing this equipment don’t have to do the setup — they can copy it and change it to their own specifications, reducing work.
Tom Busse, fleet maintenance superintendent for the City of Burnsville, agreed that benefits include using others’ PM schedules and setups and taking advantage of the overall software maintenance performed by Scott County. The alignment with other fleets means learning from each other face-to-face as well.
“I can send my crew leader over to Scott County to shadow their crew leader to learn how they’re dispersing the shop workload from the service requests to the mechanics,” Busse said.
Mike Legg, operations manager, Carver County, agrees it’s a win-win situation. The county wanted to improve its fleet maintenance, tie fuel use to the software, and determine replacement scheduling and costs. Legg is working toward these goals, but said that so far the lowered costs and idea sharing with current agencies, as well as additional fleets joining, have been beneficial.
The shared data also allows fleets to see information such as parts purchasing costs and may lead to cooperative purchasing in the future.
Beam added that one of the unique features of the software is that it will interface with different software for each agency. This means the fleets don’t all need to have the same accounting or fuel software — each of these systems are connected separately to their fleet data, allowing for independent purchasing decisions.
Expanding Shared Fleet Software to Additional Agencies
Costs are split evenly between the four participating agencies for now, and Beam said the administrative costs now shouldered by Scott County will be divided up in the near future. Now with a smaller fleet looking to join, the agencies will have to determine a new cost splitting method to keep it fair, as well as how the county will charge for administering the implementation for a new agency.
Johnson added that the pricing model actually makes it easy to split costs — once the system is set up, costs can be boiled down to a rate per unit, and hosting fees are based on the number of units in the system.
It’s not just small fleets that can benefit from sharing software, but fleets of any size, Beam and Johnson said.
“I think every fleet should consider sharing because of the economies of scale,” Johnson explained. “They’re able to deploy tools they couldn’t afford on their own and take advantage of a lot of advanced features that they wouldn’t have access to.”