Fleets need to track all maintenance aspects to control costs effectively
Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Rick Weber
DO what you know — not what you want to do.
In “Controlling Maintenance Costs and Managing People in a Challenging Economy,” the Trincon Group's Jim Buchanan said some fleets are best served by having a preventive maintenance (PM)-only capacity.
“Outsourcing major maintenance activities frees up your mechanics to focus on PM and scheduled maintenance initiatives,” he said. “Trade Cycle strategies will eliminate many unplanned maintenance activities — relegating them to warranty coverage repairs — and determine the experience and qualification level of technicians. Diagnostic capabilities will determine the type, source, and time of repair. Well-equipped and staffed maintenance operations may offset fleet maintenance costs by absorbing outside work. Be sure to review your insurance requirements.”
He said fleets need to know their maintenance costs, and can do it by:
Getting software (or other recordkeeping and reporting capability) to identify and break out specific costs by type of equipment.
Separating tractor and trailer tire costs. “There's a mix, but sometimes non-asset-based fleets have trailers going to owner-operators and independent contractors,” Buchanan said. “When you separate costs, you're able to identify those things: tractor tires, suspensions, etc. Then you can get costs per mile, hourly rate, and other things that affect you.”
Keeping a historical and manufacturer record of MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures — average hours or miles that a component fails) and ECLS (Expected Component Life System — studying fleet maintenance trends and replace before they fail). “If you don't, you really should start,” he said. “There's hundreds of dollars of difference between doing it in the shop and having a tow truck go out and then doing it at a truck stop.”
How many technicians do you really need?
Shop management should consider the factors that limit the amount (and type) of maintenance activities, and the expected production capabilities: hours available, space of the facility, the type of maintenance performed, the age of the fleet, the type of operation (vocational, severe service, etc), and the shop efficiency rate (90%?).
“Some fleets don't really know how many technicians they need,” he said. “This is because of a flux of increase and decrease. Some fleets have experienced an increase in business and are not hiring drivers. They may have laid off mechanics and technicians. But as business increases, those trucks are being used more, and we have to identify how many technicians we really do need. We do that through analysis and comparison. A lot of times, we may have 15 mechanics at a facility. What are they doing? Get into direct and indirect analysis.
“Are they working eight hours a day? Not really. There are things taking away direct labor capability. There are meetings and training time. There's time bringing out tools and putting them away. There's time getting parts. A lot of fleets have taken initiatives, so as they're preplanning, they preorder special parts they don't have in stock and make sure the parts are delivered to mechanics, rather than have mechanics go over and check them out.”
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