Among the ways that fleet maintenance and service provider operations measure success, notes Renaldo Adler, industry principal for asset maintenance at Trimble Transportation, the one that often gets paid the most attention in the industry is the reduction of downtime. “A driver whose truck is out of service isn’t making money, and delivery delays can incur penalties for carriers,” he says. “Getting trucks repaired and back on the road as quickly as possible is crucial.”
Marc Knight, senior industry consultant at AssetWorks, points out that a fleet management information system can be a powerful tool for shop operations. “Beyond just opening and closing work orders to record tasks completed and their costs,” he says, “a shop planning module can help maintenance managers and shop supervisors manage their workload to optimize available resources and minimize overall downtime.”
“Shop managers have experienced huge gains in productivity by using scheduling software,” says Kurt Claussner, president of Fleetsoft. “In some cases it can increase technician productivity as much has 30%. In addition, with performance reports, managers can easily compare how effective technicians are by showing how long it should take to perform a service and compare that with the time it actually took.”
Software helps improve scheduling based on things like bay availability, technician skills, and real-time volume and workflow, notes Marc Knight at AssetWorks. “Technicians may have certain certifications, bays may have specific functions and sizes of vehicles they can support, and certain jobs may require special tools,” he continues. “Part of managing a maintenance operation is managing the movement of all of those resources and requirements to get the most efficient workflow through the shop and keep downtime to a minimum.”
“One of the main advantages of shop management software is its ability to receive information from multiple sources and manage it all in real time,” says Trimble’s Renaldo Adler. “Software can process a great deal of data from many sources, such as operations, ECMs, driver updates, and more. With all of this data, shop managers can better schedule their bays and technicians.
“For example, there may not be an available tire bay at a certain time, so you can plan accordingly when scheduling tire-related repairs,” Adler continues. “The same is true for scheduling technicians. On any given day, a shop manager may need a technician who has a certain skill set to perform a repair, so knowing what needs are coming in helps a manager schedule the right technician in the right bay at the right time.
“The scheduling software gives a full picture of the whole shop’s workflow,” Adler says. “Having the ability to harness the power of this information helps the entire shop run more efficiently and effectively, and meet deadlines for getting the truck and driver back on the road.”
Shop management software, notes Fleetsoft’s Kurt Claussner, makes optimizing the technician’s time quick and easy. For example, drag and drop work order scheduling allows for viewing work orders on a calendar and drilling down by week and/or day to see what time slots are available to fill.
“A simple way to manage workloads is to break a facility into locations based on the type of work that is performed in that part of the shop and assign technicians and resources to each area,” says AssetWorks’ Knight. “As work orders are set up, different jobs are assigned to the various locations. Using this method, the total workload by location and the available hours can be monitored to understand the current capacity and potential backlog.
“With a more advanced planning functionality you can get down to assigning jobs to technicians and bays,” Knight continues. “Standard jobs are set up with specific resource requirements, which are matched to technicians and bays with the required capabilities. A shop planning module optimizes the assignment by taking in all these inputs and displaying everything graphically so it is easy for a shop manager to see the current workload and where bottlenecks are occurring.”
Shop management software can also assign technicians based on their skills, training and certifications. “By tracking the skills and certifications technicians possess to be able to work on certain types of vehicles, shop software informs managers which technicians have the skills to work on a piece of equipment,” Fleetsoft’s Claussner says. “Another feature of shop management software that helps avoid disruptions in workflow is the ability to automatically send alerts ahead of time when training or certifications expire so technicians stay compliant.”
“Having the ability to harness the power of this information helps the entire shop run more efficiently and effectively.” —Renaldo Adler, Trimble
Software provides information that will likely enable jobs to be done more effectively, notes Trimble’s Adler. “They now have access to a wider variety of data sources all streamlined into one place, such as fault data, repair history, drivers’ observations and parts availability,” he says. “That allows them to be more efficient because they have the full picture, not just bits and pieces.”
“A good shop planning tool can have each technician’s day lined up with work so they can easily move from one work order and job to the next,” says AssetWorks’ Knight. “It gives technicians an assignment that indicates what days they work, when their shift starts and ends, and how much time they have for breaks.
“Another way the system can improve productivity is to have standard parts lists for jobs so they can be staged and ready for pickup when the work is scheduled,” Knight continues. “That reduces the time spent looking up, requesting and waiting on parts.”
Knowing parts availability is critical, Trimble’s Adler agrees. “If the shop doesn’t have a part that’s needed to complete a repair, then the vehicle will be out of service until the parts become available,” he says. “But if a shop knows ahead of time that the truck coming in will require a part they don’t have, then they can make sure the part arrives by the time they need it.”
Shop management software can automate all of these processes. “Shop managers can utilize its information to organize staff and jobs in a shop on a daily basis to maximize efficiency and productivity,” says Knight. “It can be especially useful for monitoring and maintaining the plan because unplanned work and higher priority jobs mean things continuously need to be adjusted.”
“Using scheduling software to help make more informed decisions about repairs also reduces the amount of time it takes to make a fix, meaning technicians could potentially take on a larger volume of repairs,” Adler says. “The efficiencies gained by using shop management software can significantly improve shop productivity and reduce downtime.”