The City of Albany, Ga., has opened a new fleet facility for repair and maintenance of vehicles and equipment to support city operations. This $1.4 million renovated facility combines three separate fleet facilities into one. It allows technicians to work on natural gas vehicles, including the city’s compressed natural gas (CNG) bus fleet.
The new 24-bay facility will allow technicians to repair and maintain more than 1,300 city assets, including police cars, fire trucks, utilities vehicles, public work vehicles, and a wide variety of off-road equipment, in one facility.
Fleet management used Government Fleet’s 10 Features of a Modern Fleet Facilities article to help pave the way for a modern facility. Here's how our renovated facility measures up.
1. Facilities Designed for Alternative Fuels
The new facility was designed for natural gas buses and other vehicles. All electrical circuits were encased in conduit. Several high capacity exhaust fans were installed in the ceilings and fresh air intake louvers on the ground floor. A very complex alarm system and gas detection system was married with a modern fire detection system that is monitored by the city 24/7. A plan is in work to create a second CNG fueling station next to our fleet facility.
2. Improved Security
Security at multiple levels was designed into this facility. Most access is by card reader, and the shop is secured and accessible to fleet staff only. Customers drop their vehicles off at the front desk and the service writer takes the keys and writes up the work order.
The front lounge is designed for the customers to be comfortable in a climate-controlled entryway. Customers have access to WiFi and can wait to be picked up or be given a loaner vehicle while their vehicle is being maintained.
Vendors have access to drop off parts and oils without interrupting shop operations. All these controlled access points are designed to improve safety in the shop, as many customers are not aware of the hazards in a working fleet shop.
The facility is 100% backed up by a Cat generator that can service the entire site and runs on CNG in case the building loses power. This backup power is important, as many fleet management directors know that fleet functions increase significantly during a major event, such as a hurricane.
3. More Service Bays Per Technician
All technicians will have a minimum of one and a half to two bays. The light-duty bays are designed to also allow for an additional vehicle behind the lifts. Oftentimes, vehicles on the lift are in for scheduled repairs, and the extra room allows technicians to do simple fixes quickly and get the customer back on the road. This eliminates downtime for the customers and the operational impacts of downed equipment.
4. Sustainable Design
As this was a remodeled facility, the fleet shop currently does not meet LEED certification, but it does utilize CNG heaters and LED lighting throughout the facility. The facilities department and contractors did a fantastic job with just over $1.4 million; most major projects of this size easily cost more than $40 million.
5. Improved Air Quality
The air is monitored by an elaborate system that triggers alarms when gasses rise above set limits. The exhaust fans constantly evacuate air in the shop and bring in fresh air through huge plenums cut into the walls.
6. Dedicated Training Room
The new facility has a dedicated training and conference room. Albany is dedicated to continuous learning and will hold a wide variety of technical classes from manufacturers, along with training classes from NAPA. A smaller training office is also available for taking classes online and studying to pass ASE certifications.
Fleet management purchases all study guides and pays for all classes associated with fleet studies, with the goal of being an ASE Blue Seal shop in the 2020 fiscal year.
This dedicated training room is essential for the business offices as well, including training on Faster fleet software applications, doing Skype interviews, and taking classes in a group setting.
7. Wi-Fi for Shop Floor
Wireless internet is available through the facility. Each staff member has a computer in his or her work area. Diagnostic laptops are available to the technicians to help troubleshoot vehicles and equipment. Phone systems are tied to computers, allowing staff members to get messages on both computers and mobile devices. Wi-Fi services extend around the outside of facilities so that technicians can do diagnostic work on towed vehicles or vehicles in our parking lot.
8. Computerized Fluid Management Systems
A new fluid distribution system has been installed that allows each technician to have a overhead reel bank area between bays to handle most vehicle/equipment fluids. The system currently is not computerized, but that is a goal in the future. The parts room will have a computerized barcoding inventory system that will allow a faster entry from receiving to issuing, and the data will be more accurate and automatically placed on the work order.
9. Advanced Vehicle Lifts and Service Pits
Fleet management has moved away from in-ground lifts and to surface-mounted lifts. Most lifts in the facility are brand new, including an alignment rack. The operation also has mobile lifts to allow technicians to handle our wide variety of heavy vehicles. A pit area allows technicians to do a quick preventive maintenance service on high-frequency vehicles such as busses.
10. Storage Systems to Save Space
The 10 Features of a Modern Fleet Facilities article focused on machines that save space for both tires and parts. Currently, the Albany fleet operation is using the traditional parts layout due to the cost of implementing the carousel approach.
About the Author: Peter Bednar is director of the Fleet Management Department for the City of Albany, Ga.