Tag: Management


The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Michael Donahue, manager of transportation and construction equipment at Omaha Public Power District, an electric utility headquartered in Omaha, Neb., with over 1,300 assets in its fleet.

#1. Master one aspect of fleet at a time.
“There are many aspects to learn about operating a fleet – learning how to write specs, learning about your customers’ needs, learning what vehicles are out there and available, and everything else that has to do with fleet. If you try to bite off everything at once, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Instead, I think it’s important just to jump in and take one bite at a time, learning about one aspect until you understand it. Then expand your knowledge from there.”

#2. Invest time to study your customers.
“Get to know your customers. Go to their work areas and watch them work. Ask them questions about what they’re doing, how they’re getting the job done and what equipment ideas they might have. Ask them for feedback on what they think could help them get things done more efficiently. And observe the equipment and operators in action. The more you know about your customers, the more effectively you can serve them.”

#3. Get involved in industry organizations, forums and events.
“Attend fleet conferences. I think they’re very valuable for networking and learning about issues and trends that could have the biggest impact on your operation. Attending industry events can help you connect with experienced fleet managers who can answer your questions and offer real-world advice.”


Utility Fleets and the Sharing Economy

In our increasingly shared economy, even some utility fleets are moving from “mine” to “ours.”

This certainly makes sense. In addition to the fact that utility equipment and vehicles often are costly, they’re also unlikely to be in constant use. Pooling and sharing resources, then, can help cut down on surplus, reduce expenses and streamline operations.

The even better news? As the sharing economy has matured – think of Airbnb, Uber and Lyft – so have the technology offerings that help make it possible. There’s online forum MuniRent (www.munirent.co), for example, which allows municipalities to share surplus goods and equipment. AssetWorks (www.assetworks.com) offers fleet management software along with an automated motor pool solution, and allows reservations through smartphones and tablets. And then there’s Agile FleetCommander (www.agilefleet.com), web-based fleet and motor pool software that has been used by fleets in virtually all categories.

Naturally, the argument can be – and often is – made that there’s a segment of a utility fleet that can’t be downsized because it’s used during emergencies and peak demand. It’s also true that some vehicles have specialized tools onboard that are assigned to a particular individual.

The key is in recognizing that “no vehicle sharing initiative should try to apply the same rules for all types of vehicles and equipment,” said Ed Smith, co-founder, president and CEO of Agile Access Control Inc., developer of the Agile FleetCommander software. Fleet managers must acknowledge that real obstacles are present, he said, but also that some constructed barriers to sharing “simply aren’t fact-based.” Technology can help fleet managers know who has custody of a vehicle – and its keys – as well as assist in reporting and chargebacks.

Dave Meisel, senior director of transportation and aviation services for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., said his department has tried sharing initiatives on multiple occasions, with varying levels of success. One of the challenges is that many first responders are dispatched from their homes, so their equipment is not at a central location. But there are trouble trucks, line trucks, dump trucks, digger derricks, directional boring equipment, cars and pickups that are shared across PG&E’s operating departments.

“When it’s reasonable and practical, you can have an asset in gas today and in electric tomorrow,” Meisel said. However, he doesn’t consider it a rightsizing effort as much as he does good business sense – especially when scaled to a fleet of 15,000 assets and a service territory of 75,000 square miles.

But yes, there has been pushback.

“Most of the people I know in this industry, they’re really conscious of trying to be responsive, trying to meet our customers’ needs as soon as possible,” Meisel said. “They’re great people and are really hard-wired for emergency and customer response. Sometimes that thought process leads them to want to keep equipment locally just in case something bad happens. But when you add that up over 100 locations, that can add up to a lot of equipment and a significant, unnecessary operating expense.”

Being able to make the case for the business decision has helped many come around, Meisel said, and if the needed equipment isn’t available through the pool, a rental follows.

Florida Power & Light Co. also has a pool of utility vehicles, the result of a utilization analysis several years ago. The organization, an Agile Access Control customer that uses the Agile FleetCommander software, was able reduce its fleet by more than 60 specialty vehicles, Smith said, while still providing a high level of service. “Not only did they receive $7.5 million when they disposed of the vehicles, they no longer had the costs associated with depreciation, replacement and maintenance,” he said.

So, where does a fleet manager even start? Meisel said it begins with a true understanding of how equipment is currently being used – and how it’s not.

Ultimately, though, the success of any effort may come down to the way it’s presented. Cost savings can lead to the purchase of newer equipment and a younger fleet overall. In addition, the ability to turn over reporting, cleaning and fueling to a central facility might help make sharing a winning proposition for all involved.

About the Author: Fiona Soltes is a longtime freelance writer based just outside Nashville, Tenn. Her regular clients represent a variety of sectors, including fleet, engineering, technology, logistics, business services, disaster preparedness and material handling. Prior to her freelance career, Soltes spent seven years as a staff writer for The Tennessean, a daily newspaper serving Nashville and the surrounding area.


The Sharing Economy by the Numbers
Today’s sharing economy – also known as the on-demand economy, peer-to-peer economy or collaborative consumption – has stretched across numerous industries. Airbnb, Spotify, TaskRabbit, Uber and others all offer opportunities to share and share alike.

But how much is it catching on? In April 2015, PwC (www.pwc.com) released the following statistics in “Consumer Intelligence Series: The Sharing Economy.” At that time:
• 19 percent of adults surveyed had engaged in a sharing economy transaction; 7 percent had been providers.
• 86 percent agreed that sharing is making life more affordable.
• 83 percent agreed the sharing economy results in greater convenience and efficiency.
• 76 percent believed the sharing economy is better for the environment.
• 72 percent of adults were concerned that the quality of sharing economy experiences will be inconsistent.
• 89 percent believed the sharing economy is based on trust between provider and user, but 69 percent were concerned about putting their trust in these services.

To see the full report, visit www.pwc.com/us/en/industry/entertainment-media/publications/consumer-intelligence-series/assets/pwc-cis-sharing-economy.pdf.


The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is George Survant, senior fleet director at Time Warner Cable Inc., a cable and telecommunications company headquartered in New York with over 20,000 assets in its fleet.

#1. Listen to your customer.
“Often, customers will come and ask for this or that type of spec in a vehicle or piece of equipment. But when we dialogue with them and listen, we begin to understand what the real pain points are. And when we learn why they want something, there’s often an opportunity for us to recommend a better solution they might not have considered when they first made the request.”

#2. Know how your fleet is doing at all times.
“If you don’t continually stay on top of how your fleet is performing, you can’t manage it very effectively. For example, we know that we have 20,235 vehicles. Our incident failure rate is 2.7 percent; in other words, 2.7 percent of the fleet is unavailable on any given day. Our average burn rate for fuel is running about 11.2 mpg across all spectrums of the fleet. We anticipate burning 24 million gallons of fuel a year and driving 256 million miles. It’s about always having your finger on the pulse of your fleet, because that’s the only way you can catch outliers or discover new opportunities for improvements.”

#3. Act on the data to manage your fleet more efficiently.
“Make sure your data is good and then use it. There are a lot of counterintuitive things that people do in this business, or legacy things that they do that, frankly, don’t produce good results. Accurate data can give you the insight you need to come up with a tightly focused response to a very specific problem.”


Recruiting and Retaining Top Mechanics

A water main bursts. Power lines get damaged by severe weather. A major gas line leak is detected. Whatever type of utility you work for, your fleet vehicles and equipment need to be ready to roll in an instant to confront any emergency that impacts customers. And that’s what makes having dependable, top-flight mechanics so important. How can utility fleets more effectively prepare and position themselves to compete for the best technicians and keep them on board?

More Jobs, Fewer Candidates
The starting point is to address a key trend that you’re likely experiencing in your own fleet.

As baby boomer mechanics get set to retire, it’s becoming more of a challenge to find young qualified mechanics to fill those spots. And that’s a situation Dale Collins, CAFM, the fleet services supervisor for Fairfax County Water Authority (Fairfax Water) in Fairfax, Va., is experiencing firsthand. Collins manages the utility’s two maintenance facilities staffed by seven full-time mechanics.

“In the next five years, four out of our seven full-time staff are going to be retired,” Collins said. “So, what’s big on our radar right now is trying to put together a succession plan internally and hopefully find some good-quality applicants and backfill some staff members, so we can bring them up to speed before a lot of our retirements set in.”

But the challenge, he said, is that the pool of potential candidates seems to be shrinking. “There’s not a lot of focus and emphasis on the trades anymore in the education system. So, a lot of millennials and young people coming up now are missing golden opportunities to get a really good career, with a bright and stable financial future.”

Demand for quality mechanics continues to increase. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the automotive repair sector will increase 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, and demand for diesel mechanics will grow by 12 percent during that span.

Recruiting Strategies
In light of a looming mechanics shortage, where can you find good young talent?

“Man, that’s tough,” said Paul Jefferson, fleet manager for Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), who oversees a team of 24 mechanics across 10 locations. “We’re working with our recruiting department all the time on that issue.”

Jefferson said that the last few candidates came by word-of-mouth referrals. “Somebody here at OG&E knows somebody who knows somebody. We also post job openings on our website, but we typically don’t get many candidates out of that.”

Collins said that Fairfax Water’s internship program has been helpful in establishing relationships with young mechanics, who sometimes become full-time staff members. “We usually hire two interns each year for our summer internship program. The interns can kind of road test the work, and we can road test them.”

But to find qualified candidates to choose from, you need to tap every possible talent source.

“I have hired mechanics from everywhere – mechanics from dealerships and independent repair shops, aviation mechanics, parts specialists, and students from community colleges and trade schools,” Collins said.

Another source for finding good mechanics: Craigslist.

“Sometimes you’ve got to try some out-of-the-box stuff,” Jefferson said. “I’ve posted jobs on Craigslist, which was a tip we got from one of our truck dealers we do business with. We tried that with our last position and we’ve hired a couple mechanics from it.”

During the recruiting process, highlight the key selling points as to why a candidate should select your organization.

“We focus on financial stability,” Collins said. “You may not start out with a huge salary, but you can always depend on a steady paycheck and a bright future. And we offer a generous benefits package that includes annual and sick leave, medical, dental and vision insurance, educational reimbursement, continued technical training and a very good retirement plan.”

Keeping Top Mechanics
When you’re bringing new mechanics on board, how can you improve your odds of keeping them for the long haul? Here are three tips.

1. Be willing to adjust.
A major challenge impacting employee retention that Jefferson dealt with was OG&E’s night-shift-only schedule for mechanics. “Since we don’t have a lot of spare equipment, those assets need to be used during the day,” he said. “So, we would do most maintenance and repairs at night.”

But the constant night shift schedule did not work well with younger mechanics with young families, which caused many of them to quit.

“We found that the younger generation doesn’t like to work nights,” Jefferson said. “They like to be home at night with the family and kids and are not as tolerant of working night shift all the time.”

The adjustment? “That’s when we started really looking at how we can plan repairs and maintenance during the day and start offering a rotating shift,” Jefferson said. “Now we have a day shift that’s from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and an evening shift that’s from 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. [Mechanics] work one shift for two weeks, and then they rotate, which seems to have worked very well for everyone.”

2. Invest time to understand what motivates your mechanics.
When it comes to motivating mechanics and keeping them happy, there’s no one answer. “You’ve just got to take the time to learn what motivates your people. It’s not easy,” Jefferson said. “Some people are motivated by money, some are motivated by time off, some are motivated by instant gratification.”

The last example – instant gratification – is particularly relevant when working with millennials. Jefferson said this means that supervisors should not wait until the month-end or year-end performance review to provide feedback; they should do it as close to the moment as possible.

“If a mechanic finds something that wasn’t real obvious and does a great job fixing the problem, instead of waiting until the end of the month when you do their performance review, tell them as soon as possible, ‘Hey, you did a great job!’” Jefferson said.

3. Make effective communication a top priority.
“Assume nothing,” Collins advised. “Talk to your staff regularly. Let them know that you appreciate what they do and talk about things that need to be improved. Be sure to highlight the big picture of the business and how important their contribution is to the overall success of the organization. This gives them a greater sense of belonging as a valuable part of your team.”

Any way you look at it, your ability to attract and keep top talent hinges on your leadership. As Collins sums it up, “The best way to recruit and retain great employees is to lead them effectively. So, develop yourself, keep learning and never think that you know everything.”


Is 3-D Printing Shaping Up for Replacement Parts?

The mere presence of some cars can inspire creative journeys and wishful thinking. But a life-size Shelby Cobra, made with a 3-D printer? That takes even visionaries down a whole different road.

Cincinnati Inc. (www.e-ci.com) – an innovative machine tool manufacturer for more than 100 years – has been behind the printing of two such cars through its Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) technology; the first was in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (www.ornl.gov), the largest U.S. Department of Energy science and energy lab, located in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Over the past couple of years, the cars have been used as marketing tools, a clear demonstration of potential.

Even though the Cobras have been transported to events in enclosed trailers rather than driven, they’re still enough to make many stop and wonder: If a 3-D printer can make a car or other vehicle, wouldn’t it follow that it would soon be in use to supply equipment parts as well? Will we soon see maintenance shops creating their own replacement parts for utility and other vehicles, rather than having to store them, purchase them elsewhere or wait for delivery?

Time to tap the brakes. Three-dimensional printing is indeed showing promise in a variety of industries. But in terms of creating parts that can withstand heat, water, chemicals and other challenges facing current automotive materials, we’re not there yet. First, there’s a fundamental point of physics to be overcome, said Duncan Stewart, director of technology, media and telecommunications research for Deloitte Canada (www.deloitte.com/ca). Even if printers and processes become significantly faster – silencing those who believe no one will want to wait the hours it takes to create parts – there’s still the matter of allowing each printed layer to cool completely before the next one is applied. Eventually, the rate of progress will reach a saturation point.

“I am willing to say that 3-D printers will be faster in 2020,” Stewart said. “But that doesn’t mean that something that takes eight hours to print will take seven. It may go from eight hours to six, or maybe four, but it’s not going to be eight minutes.”

Listen to the current hype, and it’s easy to believe that 3-D printing is already being done en masse – and for a lot more than making Star Wars figurines. But as far as Stewart knows, based on conversations in recent years with those in the industry, there are no major manufacturers using finished parts in their production cars today.

What’s more likely is that 3-D printing will increasingly be used for tooling, jigs, dies, molds and rapid prototyping. Stewart also envisions a rise in service bureaus printing out specific items in “ones and twos” rather than larger quantities, as well as the use of 3-D printers for, say, items needed on an aircraft carrier or in space, where the wait for a spare would be significantly longer.

Overall, though, “we’ve got to dial this stuff back,” he said. “There are some unrealistic expectations.”

At Cincinnati Inc., BAAM is indeed available; the latest iteration can print objects as large as 20 feet long by 8 feet wide by 6 feet tall, at a rate of 100 pounds of material per hour. But it’s considered a beta machine rather than a product machine, and it’s offered through “pre-qualified sale,” said Matt Garbarino, marketing manager. Cincinnati’s forte is in machine building, not material development; the company wants to ensure that engineering resources and the right materials suppliers are able to join in the collaboration, so the company is more likely to sell to someone with like-minded objectives. Development must continue so that end products have the right properties.

Also of note is how a newly printed item comes off a 3-D machine. For the second Shelby Cobra, for example, the body took 12 hours to print, but sanding, painting and decaling it took weeks.

Regardless, 3-D enthusiasm continues to rise. When Cincinnati Inc. displayed one of the cars at The Work Truck Show 2016, which took place in March, Garbarino said many attendees were astonished. People’s familiarity with Cincinnati Inc. and the company’s understanding of fabrication made the conversations easy.

As for conversations about possibility? Those still come easy, too. But the path there may be a bit longer – and rougher around the edges – than many realize.

About the Author: Fiona Soltes is a longtime freelance writer based just outside Nashville, Tenn. Her regular clients represent a variety of sectors, including fleet, engineering, technology, logistics, business services, disaster preparedness and material handling. Prior to her freelance career, Soltes spent seven years as a staff writer for The Tennessean, a daily newspaper serving Nashville and the surrounding area.


In Some Industries, 3-D Printing Has Already Moved on Down the Road
No, the experts say – we won’t be printing spare parts from the back of a utility truck any time soon, due to cost, time and practicality considerations. But 3-D printing is making definite strides elsewhere.

Surgeons in numerous areas have begun using 3-D printing to provide new perspectives and practice for particular procedures. These might include, for example, the replication of a baby’s heart or skull. Training on the printed parts can reduce the time the child would have to spend under anesthesia.

Phoenix-based Local Motors (www.localmotors.com) is working toward the creation of a 3-D printed car that will exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards by 2017. Partners include IBM, integrating Internet of Things technology through IBM Watson; Siemens’ Solid Edge to provide CAD modeling; global design firm IDEO to “renew” Local Motors Labs (the company’s small-footprint micro-factories are aimed at sustainable, community-based vehicle development); and SABIC to improve materials.


The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Dan Remmert, manager of fleet services for Ameren Illinois Company, a rate-regulated gas and electric utility headquartered in Collinsville, Ill. Remmert oversees a fleet of about 3,300 assets.

#1. Care
“Truly care about your employees. Care about your customer, whether internal or external. Care about the equipment. If you don’t take on a caring mindset in all aspects of the job, you’ll lack the motivation and drive to be the best you can be.”

#2. Commit
“Commit to be the best. My fleet organization probably gets tired of hearing me talk about this, but it’s really important to commit to be the best out there. I have a little saying that I often get razzed about, but it captures what I mean: ‘You don’t wake up in the morning wanting to come in second place.’ So, come in every day with a commitment to be the best, whether you’re pulling an idle report, fixing a truck or talking with customers.”

#3. Execute
“Take action. You can have an MBA or great ideas, but none of it really means anything unless you act and execute your role as fleet manager. Execute the little stuff, and the big stuff will follow.”


Upfitting Cargo Vans with Ergonomics in Mind

In order to keep employee health costs and downtime to a minimum, ergonomics – or fitting a job to the person performing the job – must play a big role in upfitting fleet vehicles.

Many of today’s fleet administrators are tuned in to the importance of employee ergonomics, and an ever-increasing number are focused on keeping their utility fleet vehicle drivers safe and efficient, rather than simply giving them the tools to do their jobs. The mindset has evolved from determining vehicle shelf capacity and how ladders will be stored to asking questions of individual drivers such as:
• Do you need to carry all of your inventory and multiple ladders at all times?
• Which frequently used items can be located near the doors so you don’t need to climb into the vehicle?
• Is there a safer way to transport and access your ladders?
• How can you stay safe on the job without sacrificing productivity?

For cargo van drivers, one of the primary ergonomic issues associated with using that type of vehicle is climbing in and out of it, often while stepping over items on the floor with their arms full of gear. To minimize the need to enter the van – as well as the risk of back or joint injury – drivers should determine the tools and inventory they frequently use and place those items near the doors for easy access from outside the van. This can be accomplished using shelving and bins located within arm’s reach, drawers that open out through the cargo door and hooks for quick grab-and-go items.

Another major safety concern that stems from the use of cargo vans is the accessibility and use of ladders. Ladders have traditionally been carried on the roof of service vehicles, posing great risk to employees’ shoulders and backs when they attempt to retrieve, carry and stow these heavy pieces of equipment. Today, the goal of fleet administrators and upfitters alike is to find a way to make ladder use less of a liability. One solution is drop-down ladder racks. On a cargo van equipped with a drop-down rack, ladders are still carried on the vehicle’s roof, but a mechanized rack raises and lowers the ladders up and down the side of the van, delivering improved ergonomics for loading and unloading.

A second option to consider is keeping ladders inside the van. Workers can store short ladders upright on the partition or shelf end, hang them from the ceiling, or stow them under a subfloor or on a ladder shelf. By determining the ladder or ladders that need to be carried first, and by considering the vehicle being used, a utility fleet’s upfitter can suggest the best ladder storage options for optimal ergonomics.

Education is Essential
In order to create the most ergonomic vehicle work interiors, it is critical for utility fleet managers to research options, interview drivers and collaborate with the fleet’s upfitter. But what happens if – after the vehicles have been upfitted – driver feedback is still less than ideal? What’s missing? Is it possible that the drivers don’t fully understand how to make the upfit work for them?

Driver education is an essential part of the process of upfitting vehicles for improved ergonomics. When the vehicles are first delivered, fleet managers should be sure to lead a walk-around with their drivers to explain in detail why a shelf or drawer is located in a specific place and what cargo it is intended to hold. Recommend that frequently used items be positioned near the door, while other items can be stored deeper in the van. Demonstrate how to safely load and unload ladders. In addition to being an ergonomics and a safety imperative, training drivers is key to getting the most out of the fleet’s upfit investment.

And make no mistake, it is an investment. Fleet managers invest time and money upfront to create a work environment that suits employees, with the goal of improved efficiency and minimized downtime. When upfits and employee training are properly executed, the utility’s return on investment will include greater driver satisfaction, increased productivity and more satisfied customers.

About the Author: Tricia Singer has been writing for the commercial vehicle market for more than 18 years and has extensive experience within the commercial van equipment and upfitting industry. Her background includes marketing and graphic design for the Adrian Steel Co. (www.adriansteel.com).


Make Your Current Vehicles Work Better for You
If new vehicles or upfits aren’t in your immediate future, here are a few ideas to improve the ergonomics of your current interiors.
• Re-evaluate the cargo you are carrying. Do you need everything?
• Items that are used on most jobs should be stored near the van’s doors so you don’t have to climb into the van to reach them. Add storage hooks or removable totes to these areas for additional organization.
• Store items that aren’t accessed every day – but must be kept on hand – deeper in the van. They’ll be easy to locate without getting in the way of other items you need to access more frequently.
• Store large and heavy items on the floor or as close to waist-high as possible to ease in lifting.
• Learn the proper, most ergonomic way to load and unload ladders from the roof racks you are using.


Using Gamification to Improve Employee Performance

Today’s utility fleets have a powerful tool at their disposal, and it’s one that nearly everybody already carries with them: mobile apps that run on cellphones and tablets.

By tying new apps into existing fleet and work order management systems, fleet managers can help employees improve their execution of day-to-day tasks through use of their mobile devices. This article will take a look at exactly how today’s utility fleets can use gamification to coach and improve worker performance in real time, and why utility fleet managers should consider engaging with gamification to drive a more satisfied, efficient and safe workforce.

What is Gamification?
Gamification is the use of game mechanics in a context that is typically not game-oriented. It is used by software companies to build business applications that increase engagement and participation while accelerating learning. Gamification leverages our human nature to compete with ourselves and others, with the objective of encouraging teams to achieve company-wide goals and – in the fleet world – deliver greater safety, productivity and compliance. To accomplish this, the apps provide real-time data to users so they can track and eventually improve their performance.

So, how can you integrate gamification into your organization? There are three phases you must complete: establishing your mission, aligning objectives with your mission and deployment.

Establishing Your Mission
While your crews may be a subset of a larger business, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have their own mission that aligns and supports the overall corporate mission. Once the mission is established, it’s time to break it down into individual objectives that support the mission. For example, the mission may be to operate the safest utility fleet in your region, so the objectives may include reducing speeding incidents, hours-of-service violations and vehicle idle time.

Measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) should be created based on the established objectives. Make sure they are as specific as possible. No sport would ever achieve popularity if the goal was unclear to players. Regardless of what your objectives are – increasing productivity, decreasing fuel costs or improving the safety of your crews – the secret to achieving them is to keep them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

Aligning Objectives
The next step is to review your objectives to ensure they align with business operations. For instance, if your company puts working as quickly as possible first and safety second, then setting an objective to reduce speeding won’t align with the mission. Get your company influencers – typically managers and supervisors – involved to review objectives and ensure they align with operations.

It’s important that managers are on board with the new objectives; as leaders, they will play an important role in influencing others and working toward a successful outcome.

After reviewing and refining your objectives and aligning them with your mission, you’re ready for the deployment phase. This phase should go relatively smoothly if you correctly execute the first two phases. The size of your organization will determine the scale of your deployment planning.

In the case of rolling out the use of an app such as Telogis Coach, which provides proactive driver coaching with gamification, smaller utilities may only need brief training. This would include a review of a quick-start guide that explains how the app works, as well as instructions about how to download, install and log in to the app. For larger utility organizations, a more tailored implementation would be beneficial.

But don’t be fooled – deployment involves more than merely instructing your employees to install the gamification app and leaving them to it. For the game element to be most effective, it needs to be refereed. This means determining how long a game will last, monitoring results and celebrating wins.

Employees will soon tire of a game with no end in sight, so set a length of time and make them aware of it. A 90-day game period is most common for achieving fleet KPIs.

To monitor results, you will need a scoreboard to help reinforce the KPIs so drivers know what they are trying to achieve. Gamification apps use predetermined metrics to generate a score, which an employee can access to see how he or she performed against his or her peers. A utility fleet manager can also compare employee scores. The ability to view these scores – and, more importantly, the ability to review the direct correlation between what an employee is doing and how it is impacting the operation – presents an opportunity to improve employee behavior, which is a direct intention of gamification apps. Fleet managers can also use these apps to review the types and frequencies of training content being accessed. By comparing scorecards and training content metrics to fleet’s rates of accidents, lost-time injuries and productivity, managers can draw correlations between what’s working in terms of meeting objectives – and what isn’t.

And finally, celebrate employee wins. You don’t need to do cartwheels in the office every time an employee achieves a perfect score, but there should be recognition and reward. In most cases, the size of the reward isn’t important; it’s about making sure the employee knows you are aware of his or her accomplishment, and that it means something to you and the company.

Real Results
Done right, implementing gamification into your work can be much more than a passing fad. The data derived can be a powerful force for change in your organization, and you’ll have employees who feel more engaged, recognized for good performance and motivated to do their best.

About the Author: Tim Taylor is chief customer success officer for Telogis (www.telogis.com).


Executing an Effective Fleet Rightsizing Strategy

About four years ago, East Central Energy, an electric distribution cooperative headquartered in Braham, Minn., underwent a corporate restructuring that shifted fleet from operations to the finance department. This reorganization, along with a drop in demand for new services, sparked an initiative to rightsize the fleet, said Holly Giffrow-Bos, East Central Energy’s fleet supervisor.

“When fleet was moved to finance, that’s when we started doing a lot more analyzing and measuring the financial performance of our fleet,” Giffrow-Bos said. “And when the scope of our business changed [with lower demand in new services], we analyzed the impact on our fleet. We measured and ranked our assets at each of our five locations, based on set criteria, to determine which assets we should keep, replace, reassign or eliminate.”

The result: about a 13 percent reduction in fleet assets, from 205 to 178 units since 2011, which has generated tens of thousands of dollars in annual savings for East Central Energy.

A reorganization of sorts also prompted a fleet rightsizing initiative for Matt Gilliland, fleet services manager at Nebraska Public Power District, which operates more than 1,100 fleet assets.

A few years ago, Gilliland’s fleet organization served only the transmission and distribution business units. But in 2012, his department’s responsibilities were expanded to oversee the fleets of all the district’s business units – a total of eight – creating opportunities for fleet consolidation and reduction.

“When we onboarded those business units, we rightsized their fleets, identifying about 70 assets that could go away,” Gilliland said.

Rightsizing Defined
Both Giffrow-Bos and Gilliland will tell you that rightsizing refers to more than simply downsizing. It’s about striking the optimal balance between fleet composition and business requirements. This is because, depending on changes in the business, rightsizing might actually mean having to add assets to maintain proper service levels to customers.

Rightsizing also relates to the right size or spec of a vehicle. In some applications, you might be able to downsize to a vehicle that offers a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine and lower purchase price. But in other instances, you might discover that you need to bump up to a larger truck because the current one has been consistently overloaded, creating premature maintenance issues and excessive downtime.

And it’s important to consider the right type of asset when formulating your rightsizing strategy. For example, you might have assigned someone an SUV, when a less expensive, more fuel-efficient passenger vehicle could still do the job. By making this switch, you may not be reducing the overall fleet size, but you are rightsizing both operational and capital expenditures.

Fleet Manager as Adviser
Any time there’s a proposed change – especially when it impacts a business unit’s access to equipment – there are politics involved. The fleet managers who know how to navigate those politics will be the most successful in implementing positive change for all affected parties.

This starts with the fleet manager taking on the role of an adviser to the leaders of each business unit, said Paul Lauria, who has conducted numerous rightsizing studies for government and utility fleets for more than three decades as president of Mercury Associates (www.mercury-assoc.com), a fleet management consulting firm based in Rockville, Md.

“In my view, the fleet manager’s role should be to help business units make sound fleet resource decisions that save money and do not impair the operators from doing their jobs,” Lauria said. “It’s not the fleet manager’s responsibility to force operators into accepting a particular type of vehicle. Instead, it’s their role to outline what are the most cost-effective types of resources to perform particular jobs.”

Gilliland agreed. “The role of the fleet manager is mostly tied to information,” he said. “It’s fleet’s job to identify what we should replace and when based on utilization history and life-cycle costing. We take that data and sit down with the supervisor of each independent business unit. We convey to them what we plan to replace and when, and they have an opportunity to provide good feedback on what they really need to do their jobs. It’s more of a collaborative process.”

Lauria said that business unit input is essential before making final decisions about whether to retire an underutilized asset. “That supervisor might say, ‘Yes, I have two backups. But that’s because we’re not doing a great job replacing our frontline units. So now I have to put those backups into service fairly often, while my frontline units are in the garage for repairs.’ Or it might be a situation where the supervisor says, ‘We’ve analyzed the demand for these types of assets during certain times of year and these assets are going to be heavily utilized in the winter months.’”

According to Giffrow-Bos, “If we see something underutilized, we get with the supervisor of that business unit and find out why they aren’t using it. Has the scope of the business changed? Or is it that we haven’t had any jobs that require this piece of equipment? If so, is this something you think you can live without? Or is this something you could rent when the need arises?”

Seeing the Big Picture
While business unit supervisors are best equipped to provide field-level insight into their equipment needs, the fleet manager sees the big picture.

“Fleet managers have enterprise-wide visibility into the costs of the fleet, and the deployment and utilization of vehicles,” Lauria said. “You wouldn’t expect individual business units to have that same visibility.”

And sometimes that difference in perspective can create tension between fleet and the business unit. “One of the key challenges when rightsizing is getting supervisors to see beyond their own business,” Gilliland said. “When it comes time to share or reassign vehicles, it’s somewhat difficult to get leadership of those units to see beyond themselves – to get one business unit to give up an asset for the benefit of another.”

So, how do you navigate a situation like this to help bring about consensus? “It comes down to communication and relationship building. You need to cultivate a relationship with that supervisor so you can have frank yet respectful conversations about what’s best for the organization as a whole,” Gilliland advised.

Lauria recommended using objective data to help business unit supervisors see the financial impact of keeping an underutilized vehicle. “A well-defined cost-chargeback system, for example, creates economic incentives for the business units to pay attention to the fixed cost of adding or keeping fleet assets,” he said. “If a business unit is charged $1,300 a month for the fixed cost of a piece of equipment they barely use, you’re empowering them to say, ‘You know what, this is crazy to keep this. We use this thing six hours a month and we need to explore other options for meeting this particular type of need.’ In some cases, there are no other good options, but the point is that a good charge-back system engages fleet users in the management of fleet costs.”

Rewards of Rightsizing
Even relatively small changes through rightsizing can yield considerable cost savings from a reduction in capital purchases and the elimination of ongoing maintenance, tax and insurance costs for each asset retired from the fleet.

For example, three years ago East Central Energy began the process of retiring or reassigning 12 vehicles by switching over to an IRS-approved driver reimbursement program managed by Runzheimer International (www.runzheimer.com), a Waterford, Wis.-based firm that provides mobility program management services. “We were able to take the 12 vehicles and reassign or eliminate them from the inventory,” Giffrow-Bos said. “If it was a decent truck and worthy to keep in our fleet, we would reassign it to another district and fulfill a need of another driver, without having to go outside and purchase a new one.”

The result? “We’ve saved about $38,000 annually with the 12 drivers on the program,” Giffrow-Bos said.

So, how often should you conduct a fleet rightsizing analysis for maximum benefit?

“If you’re talking about doing an enterprise-wide rightsizing study, I’d say once every five years,” Lauria advised. “If you’re identifying individual assets that are clearly being used less than the norm for that type of asset and application, then you could evaluate those opportunities for rightsizing at any time.”

An Ongoing Effort
The key takeaway here is that rightsizing is not a one-and-done project; it’s an ongoing, continuous improvement effort. That’s because the scope of your business can change at any time, directly impacting the number and type of assets you need to ensure that you’re maintaining a fleet that’s the right size.


The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Holly Giffrow-Bos, fleet supervisor for East Central Energy, an electric distribution cooperative headquartered in Braham, Minn. Giffrow-Bos oversees a fleet of approximately 180 pieces of equipment across five locations.

#1: Involve your fleet team.
“When you give your team a feeling of ownership and involve them in decision-making, this gives them greater passion in their work. And that will translate in helping make your vision become a reality because you have everyone banding together for a common purpose.”

#2: Join a network of fleet professionals.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve learned by simply connecting with people in the fleet world. There are so many organizations available where we can network with other fleet managers and learn real-world strategies and best practices that can be vital for our success.”

#3: Make communication a top priority.
“We have a daily tailgate session with our technician team – even if it’s just five minutes – to go over the plan for the day and where we need to be at the end of the day. And then for our external customers, we recently started a monthly departmental update, where we share some of fleet’s achievements and important updates. Folks are really surprised about what we’re really doing here because we do a lot more than just keep a truck running on the road.”

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