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Dealing with downtime

By / 1 year ago / Features / No Comments

How does fleet management software handle vehicle maintenance and keep your fleet moving? Martyn Collins asks the experts.

Regular maintenance and preventative care measures are crucial because they address problems before they even begin and help you avoid breakdowns that could result in downtime

Fleet management software is a tool you just can’t do without when it comes to preventing unnecessary fleet downtime. A fleet management solution allows you to keep track of your vehicles and schedule automated maintenance reminders that are unique to each vehicle.

Regular maintenance and preventative care measures are crucial because they address problems before they even begin and help you avoid breakdowns that could result in downtime. There are many different varieties of this software, offering different capabilities to help keep your fleet running.

HOW DOES THE SOFTWARE WORK?

This computer software enables operators to accumulate, store, process, monitor, report on and export information on fleet vehicles.
Recently, the emphasis has been on reducing fleet size, better utilisation of vehicles and SMR facilities. Regular maintenance is critical to keep remaining vehicles on the road, in the best condition, running reliably and holding their value.

Compliance entails having valid licences and test certificates in place, which are often transacted at the same time as scheduled services.
Some solutions, such as Webfleet’s vehicle maintenance planning tools, work via the use of real mileage, generating reports offering maintenance overviews and helping fleet operators to keep tabs on everything from service intervals to MOTs to monitor their status and plan accordingly.

Jaama is another well name in the field of fleet telematics, its multi award-winning Key2 asset management system being able to track individual vehicle maintenance costs against budgets. So, fleet managers can see how the costs have added up over the life of the vehicle and then project what the likely expenditure will be over the vehicle’s remaining time on the fleet.

Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama, says: “Cost management and vehicle operational compliance are fundamental requirements for all fleets. Therefore, a proactive rather than reactive vehicle maintenance regime is critical for fleet operators.

“To achieve this, it requires either having a good robust system in place or an army of staff. Most fleet departments now operate with a reduced headcount because of the associated costs, meaning having a good robust and efficient software system is the only real viable solution.”

While some platforms have evolved from non-specific database applications, Bynx, another fleet management solution and founded in 1989, has been designed from the ground up for the vehicle fleet, leasing and rental industries. It’s based on industry best practice and optimised business process management. Two powerful engines form the heart of the solution; one for financial transaction and management and the other for business rules management.

FleetWave from Chevin Fleet Solutions offers complete analysis of every vehicle, allowing precise, targeted applica-
tion of new technologies. FleetWave helps to manage alternative methods of travel such as rental, public transport or even virtual journeys by offering customisable solutions that give fleet managers the ability to track and trace the myriad of disparate costs and compliance procedures, providing simple and clear access to all data and records.

Will Wycks, global marketing director, Chevin Fleet Solutions, adds: “FleetWave allows data to be consolidated from multiple areas, even third-party data integrations such as fuel and telematics, providing the intelligence required to map trends, predict and prevent maintenance, plan appropriate event schedules and manage parts and labour availability.

THE NEXT STEP?

Effective fleet maintenance for the modern fleet manager should mean more than just efficient service maintenance scheduling moving forward. Preventative maintenance is vital to ensuring vehicles are kept in a roadworthy condition, helping combat costly downtime – this is also dependent upon robust digitised processes and vehicle data insights.

One such solution is telematics-integrated tablet devices; these can help simplify and streamline the process of walkaround vehicle checks. Beverley Wise, Webfleet director of UK & Ireland, says: “Apps on these devices can remove the need for manual paper records, tightening audit trails and reducing the risks of human error. When drivers complete their checks, the results – including any photo-
graphic evidence of damage or defects – are instantly updated in the back office.”

These app-based solutions can go as far as to pull engine fault codes from fleet vehicles and communicate them to the fleet managers – both in the office or via a mobile app while they’re on the move – ensuring any necessary maintenance is carried out straight away to prevent further vehicle damage. This vehicle maintenance diagnostic data can even be harmonised across multiple manufacturers, thereby streamlining operations, saving time, increasing efficiency and reducing costs through minimising off-road times.

Finally, on top of maintenance, some other solutions, such as Webfleet’s OptiDrive 360, are even able to score and profile drivers based on a range of key performance indicators that relate to efficient, smooth and safe driving.

“The impact of harsh driving styles on fleet maintenance costs – which may include aggressive cornering, braking or speeding – should not be underestimated,” Beverley Wise adds.

This allows the easy establishment of performance benchmarks for drivers and the identification of problem trends to help eliminate costly vehicle repairs. Then, managers are able to drill down into individual areas of driver performance to gain greater insights into specific problems and, consequently, education and training can be better targeted. Whenever drivers are guilty of harsh driving practices, they are provided with audible and visible notifications in real time – in the Webfleet’s solution, this is via its PRO driver terminals.

They are also provided with pre-trip advice and post-trip analysis, putting them in control of their own performance and providing them with the tools to improve.

DRIVERS… AND MAINTENANCE ALERTS?

Drivers might notice on their own that a vehicle needs maintenance, as it’s easy to tell when something doesn’t feel right.

However, it’s harder to ignore with the vehicle record visibility that fleet management software offers, providing immediate access to a vehicle’s complete service, maintenance and repair history combined with ‘due dates’ for events such as a service, MOT or inspection. This ensures events are completed within tight time tolerances, which in turn helps to reduce fleet maintenance spend and increase levels of compliance. Such a process also enables ‘forthcoming events and rectifications’ to be combined, reducing vehicle downtime. System and record visibility also enables the off-road and defect status of vehicles to be clearly displayed, preventing them slipping off anyone’s radar.

Fleet management software is one element of managingfleet Service, Maintenance and Repair (SMR) and downtime. However, the system is only as good as the information that is in it, for example, how up-to-date the data is and how accurate the data is in terms source of data and consistency of the data that is added to the system.

Simon Staton, director of client management, Venson Automotive Solutions, says: “Having a system full of information is important, but the management of that information and principally the interpretation of that information, in order to manage the requirements of vehicle SMR and control downtime, is key. Systems and data are only as good as the people who manage and use them, for example, proactively following up when a vehicle has roadside assistance and fitting a spare tyre. Our supplier’s portal will provide details of the incident and action that’s taken place, but the next important step is proactive management, so that the vehicle has the spare tyre replaced rather than leaving it to the driver to schedule it.”

Considering the complexity and management of this data is key. Chevin Fleet Solutions’ FleetWave could be an option as it provides a suite of best practice reports with simple and easy-to-configure KPI dashboards. With this insight, it provides managers – at all levels – details in real time of vehicle health, maintenance compliance and cost management; all defined by the user and their preferences.

Ashley Sowerby, founder and chief of Chevin Fleet Solutions, says: “FleetWave has a tailorable vehicle diary to build both compliance and maintenance events. This means that users of the software can build maintenance regimes that coincide with legislative requirements based on the vehicle type or manufacturer.

“With a robust regime of this nature, fleet managers can rest easy, knowing the system will schedule and prompt users with what’s due to be completed and when.”

THE UPSHOT OF ALL THIS?

Crucially, fleet managers should not ignore what the data from fleet management software is highlighting. Failing to act on data that has exposed operational weaknesses could prove fatal in the event of an incident.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

By Ashley Sowerby, founder & MD of Chevin Fleet Solutions

The next few years will see technology radically alter the way in which fleet vehicles are managed and our cutting-edge FleetWave software solution will help industry professionals to ride the wave of change.

The new decade will bring with it changes and challenges, the likes of which have never been seen, including a shift to electric powertrains and associated networks, a focus on usership and the ability to manage fleet in real time.

All of these adjustments have the potential to be transformative, but also hugely disruptive if not implemented properly. New technology needs proven technology – such as FleetWave – to ensure that when decisions are made, they are not plucked from thin air. By sifting, pinpointing and analysing data, businesses can plan strategically with real insight.

In order to make the change to electric and other mobility solutions, a business must understand its current operational requirements and how EVs can be applied – or not – to those needs. FleetWave offers complete analysis of every vehicle, allowing precise, targeted application of new technologies. Then, there are alternative methods of travel to consider, such as rental, public transport or even virtual journeys. Fleets need to keep on top of this heavier burden and react to new developments.

FleetWave helps to manage this, offering customisable solutions that give fleet managers the ability to track and trace the myriad of disparate costs and compliance procedures, providing simple and clear access to all data and records. It allows you to see what’s happening to your vehicles – and drivers – and provides the ability to tailor requirements to ever-changing conditions.

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.