Let’s face it, most of us are probably ready to hit the reset button after working through the twists and turns of the pandemic for longer than we could’ve possibly imagined. During the last several months, you’ve likely adjusted to shifts in business demand, changes in your operating dynamics, and constantly evolving health and safety protocols, just to name a few. Through it all, we’re seeing the importance of remaining agile to adapt on the fly, and this certainly extends to your fleet operations, particularly your maintenance program.
If you’re like most fleet operators, the way you conduct business has likely been fundamentally altered. For some, your vehicles are now utilized more as business demand spikes or you stagger shifts to adhere to social distancing measures to minimize employee contact. Conversely, you may have units that are being driven far less or even sit idle for extended periods as business wanes. Both ends of this spectrum present unique challenges for your maintenance strategy since most programs are built on a foundation of miles driven and/or time intervals, both of which have been up-ended during the pandemic.
Given these disruptions and changes to your business, it’s probably time to reevaluate your maintenance management strategy to ensure you’re in position to both control costs and keep vehicles in top operating condition. As you get ready to pop the hood on your maintenance program and begin to diagnose the trouble codes, here are some important factors to keep in mind.
Define Your Goals & Objectives
Before you begin to reassess the framework of your maintenance strategy, you’ll want to clearly define the goals of the program. Is there a particular challenge you’re trying to overcome? Is maximizing vehicle uptime your top priority? Are you focused on minimizing your total cost of ownership (TCO)? Or most likely, a combination of factors will influence your strategy to varying degrees. With these objectives in place, you can begin to tailor your maintenance strategy to best support the goals of your business.
Account for Long-Term Shifts in Your Business
As a result of the pandemic, your company was likely forced to evolve its business strategy, potentially significantly, and your maintenance program needs to account for the long-term ripple effects. For example, perhaps you reduced the number of vehicles in your fleet to account for changes in business volume or you’re forced to keep units in service longer than anticipated due to budget constraints limiting new vehicle orders. These types of changes are certainly going to influence your maintenance strategy.
If these shifts in your business increase utilization rates for your vehicles, you’ll want to examine your preventive maintenance (PM) intervals and adjust accordingly. If you anticipate your vehicles are going to remain in service longer, you’ll need to adjust your maintenance parameters (and your budget forecast) to account for additional utilization during the most costly portion of the vehicle’s lifecycle. And be sure to keep in mind, you may not necessarily feel the impact of the shifts in your business this year or even next; the ramifications may not be apparent until well into the future, but a comprehensive strategy can help to mitigate potential disruptions.
Today, best-in-class fleets are leveraging their maintenance data and powerful analytics tools to better understand their fleet’s performance. What are the factors driving your maintenance costs? Perhaps you’ll find that vehicles should be cycled out of your fleet sooner to avoid catastrophic failures or maybe units are breaking down too often because they’re over-utilized or under-spec’ed for their intended job function.
Data intelligence and analytics can drive your maintenance strategy, empowering you to make informed decisions that ensure the long-term success of your program. This enhanced insight will also help you evolve your strategy from a traditional “break and fix” model to a more proactive “predict and prevent” methodology that will help you achieve tangible improvements such as minimizing operating costs and reducing downtime.
Be Realistic About Change
As you look to refresh your maintenance program, you’ll want to be nimble, assessing and refining your strategy based on the continued evolution of your business and performance of your vehicles. However, it’s also important to be realistic about the rate at which your organization can effectively manage change; you don’t want to overreach.
Start with incremental, manageable changes. Focus on a few key metrics or pain points, address those trouble spots, benchmark your improvements, and build on those successes. You’ll also want to commit to a regular cadence (quarterly, annually, etc.) for reviewing the performance of your maintenance program.
Leverage Key Strategic Partnerships
To help bring it all together, be sure you’re aligned with the right strategic partners and vendors that will help you implement the changes necessary to continue to improve and refine your maintenance management solution.
With your goals clearly defined, you can explore partnerships with maintenance providers whose services and expertise can best support your objectives. Also, most organizations will likely benefit greatly from partnering with a fleet management provider who can seamlessly implement a consistent strategy across your entire fleet and help you leverage data intelligence to make informed decisions.
Remember to Think Holistically
Now that you’re ready to give your maintenance solution a tune up, be sure your strategy is holistic in nature. An effective maintenance program will help you keep your vehicles on the road, increase the overall lifespan of your units, reduce and stabilize operating costs, and ultimately, position your fleet to make a meaningful contribution to the success of your organization. But is is also important to keep in mind that your maintenance program is just one facet of effectively managing your fleet’s TCO.
Today, fleet management is cyclical in nature with how you buy, drive, service, and sell your vehicles all playing a significant role in your TCO and each of these individual areas influences the others. Ideally, your overall fleet management strategy is holistic and your maintenance program aligns with and supports the other areas of your vehicles’ lifecycle.
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