The fire shop (pictured) and the heavy shop sandwich a multi-purpose room and the service center. - Photo by Thi Dao

The fire shop (pictured) and the heavy shop sandwich a multi-purpose room and the service center.

Photo by Thi Dao

The City and County of San Francisco Fleet Management had a problem in 2013 — it had to move to a new facility, and fast. The operation’s facility was being replaced by a sewage treatment plant, and the fleet facility was the only thing standing in the way that of that project, Tom Fung, director of fleet management, recalled. It had a budget of $62 million from its land sale, not much in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

In March 2016, fleet staff began working with a developer and by July 2018, employees had moved into the new facilities.

The new Central Shops consists of two separate buildings two blocks from each other. The main building, about 63,000 square feet, houses administrative offices and the heavy and fire shops. The other building, about 43,000 square feet, is used for light-duty work and also houses the body and paint shop, with a spray booth large enough to paint an aerial fire truck. While staff members had lots of input in facility design, the problem was with parking.

“We moved from a six-acre lot to this place, combined at a little bit under four. So we lost two acres of parking,” Fung said.

To solve this problem, fleet management improved its processes to reduce the number of vehicles parked at the fleet lot. Previously, drivers would bring vehicles in, and technicians would get to them when they could. This could take a week, even for simple preventive maintenance, leading to too many cars parked at the fleet lot, said Don Jones, fleet operations manager.

“We decided to [create] the service center but we also implemented an online appointment booking system,” Jones said. “It allows our customers to [go] online and make an appointment for an oil change.”

Other space-saving features lay in the parts room. Two vertical lift modules store about as many parts as the old parts room did. Users input a code and the tray with the requested parts comes down. Additionally, a tire carousel holds six shelves of tires, stacked to the ceiling. Users rotate the automatic carousel until they see the tires they need.

Two verticle lift modules help the fleet shop save space in the parts room. - Photo by Thi Dao

Two verticle lift modules help the fleet shop save space in the parts room.

Photo by Thi Dao

“We put everything here except for the sweeper tires that are solid filled. They’re 500 lbs. apiece, and each one of those rails only holds 2,000 lbs.,” Jones said.

Fung recalls managing the facility project as a hectic time, as he and Jones had to keep the operation functioning while working on the facility. One thing he wishes he had done was to bring in an architect who knew the workings of a fleet and vehicle maintenance operation.

“Don and I were the bad guys coming in and we started crossing out stuff,” he said, referring to the facility sketches. “For example, in the fire shop, they wanted [vehicles] to come in at an angle. Well, we would only get five trucks in there. So over the weekend, I literally took their drawing and designed it myself.”

The facility houses about 60 staff members, including technicians, between the two buildings. In the main building, the meeting/lunch room and the service center separate the fire and heavy shops. Fung said his favorite feature is the meeting spaces, providing the ability to conduct meetings for outside entities and for the staff to convene and have conversations. The lunchroom, although it sits between two shops, is heavily insulated from garage noise.

Jones said his favorite thing was the new equipment, as well as having a new shop, in general, to replace the antiquated one from the 1950s.

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