Accurate tracking of maintenance can alert staff of larger issues. Osborn says, “They may see, ‘I’ve changed these brakes three times in the last three months.’ There may be something else they need to look at.” By documenting what is being done, he emphasizes, agencies can become more efficient in their work and stop repeat offenders. Jean Smith, systems implementer for Ultramain Systems, agrees, “You can track failing parts, look for trends either by component or by fleet.”
Haskins can attest to that. “We found that we were going through huge amounts of batteries. The problem was that we were actually choosing the wrong batteries to go in our vehicles.” He emphasizes, “Something simple like that, we found.”
In another instance, they noticed a consistent heat problem with some tires. “We changed to aluminum wheels and that will save us more than $100,000 a year,” Haskins attests.
Warranty management is a daunting task without the help of a structured program. Schnepp with Maximus mentions, “A lot of times we’ll see folks that don’t have systems, that don’t do a particularly good job with warranty management.” He explains how often times the procurement department will do a great job of negotiating extended warranties, but technicians can miss warranties on the subcomponents. “A lot of times we’ll see folks that don’t have systems, that don’t do a particular good job with warranty management. Making sure, while a technician is working on a work order, the system flags a warrantable item so that item may need to be saved in case the vendor needs to audit it.”
“Make sure that if parts break, the system tracks it fully so that you can get reimbursed for any parts that are failing before their life expectancy,” Smith adds.
Osborn stresses, “Not only are they starting to track their cost but they are taking a lot of the parts and activities that get done and tracking them and actually converting those warranties into dollars. You wouldn’t think of a revenue side to municipality, but that is a big area.”
Parts inventory is often a significant cost-cutting area — optimizing and minimizing the on-hand parts inventory. Having parts on hand for vehicles that an agency does not even own anymore is not only a waste of space, you are sitting on dollars. Software can automatically monitor what is on stock, what it is for, how often you typically require each part, where you can get the part and more. Schnepp explains, “As part of the implementation, we match up all of the parts in the inventory with all of your active vehicles, flush out any parts that you just don’t need anymore.”
Smith stresses the importance of having the optimum parts on hand, “You’re not overstocking parts and you have parts that are sitting on your shelf for too long or that you’re not stocking enough parts and you are having to overnight parts.” Tracking the parts usage allows the agency to possibly sell or dispose of parts that it is no longer using so it can lower its inventory costs.
Each company asserts that even though these may be the most common ways that agencies see savings, the possibilities are endless. The software not only gathers data for maintenance, warranties and parts, it connects this information to other areas of the organization. One example is connecting the fleet maintenance program to dispatch so it knows when vehicles are or are not available. Trapeze CEO Mark Miller says, “It’s really important to match vehicle types to the routes… making it really easy so they don’t have to be rocket scientists.
“I think they need to challenge themselves on connectivity and driving the data from that system into other areas of the organization instead of solving just one problem.” He adds, “You spend a lot of money on these systems.”
Choosing your Technology
As with any technology, there are important things to consider before purchasing a system and that can seem overwhelming. Start with the end in mind; consider what exactly your agency needs, what are you trying to do?
Osborn points out, “One thing you find in the maintenance arena, none of these guys need this system to do their job. They know their job; they know what they need to do. What management needs is to be able to capture and record it easily.