Ashley Sowerby explains how an audit can lead to full asset utilisation

14 June 2011

Ashley Sowerby is the managing director of Chevin Fleet Solutions and has some 22 years experience i

Ashley Sowerby is the managing director of Chevin Fleet Solutions and has some 22 years experience in the industry.

Ashley Sowerby, managing director of Chevin Fleet Solutions, explains how a fleet audit can help you to fully utilise your assets.

All businesses would agree that it is necessary to know at least the basic information concerning their fleets, such as the number of units within the fleet, the condition of the fleet, and the accurate cost involved.

Yet frequently when we come to conduct an audit, it becomes clear that many businesses really are in dark when it comes to this vital information, let alone have an awareness of fuel consumption, job allocation, operator licensing or health and safety checks.

We regularly come into contact with companies, with both large and small fleets, made up of a variety of tools, equipment, and vehicles, that couldn't even estimate the size of their fleet.

This is where audits come in. There is usually a catalyst that prompts a business to need complete visibility of its fleet operations.

Recently though, increased pressure to reduce inefficiencies has caused businesses to question expenditure across operations, closely examining individual areas in order to identify potential monetary savings.

However, once they begin to scratch beneath the surface, the extent of exisiting inefficiencies and their implications can become overwhelmingly apparent.

A daunting prospect maybe, but post-audit there are effective solutions that will not only give easy access to every facet of your fleet, but will enable you to dramatically enhance its future performance.

Taking the plunge

Ignorance is by no means bliss when it comes to these potentially powerful assets that often form the backbone of the business for those that use access equipment.

So enlisting the help of experts to conduct an in depth audit can really pay off, and as with any sort of audit it is usually more effective to draft in an external body.

A comprehensive audit will delve into multiple aspects of the business in order to form a holistic picture of fleet operations. It will take key principles of effective fleet management into consideration to assess the performance of your assets.

The process usually begins with an overview of the company, its main products or services, the amount of personnel it employs and its annual turnover, followed by a look at business structure, fleet make-up, reporting techniques, what systems interfaces are used, and finally go onto identify risks and make recommendations.

A fleet audit like this looks at the fleet in its broadest sense, but problem areas will need to broken down and analysed in much greater detail.

For instance, for access equipment users, one of the central concerns is health and safety so this is an element that requires more thorough engagement.

To do this, we would investigate any process that impinges on health and safety, from a legal, HR and procurement perspective.

It would ask how equipment operators' licences are managed and checked, to assess whether robust processes are in place to identify and address illegal practices quickly.

It would also drill down into how daily equipment inspections and defect reporting are managed, who services and inspects the equipment and how often, look into procurement methods, and take existing accident reporting processes into consideration.

Clarity of vision

So what's next after these reams of data have been compiled? The key to converting this information into collateral is in the recording.

What the audit normally highlights is that the method of recording valuable data that is in place is the fleet's weakest link.

The sheer volume of data generated by the fleet can be impenetrable, leaving management to instinct rather than facts, and leading to a number of unnecessary problems.

The key to solving those issues is fast identification of the cause, but without a coherent system to consolidate fleet-critical data in place, how can this be achieved?

In order to troubleshoot effectively, relevant personnel need up-to-date, accurate data that is readily available.

Manual recording on spreadsheets and basic desktop applications simply will not support this. To make data meaningful, it needs to be benchmarked against key performance indicators (KPIs), in a central, automated system that it easily accessible.

Enterprise systems can be tailored to an organisation's specific requirements, comprised of a series of modules for every aspect of fleet, dramatically reducing unnecessary administration hours and pinpointing inefficiencies in user defined reports.

This empowers fleet managers to maximise fleet productivity and minimise wastage, as demonstrated by companies Henkels & McCoy and Bahamas Telecommunications.

Henkels & McCoy

Henkels & McCoy is one of the United States' largest engineering, network development and construction firms serving the energy, communications and pipeline industries.

It operates a diverse fleet of more than 6500 pieces of equipment out of offices from New York to Hawaii as well as in Canada and Mexico, consisting of aerial equipment, line trucks and construction equipment.

Much of the data relating to fleet and equipment operations was recorded and managed using a variety of non-integrated databases, spreadsheets and information gleaned from their finance system.

But this provided no coherent method of analysing performance or supporting their ongoing need to continually implement best practices.

By installing Chevin's web-based application, FleetWave, Henkels & McCoy has the ability to support these complex equipment characteristics, from upfit details to aerial device inspections, and compliance oversight.

It has also been able to manage job based equipment assignments, as well as forward looking equipment assignments, detailed equipment specification development and new equipment order tracking.

FleetWave will be integrated with multiple internal systems such as finance, payroll and HR systems as well as external workforce management, maintenance, warranty, lease, fuel and telematic system providers.

Ultimately, Henkels & McCoy's ability to make informed business decision facilitated by complete visibility will enable it to significantly reduce unnecessary costs, administrative workload and streamline operations.

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) provides comprehensive telecommunications solutions to the more than 30 districts and out-islands across the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

It operates a fleet consisting of 700 pieces of equipment including trucks, aerial equipment and line equipment.

Without a centralised repository for this business critical information, it became impossible to easily determine even simple facts such as how many vehicles the organization owned.

This inability to view fleet operational data made it impossible to identify issues with particular vehicles, manage drivers or even track safety compliance.

BTC also chose FleetWave to solve these complex issues.

It has enabled BTC to share resources from across the disparate locations it operates in to reduce on-site parts inventories and significantly improve maintenance practices and oversight of the countless inspections and mandatory certifications required for their diverse telecommunications fleet.

This has provided business management with accurate and timely information regarding fleet conditions, scheduled maintenance and compliance statistics.

To further simplify BTC's ability to notify its field personnel of pending safety inspections and repairs, automatically generated emails and SMS texts are distributed to key personnel, vastly improving BTC's management and oversight of statutory and safety related tasks.

To audit, or not to audit?

If you are considering conducting an audit of your fleet, there is probably a catalyst, whether that is inappropriate equipment procurement, the discovery that some of your drivers aren't properly licensed or miss-managed service scheduling, for example.

All of these mistakes cost the business financially, and the reality is an audit will reveal other areas of inefficiency which will then need to be addressed. The real question is can you afford not to address these unnecessarily wasteful areas?

In a highly competitive market, the businesses that run the tightest operations will inevitably be the ones that survive the tough economic climate.

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