Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Partha Ghosh, the director of North American Vehicle Supply Chain at ARI.
When a fleet driver takes the keys to a new vehicle, he or she is likely unaware of the long process it took to make that moment happen. When it comes to company fleets, the supply chain process is multi-tiered, especially for vehicles with complex components like aerial lifts or air compressors.
Traditionally, a fleet manager manages the supply chain by dealing with each vendor separately. From the OEM to the upfitter to the transport company, each of these key players is like the spokes on a wheel. They work closely with the fleet manager to support the entire process, but do not necessarily interact with one another.
Yet, when vendors work independently to build the finished product, it can lead to poor hand-offs which result in delays and errors.
How fleet managers can reduce costs with communications
Instead, fleet managers should know the end-to-end supply chain process; have established relationships with all major vendor partners; and have the expert resources to orchestrate logistics from start to finish.
Furthermore, they should conduct weekly or bi-weekly status review meetings with suppliers (and the customers, when desired) to hold partners accountable for meeting expected timelines and commitments. This type of regular, defined communication can help keep the work focused on the needs and business goals of the customer.
It’s also important to not rush into full production. Instead, conducting an initial specifications review including stakeholders from the customer and the up-fit vendor partners can set the foundation for a comprehensive vehicle design that incorporates the drivers’ safety and job function requirements, standardization opportunities, and customer’s overall costs objectives. Following that spec review with a pilot run of just a small percentage of the total number of vehicles needed according to the specifications will allow vendors, clients and employee operators to come together to make sure the vehicle is built the way it was intended.
If issues (or additional opportunities) are identified at this point, it’s easier and far less costly to correct it early instead of being forced to address it for an entire fleet of brand new vehicles.
Finally, tapping into the past performance of your fleet in the process of designing and creating a pilot run can translate into even more cost savings.
Big Data allows professionals to track the success of a vehicle like never before. The millions of data touch points on a vehicle can not only tell a fleet manager why their maintenance costs are increasing but identify the exact component that repeatedly fails to provide forecasting into the future. This creates insights based on fact, not inferences, which projects future behavior, cost, and outcomes.
Now, engineering groups can come together to improve components that consistently fail and customers can take action to demand solutions.
A big job for fleet managers
Even for the most seasoned fleet managers, the supply chain process can be intimidating – or, at the very least, time-consuming.
For these reasons, many professionals choose to work with a partner with expertise in and connections with each part of the process to order, build, and deliver a new vehicle. Partnering with a fleet management company or another supply chain expert frees up resources and allows fleet managers to focus on more strategic operations of their fleet.
Whether the supply chain is managed internally or externally, working to ensure that everyone involved in the production of a fleet vehicle is exposed to the entire process only serves to create a workflow that not only saves money in the short-term, but throughout the life of the vehicle.
Partha Ghosh is the Director of North American Vehicle Supply Chain at ARI in Mount Laurel, NJ, the world’s largest family-owned fleet management company, managing nearly 1.5 million vehicles in North America, the UK and Europe.