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How small fleets can use automation for big gains

Thursday, January 12, 2023 - 05:52
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Using fleet management technologies to automate processes and workflows isn’t just about convenience, but rather improving key data collection and saving time related to daily tasks. While fleets of all sizes can benefit from automation, small fleets have the most to gain in terms of increased productivity, efficiency, and uptime. Automation provides a better, more sustainable and organised method for fleets to track, manage, and report on data in a meaningful way, allowing for data-driven insights into fleet costings and profitability.

Improving Data Reliability and Asset Uptime with Service Workflow Automation

If there’s one thing fleet managers don’t have a lot of, it’s extra time. Fleets using manual data collection and fleet tracking process lose hours a day on filling out work orders, tracking down service invoices, and going through asset inspections to check for issues. Add that to heavy workloads and long hours often indicative of small fleets and lean crews, and it’s no wonder more fleets are looking for ways to streamline operations.

Automation gives fleet employees more time back in their day by streamlining daily processes. For instance, digital inspections offered through fleet management software (FMS) allow drivers and operators to submit asset health and performance information in real time, and failed items initiate an issue in the system that immediately alerts managers of work that needs to be done. Managers can then create a digital work order and schedule service directly from the issue. All the associated data, including labor and parts cost, is automatically logged into your system for reliable service histories, and for fleets with in-house parts inventory, the inventory count will be updated automatically as parts are added to work orders.

Fleets that outsource maintenance and repair services to a third-party vendor or shop can take advantage of outsourced maintenance automation, which allows managers to easily communicate with shops and set auto-approvals/rejections based on type of service or monetary thresholds. “[FMS] makes your life a whole lot easier and more streamlined because you don’t have to worry about 500 different emails about which vehicle is where,” explains Umair Tahir, Director of Fleet, DeliverOL. “You can manage everything from one screen, which saves a lot of time — gives you time for everything else you have to do — so you don’t fall behind. I’m a one-man team, and [outsourced maintenance automation] has saved me hours a day. Hours. It definitely helps smaller teams to really excel in what needs to be done.”

In addition to improving time management, automating service workflows helps ensure all cost-related data is captured and attributed to the right asset, allowing for a more accurate view of asset health and the cost versus profitability of each fleet asset, from heavy equipment to light-duty vehicles and even tools.

Increasing Productivity and Asset ROI with Automated Data Collection

Automation helps improve productivity in several areas of fleet. Not only do digital inspections allow for real-time issue submission, but drivers can access inspections via the FMS’s mobile app anytime, anywhere, even offline. Users can submit images and comments alongside failed inspection items to further speed up service by allowing admins to see what parts are needed. Using digital work orders, technicians can clock in and off jobs directly, as well as leave comments about work performed. Digital work orders also automatically pull in any upcoming service information for the asset in question so technicians can add those services to the current job for reduced downtime.

Additionally, automation helps foster proactive maintenance habits by allowing managers to set preventive maintenance schedules and customise those schedules based on OEM recommendations, odometer/meter hours, asset age or any other criteria specific to the fleet’s needs. Managers can set scheduled service reminders to be sent to drivers and technicians so assets never miss service, helping to reduce downtime and improve productivity.

When integrating other fleet solutions, such as telematics, with FMS, the software will automatically pull in additional data around things like driver behavior, GPS tracking, fuel consumption, and DTC faults. FMS aggregates this data automatically so you can easily see which vehicles are underperforming, whether routes need to be optimised, if any vehicles have recurring mechanical issues, and if there has been any fuel misuse/theft. Because FMS automatically collects, consolidates, and aggregates this data, fleets can make better informed decisions around extending assets’ useful life to improve asset ROI.

Assessing Total Cost of Ownership with Robust Automated Reporting

Total cost of ownership (TCO) accounts for all costs related to each fleet asset, including capital, petrol, insurance, registration, depreciation, maintenance, taxes, etc. While calculating TCO can be a time consuming chore if done manually, FMS automatically calculates TCO for each asset so fleets can quickly and easily identify and correct areas of overspend, determine optimal replacement windows, and maximise asset ROI.

FMS allows organisations to gain in-depth insights into the health and performance of their fleet. Through automated data collection and aggregation, FMS makes it easy to access important fleet reports around TCO, vehicle downtime, service histories, productivity and usage, and more. Process automation offers small fleets the benefit of improved productivity in the shop, on the road and even in the office. Plus, easy-to-read data updated in real time on a customisable dashboard means fleet managers and stakeholders can quickly find important information without wasting precious time.

“By going down the electronic path, as far as all our data collection […] it’s now automated,” explains Bryan Abbott, Fleet Manager, Asplundh Tree Expert Australia. “Before, every business unit within the company was, in a sense, running little silos […] whereas now, there’s a lot more transparency across the whole business. And because it’s now all automated through API connections, people are not having to run their own spreadsheets and all this other stuff. So from a time-saving point of view, it’s not just me, it’s everyone in the business starting to really save a hell of a lot of time.”

Rachael Plant is a content marketing specialist for Fleetio.

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