A Chat with a Fleet Master
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Posted by: AEMP
AEMP, with Construction Equipment, acknowledges outstanding fleets with the Fleet Master Award, which recognizes equipment professionals who demonstrate excellence in meeting the unique challenges inherent to delivering cost-effective management of mixed fleets of off-road and on-road equipment. Winners are judged in five major areas within their operation: Finance, Information Management, Policies, Controls and Customer Service.
This year the team at Ryan Incorporated Central won the small fleet category.
Aaron Mayer, Equipment Manager, recently answered a few questions about his approach to excellence in equipment management.
EM: Was there something you’ve learned from AEMP education or learned from a peer at a conference that has helped you as a fleet manager, and how?
Aaron: I have certainly learned a lot through my participation in AEMP from conferences and other members alike. The thing that stands out the most is the “Equipment Triangle” philosophy which is the cornerstone of AEMP. The equipment management business is complex and is getting more so in a large part due to changes in technology. We have certainly adopted the philosophy and have built teams made up of people from dealers and OEMs who are equally committed to it. We really feel this has been a big contributor to our success. I don’t think you can be successful in this business in the long-run without the adoption of the Equipment Triangle philosophy and surrounding yourself with people who are committed to it as well.
EM: Describe your team’s most significant achievement that represents excellence in fleet management.
Aaron: Our vendor review process represents one of our more significant achievements. Our process works by collecting feedback from all company personnel who have interacted with a vendor in a given year. The feedback has several categories and is measured using a simple numeric scale. The feedback is then summarized and shared with the vendors annually, usually in a face-to-face meeting. Over the years, the process has resulted in numerous process improvements for both our vendors and us. The key to the process is the creation of an atmosphere of collaboration—the process is a two-way street—both parties providing feedback to make all business interactions more efficient. It is important to note that the vendor review process is not a substitute for timely communication throughout the year when issues arise. The process is intended to be an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and plan for the next.
EM: Describe how your team excels in preventive maintenance.
Aaron: One of the most important functions we manage is preventative maintenance (PM). A PM program has a huge influence on overall costs because of the way it impacts reliability and life expectancy. Key parts of our PM program include work order scheduling, parts sourcing, PM equipment, fluid sample analysis, and training. Every type of machine in our fleet has a PM profile. At a minimum, it follows the OEMs recommendations. Most often, it is adapted based on our experience and cost history with each machine type.
These PM profiles are loaded into our maintenance system which generates work orders based on hours, miles, or passage of time. Each work order is set to be created at some interval before the PM is due to allow for our parts personnel to order and have parts delivered to the jobs. This also allows our technicians to schedule the work.
From an equipment perspective, most of our mechanic trucks are outfitted with lube packages so basic PMs can be performed. We also have lube trucks which contain the entire line of lubricants we use stationed at most of our jobs. Everyone is trained to use the bulk and packaged products in these trucks for PMs and top-offs. By providing the PM tools onsite, we can manage the type and condition of the lubricants going into our machines.
Fluid sampling is a large part of our PM program. We routinely sample oils and coolants. We sample both machine compartments as well as the lubricant compartments in our PM trucks and equipment to ensure all products are clean. All samples are sent to a 3rd party lab. Lab results are reviewed on an exceptions basis by our Reliability Manager who will issue work orders in response as needed.
Every year, we have at least one case where a fluid sample allows us to avoid an impending catastrophic failure or a major component or system. Overall, we feel our PM program is a significant contributor to overall cost management and allows us to meet the machine life expectancy and reliability needs of our fleet.
EM: What is your biggest challenge in technology?
Aaron: Turning data into useful, timely, actionable information. For purposes of this response, I am going to assume technology means telematics. The capability of machine telematic systems has improved dramatically over the last several years from providing location and hours (by proxy) to providing location, machine health information, and productivity information, etc. The biggest challenge for us is integrating the useful aspects of these systems with other existing systems and processes we use today—accounting, preventative maintenance, timesheets, etc—and doing so with a structure or architecture that allows for future changes.
What is your biggest challenge in workforce development?
Our biggest challenge is finding qualified technicians who are a good fit for our team. Our company has an extensive area of operations—basically the eastern half of the US. Our jobs on average last about three months. This requires our maintenance staff to travel frequently—a couple days to a few months. Finding qualified technicians is tough—finding qualified technicians who are willing to travel is more difficult.