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FIAG workshop spotlights procurement & finance departments’ roles in fleet supplier appointments

Entitled ‘The Role of the Supplier in Supporting the Fleet Manager’, the workshop was sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car and held at the company’s Training Centre in Egham, Surrey.

The workshop – the third fleet decision-maker workshop held by the organisation since it was launched last year – saw experts highlight that the key to a successful fleet and supplier long-term business partnership is to define what is required from potential suppliers, commercially and operationally, while always ensuring that very best value is obtained.

FIAG was launched by industry veteran Geoffrey Bray and a team of highly experienced professional fleet managers who collectively have around 200 years’ experience in running vehicle operations.

At the workshop, round table ‘champions’ and FIAG founding members Peter Weston, formerly in charge of the Home Retail Group fleet, and Ian Housley, health, safety, environment and quality director at The Clancy Group, pronounced that preparation is key to securing the ‘right’ supplier for the ‘right’ service and that means clearly defining the requirement during the tender process.

As a result, it is critical for procurement specialists within organisations to be involved in the decision-making process alongside other stakeholders, including consulting with drivers who are the end-users.

In addition, establishing service level agreements and key performance indicators at the outset of the partnership was key to a long-term successful partnership, said Housley.

“Measurements should be established at the outset of the selection process and not half-way through,” he said. “But service level agreements and key performance indicators need to be specific to the supplier/fleet relationship.”

He added: “Fleet manager resistance to change is an issue, but they also need to be ahead of the game and work in partnership with suppliers to implement solutions that will save money and improve operating efficiencies.

“Therefore, fleet managers must have an open mind as to how a fleet can be managed better by encouraging suppliers to improve service and reduce driver risk to cut costs year on year.”

And the issue of renewing or changing suppliers was also covered, with participants saying that the quality of solutions being delivered to a fleet, suppliers providing what a fleet requires and the price paid were the three key issues when it came to deciding if providers were “getting it right”.

Peter Weston said: “If suppliers fail in any of those three areas then fleet managers need to look at what is happening and if things cannot be rectified then a change of supplier is required.”

However, he added: “I would always try and get issues rectified before considering a supplier change.” 

He continued: “It is good practice to evaluate a supplier relationship on a regular basis even if no change is the result. Fleet managers are selecting the right suppliers if they are receiving the right solution and the right service at the right price.

“If considering supplier change then the starting point is service levels, which should be based on key performance indicators, and cost comparison. Unless fleets have a framework for managing the effectiveness of a relationship it is going to be impossible for suppliers to renew or fleets to measure suppliers’ ability and then make a decision to change or not. Benchmarking of current suppliers should be the minimum standard for change.”

If a review is carried out and whether or not a decision is made to stay with the incumbent supplier or to switch, fleets must be clear about the reasons.

Drivers frequently have first-hand experience of dealing with suppliers so, say experts, their engagement in the decision-making process is vital.

Peter Weston concluded: “Quality and value, but particularly openness and trust will make partnerships work. Ultimately the cost to change can outweigh everything, which is why it is important to measure and rectify throughout a partnership.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.