Managing maintenance and parts effectively with internal programs and outsourcing alternatives

Managing maintenance and parts effectively with internal programs and outsourcing alternatives

For most fleets, managing maintenance and parts efficiently requires a mix of programs and practices. At the 2018 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, those approaches were on display during two sessions that were part of the conference educational program on Strategies for Managing a Safe, Productive and Cost Effective Fleet.

Ameren Illinois fields a fleet of 3,600 vehicles and leverages different maintenance models to find the optimal mix for balancing vehicle repair costs and customer needs. “After realizing we had outdated processes for vendor payments and a lack of metrics, we embarked on a transformation to enable better control of preventive maintenance in outsourced areas,” said Dan Remmert, the fleet manager. “The result was savings of $1.7 million.”

The Oncor Electric Delivery fleet of more than 3,600 vehicles is housed at more than 80 locations and is maintained by internal and external sources split along the lines of hydraulic and general chassis repair. For outsourced maintenance, Oncor utilizes a network of repair shops and mobile mechanics and has a fleet management company that serves as a central billing hub, consolidating maintenance spending into a single billing process.

“This program allows Oncor the freedom to utilize any vendor in its service territory and spend minimal time reconciling invoices from multiple providers,” explained Derek Hoopman, the fleet manager. “Advantages to the outsourced model include lower overall costs, the flexibility to have repairs done in virtually any facility not limited to a geographic service territory, having a central location for repair data, and access to third party dashboards and reporting.”

The Consumers Energy fleet includes more than 7,200 trucks, trailers and pieces of equipment. The company operates 36 garages and has as a staff of 108 mechanics. After experiencing growth in outsourced services, in 2017 a business plan was developed to increase headcount and reduce outsourcing.

“Our original reasons for outsourcing included a seasonal workforce, infrastructure replacement, increased complexity of equipment and a larger fleet size, and a decreased budget,” related Kyle Jones, Consumers Energy’s business relations manager. “From 2010 to 2016 there was pressure to reduce cost by increasing the use of outside services, but it led to extended downtime and reduced quality of repairs and unit utilization.”

Parts management can also be a challenge, and at Southern California Edison, with a fleet of 6,069 cars, trucks, trailers and pieces of off-road equipment, a hybrid approach is proving to be the key to success.

“An SAP implementation in 2008 to manage parts inventory at each garage focused on inventory tracking and management, scheduled obsolescence reviews and a move to a stock vs. inventory model,” related Todd Carlson, manager with Southern California Edison. “However, labor efforts exceeded benefits so we moved to our current practice of using centralized stores, local garage stock and vendor managed solutions.”

Today, the utility’s Centralized Storeroom handles fleet-wide parts ordering and logistics and stocks high dollar and long lead-time items, as well as rotational stock for overhauls and volume purchases for custom items and warranty campaigns. Garage stock covers items specific to assigned vehicles from suppliers based on proximity and overnight shipping availability.

The Alabama Power Co. fleet of 5,400 units is based at 14 service centers and is maintained by 118 technicians. “Historically, fleet parts came from one central parts warehouse,” said Brian Johnson, the maintenance manager. “Currently, fully stocked parts storerooms are located at each main garage location. We in-source parts because service and availability is critical with a large variety of equipment and during storm response it is crucial. The process in place provides for accurate inventory management by a well-trained staff, and active relationships with suppliers.

“In-sourcing works for Alabama Power because it is adaptive,” Johnson added. “Looking ahead, opportunities and challenges for the fleet’s parts operation include the use of telematics for predictive maintenance, better collaboration between storerooms, further standardization, and the need to address changing technology.”

EUFMC is an annual event for utility fleet professionals that features educational sessions on fleet management topics and the latest products and technologies, and networking opportunities. For information, visit the conference’s website here.

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