Knowledge is power

Steve Ninnes says his company’s fleet maintenance software package can dramatically reduce the cost of maintaining a fleet. “You can halve your running costs; halve your maintenance costs,” said Queenslander Ninnes, who is founder and director of MEX, which markets the Australian-designed FleetMEX package.“I’m an engineer, I worked in mining looking after heavy gear,” Ninnes told Contractor. “I remember at one point I brought a fleet of trucks down from $180 an hour down to $60 an hour in maintenance costs, through applying good principles of maintenance and using software to help you achieve that.”Companies that make the change to a dedicated fleet system are usually switching from either a manual, paper-based system or a simple computerised system using Excel spreadsheets or a database program such as Access. Others may be managing their fleet maintenance as part of their standard accounting system.Ninnes said companies with fleets as small as three or four vehicles would still benefit from replacing their ad hoc arrangements with a computerised maintenance management system.“If you become more organised, if you do the preventative maintenance that’s required to be done, then you don’t get engines blowing up, you don’t get gearboxes seizing, you don’t burn out brakes, because you’re on top of it and you can see where your money is going,” he said.Ankesh Chopra, marketing executive with Sydney-based AusFleet Software, said replacing Excel, paper and manual systems with computerised fleet software saved on administration time, enabled users to track, monitor and analyse costs, and provided an auditable trail of maintenance, safety checks and other important information.“The perfect fleet maintenance system does not exist,” Chopra said. “It is important to purchase from a supplier who covers the majority of your fleet requirements, offers flexibility through further product development and is a trusted source.”Western Australian Andrew Valentine is another firm believer in the benefits of fleet maintenance software. Valentine’s company, Perth Crest, markets the Tranman fleet management system. Valentine spent 12 years working for Civica, the British company that developed Tranman, before relocating to Australia three years ago to introduce Tranman here.“Fleet management systems allow you to build up a complete maintenance history,” Valentine said. “You can feed in fuel and maintenance costs, and other fixed costs such as insurance, and from that obtain a whole-of-life cost of a vehicle. Then you can analyse each vehicle’s cost per kilometre or cost per hour, and compare different vehicle types or vehicles of the same type.”Valentine is in the process of installing a Tranman Series 7 system for a local government authority that runs a fleet of 250 items of plant and equipment. “They have been using a Civica product called Authority,” he said. “The core function of the Authority system is accounting – it has a bolt-on fleet manager package, but it was not providing the information that they wanted.“Using Tranman will allow them to schedule vehicle preventative maintenance effectively. It will give them the ability to capture and analyse their fleet’s maintenance history and produce KPI reports for management.”Valentine said a fleet system can help with juggling multiple service regimes. “You might have a vehicle that has a tail lift which needs an annual service inspection,” he said. “The system will identify that the inspection can be timed to coincide with a regular vehicle service, meaning the vehicle is off the road for one day instead of two. And if you’ve got your own internal workshop the system can schedule vehicle servicing into a forward planner.”Valentine’s client was also looking for a system that would allow them to make more precise usage analysis, so they could accurately compare the actual costs on a vehicle with its allocated cost charge-out rate. “They need to know if they should be charging out more or less,” Valentine said.Another client that Valentine is working with is struggling to get an annualised replacement forecast figure out of their current system. “They want a report to help them forecast the optimal time to replace each vehicle, and whether they should replace the vehicle like-for-like, or if they should upscale or downscale,” he said.The system Valentine has proposed will take into account both the cost of a new vehicle and the estimated book value of the vehicles being replaced, and give the client a simple, visible schedule to follow.Occupational health and safety is a major concern for all employers, and MEX’s Ninnes said fleet maintenance software could help contractors there too. For one thing, the software can be used to document that all required safety inspections have been carried out.“And if there is an accident on the roads or onsite, the first thing a contractor will be asked is ‘where are your maintenance records?’” Ninnes said. “Now, if they have paper records or a spreadsheet, that’s fine, but having proper software will add more credibility. I’ve even had clients reduce their insurance bill by using our software.”Valentine said the Tranman system could track information about the training and endorsements for each driver – and their accident records. “It allows you to run an accident analysis – for example it might tell you how many reversing accidents your drivers have had in the past year, and be a pointer to the need for more training,” he said.Computerised fleet maintenance could to help delay costly rebuilds.“The system will identify that the inspection can be timed to coincide with a regular vehicle service, meaning the vehicle is off the road for one day instead of two.”This article first appeared in the April 2010 edition of Contractor magazine.

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