To make preventive maintenance (PM) cost effective, you need to strike a balance. Service intervals should be short enough to catch problems and prevent breakdowns, but if you can stretch out service intervals, you may save some money.
“Our biggest challenge is to maintain our PM schedule,” said Gary Schmaltz, acting fleet manager for the city of Dayton, Ohio. “A significant amount of our work results from our PM checks, which is good, and it means our PM program is working. You don't want to change oil too often, but you don't want to go so far that you cause yourself breakdowns, which are very costly.” Schmaltz and his staff of 33 technicians maintain 1850 pieces of rolling stock.
Schmaltz wants to increase his PM intervals by 1000 miles on both police cars and passenger vehicles, up to 4000 and 5000 miles, respectively. Police cars need shorter intervals because of high engine idling times, he said. Preliminary evidence shows that Dayton should have no problem increasing the intervals, Schmaltz said. He tests oil samples and has found no problems with oil breakdown in vehicles that have gone farther between oil changes. He may, however, implement some kind of inspection program to check brakes and tires between extended oil changes.
To manage the city's PM needs, Schmaltz uses FASTER, a fleet management software program from CCG Systems Inc., Norfolk, Va. “I love the system because it allows us to anticipate when a PM is due, and we can have different types of PM checks on the program,” said Schmaltz.
For example, Dayton has an “A” level of service and a more extensive “B” level. The “A” service includes complete vehicle inspection (lights, brakes, tires, and leaks), along with adjusting the breaks and changing the engine oil and filter. The more extensive “B” level service includes everything in the “A” level, plus changing the fuel filter, transmission fluid and filter, and in some cases the hydraulic fluid and filter. Plus, the city can run reports on which vehicles need an exhaust emissions test. And Schmaltz said he plans to study how much money he can save by doing a transmission PM.
Vehicle miles are reported by drivers. When fueling up, drivers enter their vehicle mileage into a touch pad at the fueling site. And they swipe a credit-card-like card that bears the type of fuel and limits the amount that can be drawn. The mileage and vehicle information are automatically uploaded into the FASTER software. Fuel sites are polled automatically, and the information is sent to the central office in city hall.
In Topeka, Kan., fleet manager Ron Raines is beginning the switch from financial software to an activity-based software program for managing PM. The change will save him and his staff hours that are now spent manipulating data reported by the fleet management section of the accounting software.
“The big change will be the standardization of reporting and the elimination of two software programs that we're now using to poll the database, assemble, and do reports,” said Raines. “This software is great for bean counters, but the problem is, we're not financially based, we're activity-based.
“If I want to know how many vehicle tows we've had in a year, it won't tell me the number of tows, but it will tell me how much money I spend on tows,” said Raines. “Quality fleet management programs are activity-based.”
Currently, if a user department needs more detail on one or more pieces of equipment, “We have to spend hours sorting the data, dump it to a spreadsheet, and then manipulate it,” said Raines. “But with activity-based software, I can point and click and it's done.
“We'll be able to upload the fuel information on a daily basis,” he said. “It's going to free up a lot of time and make us more efficient. We're also looking at bar-coding technology for parts and labor. We're writing that into the request for proposals for the new software package. Most of the software companies either offer bar coding themselves or hook up with another company that does.”
— Daniel C. Brown is a freelance writer in Des Plaines, Ill.