In the past two years, the Florida county’s fleet team has improved its preventive maintenance and safety programs and is now looking toward fuel updates and a fleet software revamp.
 - Photo courtesy of Sarasota County Communications Dept.

In the past two years, the Florida county’s fleet team has improved its preventive maintenance and safety programs and is now looking toward fuel updates and a fleet software revamp.

Photo courtesy of Sarasota County Communications Dept.

While attending a conference last year, Ron Kennedy had a sandwich at a restaurant. Upon leaving, he saw a machine that asked about his meal, with five buttons showing smiling and frowning faces. 

“It was a pretty good sandwich, and I [pushed] happy and walked out and thought, ‘I just took a survey,’ ” he said.

All About the Sarasota County Fleet

Sarasota County, Fla., is located on the Gulf of Mexico, 50 miles south of Tampa. The economy is largely service-oriented, driven by tourism and the migration of retirees. As of 2018, its population is 417,000.

Assets managed: 1,672
Staff members: 37
Maintenance facilities: 3
Fueling facilities: 4
Technicians with ASE certifications: 21

Kennedy, CEM, CPFP, fleet manager at Sarasota County in Florida, had been having problems with paper customer service surveys, as fleet staff members would find them in the parking lot or wrapped around chewed gum. He thought this digital “brainless” survey might be a good solution, so he purchased one “Happy or Not” machine for each facility, asking “How would you rate your overall Fleet Services experience today?” Staff members encourage customers and those they interact with to rate each interaction.

This is just one of the changes Kennedy has made since he became the county’s fleet manager two years ago. In these two years, he has led the creation of new programs, has overseen the completion of existing projects, and is working on continuous improvements to the fleet.

Making Changes

Some of the big projects the fleet team has accomplished revolve around safety, staff training, and preventive maintenance (PM). 

A new safety program has a training officer — a fleet staff member with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) training — traveling to each of the three fleet facilities monthly for a half-hour talk about safety. The program helps reinforce safety measures, and discussion topics have included heat safety, hand and eye safety, tripping hazards, and holiday hazards. A talk on bloodborne diseases encouraged those who work on sanitation pumps to get hepatitis vaccines.

Kennedy also emphasizes a strong PM program. 

An increased focus on PM has reduced reactive maintenance work orders by 32% in fiscal-year 2018 compared to the prior year, resulting in a 22% cost reduction.  

And all three fleet facilities obtained their Blue Seal of Excellence from the Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) in 2018, a first-time accomplishment. Fleet management accomplished this goal by prioritizing training and paying employees for certifications. 

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Sarasota County’s technicians maintain a range of vehicles and equipment and earned the ASE Blue Seal of Excellence in 2018. Pictured above (l-r) are heavy equipment technicians Teodolo Gomez, Gabe Barbieri, and Bob Potier. Photos courtesy of Sarasota County Communications Dept.

 

Continuing Major Projects

The fleet team is continually working on new projects. 

After years of planning and design, fleet management is finally kicking off a rebuilding effort of three of its four fuel islands. The county’s underground fuel storage tanks need to be replaced, and many will be replaced with above-ground tanks. Kennedy explained that the goal is to double fuel capacity at each of these sites. Elected officials approved renovation of the first fuel facility in fall of 2018, and this first site will also include an expansion of the canopy.

In addition to an upgrade of its fuel sites, the fleet team is looking to revamp its Asset­Works fleet management information system, having the company do a data migration and host the data on its server. 

“I’m working with our [account manager] and I asked him to treat me like a new customer,” Kennedy said. “I want a clean database.”

While the data the system tracks is reliable, Kennedy said it’s difficult to get the reports he wants out of it because of how it was implemented years ago. Manually extracting the data is time-consuming. With this change, fleet management staff will be able to get key performance indicators (KPIs) on their phones and throughout the shops, for example. This will allow everyone to see how the fleet is doing, and a staff member in the Emergency Operations Center during a hurricane will easily be able to see fuel levels — now, that person usually has to call the fleet office every hour to get the information.

The new Happy or Not machines allow fleet management to gauge customer satisfaction. Employees encourage customers to rate each interaction.
 - Photo by Thi Dao

The new Happy or Not machines allow fleet management to gauge customer satisfaction. Employees encourage customers to rate each interaction.

Photo by Thi Dao

Successfully Recruiting Technicians

For the first time in two years, the fleet is fully staffed, Kennedy said. 

“[Recruiting] was a problem for a long time but in the past six months, with technician recruiting, we’ve got some amazing people,” he said. He attributes this to luck and recruiting at technical colleges. 

“We’re not getting the guy that’s been in the industry 25 to 30 years anymore. For the past six to eight months, we’re getting guys wanting to start a career, that just started a family and bought a house and want to get into the retirement program. And it’s not just technicians — we’re getting it in administration as well,” he said.

Tracking Customer Service

Because customer service is such a big part of fleet operations, Kennedy is placing an emphasis on the newly purchased Happy or Not machines. He told shop superintendents that results will be used in their evaluations, so they’re making an effort to remind customers to rate their interactions.

Kennedy can track results by time and location, and results are e-mailed to him daily. That means he can discount results accidentally pushed by cleaners because it’s after hours, for example. Every interaction counts, not just ones in the shop, and not just with direct customers.

“Our internal mail services [staff who are here] every day delivering mail, they’re rating us. So we make it a point when they come to the door to greet them,” Kennedy said. “We say have a good day, have a good weekend. And it works.”

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