March 2, 2012

Increase Efficiency and Trim Expenses with UPN's Fleet Management System

Fleet Management encompasses vehicles, vehicle attachments, field equipment, parts, inspection tracking, preventive and as-needed maintenance, certifications, manuals, licenses, and even time and cost tracking. With fuel and maintenance costs seemingly rising daily and with gas prices expected to hit $5.00 or more per gallon this summer, it’s important to manage your vehicle and asset expenses as closely as possible to maintain peak performance, peak efficiency, and peak savings. With this in mind, here are a few key ways UPN’s integrated Fleet Management System can help any utility improve their bottom line when it comes to maintaining fleet assets.

Scalable Software Solution for Utilities of All Sizes

Utilities of all sizes make large investments in their fleet assets and need to extend the life of these assets by insuring that the manufacturer-recommended services are completed at the pre-defined intervals. Typically, the Shop Manager ends up tracking upcoming maintenance on a spreadsheet, but that means he’s the only person who has visibility to those records and he can’t leverage the existing processes to monitor and measure vehicle usage. Larger utilities may have several different people updating one or more spreadsheets or, worse, keeping their own individual records on individual assets. Either way, to maintain the assets properly, the Shop Manager has to be extremely well-organized and will have to spend a lot of his time updating spreadsheets, which is not really his job. Fleet Management lets him enter regularly scheduled services and inspections, lets him leverage the existing processes the financial area has in place to monitor and measure vehicle usage, and provides him with an easy way to organize all of those repair order details, which are then always available to anyone in the utility – meaning multiple people can access and update the same information in the same location as needed.

Consolidating information within the Fleet Management System also enables the Shop Manager to look forward in time to schedule services. While many utilities farm out repair work to service companies in the community, some utilities have a large enough fleet to necessitate having their own service technicians. Either way, utilities can use Fleet to record service labor and service parts they purchase on a repair order whether the work was done in-house or at a third-party shop. When the service is completed, the system updates the date, odometer reading, or number of hours for the next scheduled service, giving the Shop Manager forward visibility of what is coming due in the future.

Of course the same monitoring and management features that benefit a smaller fleet will definitely benefit a larger fleet, but there are also a lot of other features that provide increased benefits with additional use. For instance, the Fuel Import function becomes more important and time-saving the more vehicles you have. The ability to support outside parts and labor is key when you need specialized service performed and you want it recorded to a repair order in your system. There’s also complete repair order tracking, including parts, labor, times, repair code and description, service action code and description, and free-form repair order comments.

Tools to Keep Regular Maintenance Tasks on Track

One of the main goals of the Fleet Management System is efficient information management, because that’s what will really help a utility stay on track and ultimately reduce costs. For fleet assets, that information management has to encompass repairs and preventive maintenance, inspections, documents, warranties, parts, and even time tracking. With UPN’s Fleet Management System, we’ve built in Line Set Tickets that a utility can use to create “best practice” repairs, and we’ve included tools for creating PM and Inspection templates that can be duplicated from one vehicle or attachment to another. Fleet also offers the ability to store and retrieve documents, pictures, service manuals, any kind of document related to the assets maintained in the system, and those documents are readily available directly from the repair orders. And with the upcoming Accounts Payable and Payroll integrations, vendor charges and employee times can flow between repair orders and the AP and Payroll systems.

Another big feature is the use of Vehicle Part Catalog files, which promotes cost-cutting by allowing the utility to track and warehouse which vendors offer which products. Fleet can track the brand name, the catalog where the item is found, the unit cost, the unit of measure, and even a link to the web site where the product is described. These catalog files are neatly organized by vehicle part item ID, allowing easy, quick reference to information, including parts price.

Managing Compliance Issues for Agencies Such as NERC and OSHA with Fleet Management

For NERC, utilities are often testing electrical equipment and for OSHA, utilities often have to maintain training and certifications for employees. The UPN Fleet system can provide inspection and notification assistance for these types of actions and milestones by considering them to be “attachments,” which are logical extensions of the utility’s fleet assets. Attachments are typically lifts, platforms, first aid kits, defibrillators, and other items commonly used in conjunction with a vehicle, but based on the utility’s needs, the definition of an Attachment could be broadened to include electrical equipment and even classes and certifications. These can then be segregated from other Attachments using an Attachment Class code. Once it’s entered into Fleet, an unlimited number of Inspection or Preventative Maintenance items can be scheduled and the system will remind the user, either with an e-mail or using an interactive display when the item is due.

At its core, Fleet Management is an asset management and information tracking system. It can be used strictly for Vehicles or Attachments, covering all assets in the fleet, or the definition of “Attachments” can be broadened to include any other types of utility assets. Flexibility is key here. We’ve designed the Fleet Management System to be as broad and as configurable as possible so a utility can pick it up and put it to work.

The Benefits of an Integrated Solution vs. a Third-Party System

In addition to seamless integration, real time updates across the system, and fulltime information sharing, one of the biggest benefits of using UPN’s integrated Fleet Management System is cost: the Fleet module is already included in every deployment of UPN at no additional cost. It is an extension of SEDC’s Enterprise Software Solutions model, which strives to provide high-quality software components that work together seamlessly and help our users get the most beneficial software applications and tools without causing a negative impact on the utility’s bottom line.

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