Fleet management is a key piece of the ever-challenging fulfillment and shipping puzzle that distributors, manufacturers, and e-Commerce businesses of all sizes and industries must face. These days, companies the world over are reaping the rewards of high-tech, software-enabled fleet management techniques that can be used to store, analyze, and report data throughout the supply chain in real-time. And, the more sophisticated these tools get, the more opportunity fleet managers have to pad their current tactics with GPS technologies that deliver near-perfect accuracy at lightning speed.
But, just because a whole new world of machinery is available to organize, track, and streamline your fleet doesn’t mean that all of the classic standards should be eschewed. Of course, it all depends on the size and scope of your particular operation’s fleet, but, generally speaking, the best practices still ring true, no matter the situation. Let’s take a closer look at the 4 most important fleet management strategies that should always be considered before the rest:
- Select a fleet tracking system that is customized to your operation
- Play it safe by following a strict maintenance and warranty schedule
- Perform frequent and thorough audits to reveal hidden costs
- Create a safety-minded strategy
1. Select a fleet tracking system that is customized to your operation
As mentioned, there are an overwhelming amount of options for fleet managers to choose from in terms of systems and software. If you want to have any sort of lasting impact in the marketplace, customer demand dictates the need for a coherent fleet tracking system that is capable of tracking orders in real-time. It’s a win-win for both parties, as well as those throughout the supply chain as the cutting-edge GPS technologies eliminate guesswork and cut down on unnecessary back-and-forth.
That said, not every fleet tracking system is created equal which means you will be best off if you select one that allows for customization that can be easily implemented without the help of heavy-duty IT – especially if your goal is to scale. In addition to this, be sure that you land on a system that emphasizes on-demand, cloud-based reporting that can be accessed by the necessary parties anytime, anywhere. Comprehensive GPS systems that include features such as route-optimization and parts monitoring should also come standard. If your operation is a particularly large one, inquire about a built-in asset management system that can move your register off of the spreadsheets and into the same cloud-based system as you use for tracking.
2. Play it safe by following a strict maintenance and warranty schedule
This might seem like a no-brainer, but when disaster strikes in the form of unexpected peaks, bad weather, strikes, or quality issues, one of the things that fall to the wayside first is the maintenance and warranty schedule. Though it may seem more like a chore, we include the execution of the schedule in our list of strategies because, without it, virtually all other moving parts can be negatively impacted.
Here are some of the disastrous things that can occur if you let your maintenance and warranty schedule slip:
- Forecasting can be deemed inaccurate if your fleet incurs costs from unmaintained assets
- Employees and public safety can be compromised if faulty vehicles and/or equipment are used
- If a warranty lapses, your fleet may be forced to prematurely replace the equipment with a new one
Lucky for you, you can easily incorporate a strict maintenance and warranty strategy by ensuring that your fleet tracking system offers maintenance alert options. This simple, inexpensive move guarantees that upkeep will always be performed when it should be so that your fleet continues to run at peak performance, 24/7.
3. Perform frequent and thorough audits to reveal hidden costs
Another strategy that should be part of every fleet manager’s procedure is the scheduling of frequent and thorough internal audits. And, don’t just stop there – do the legwork to consult with other teams and departments to ensure that every relevant component of your fleet is analyzed properly.
For instance, if your supply chain is forecasting a sudden increase in gas prices, your entire operation would benefit from a thorough audit of your fleet’s gas usage (with the help of your fleet tracking system) so that you can take the data and turn it into an actionable plan for improvement. In regards to this example, one change that might come from this audit is a shift in your idle time policy, a move that could save your fleet a lot of money when fuel price volatility becomes an issue.
4. Create a safety-minded strategy
If you’ve had any experience in fleet management, then you know that safety should be treated as an important strategy, but too often operations roll the dice, making it more of a goal than a necessity.
Here are some easily-applicable ways you can use to guarantee that you are following a safety-minded strategy:
- Instate comprehensive training programs for drivers and fleet associates that rely heavily on predictive analysis. This should include continued training, especially when components of your fleet scale or shift.
- Track your driver behavior–and if members of your fleet have displayed any unsafe tendencies, react vigilantly. Trackable behavior should include speeding, quick starts, hard breaking, harsh cornering, and, of course, bad health and substance abuse.
- Take the time to speak with fleet members working at all levels to get a more candid view into the potentially dangerous safety misses that your operation might be making. Often, ongoing dialogue reveals more about these weak points than anything else.
To recap: in order to be successful in today’s climate, fleet managers must stick with standard safety and audit practices while at the same time adopting the cutting-edge systems that fit their operations best.