Lift Truck Tips: Repairing a fleet maintenance program

The structure of maintenance services should be defined first and supported throughout.

By ·

Interest in fleet management is booming, and new services from lift truck providers and third parties have drawn the majority of fleet owners to outsource equipment maintenance. In the scramble to collect data and optimize fleets, however, some fleet owners have tried to impose order rather than build an effective program from the ground up. According to Nick Adams, business development manager for the Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America fleet services group, the scope of a maintenance program must first be defined before effective fleet management is possible.

After traditionally caring for fleets in-house, some companies have struggled in the transition to outsourced maintenance. “They like the idea and might want to say: ‘Start fixing my trucks tomorrow; I’ll call you when they break down; we’ll collect some data; and a few months down the road we’ll start analyzing it,’” says Adams. “Pretty soon they start backing in to the maintenance structure. That’s out of order. You need to get that structure in place first, then start measuring on top of it.”

As a foundation for fleet management, a service program should be designed around the unique profile of the asset and its application. Homogeneous fleets will lend themselves to full maintenance or fixed maintenance programs with flat monthly rates. Others might decide a planned maintenance (PM) or time and materials approach is best. Later, when fleet reporting is overlaid, there is always time to tweak the maintenance program, but an end-user should resist the urge to second-guess the initial arrangement.

Many do not like fixed payments because they don’t know how tell if they are over-paying, says Adams. “Some want to look at every time and material invoice and make sure they’re getting fair value for each repair,” he says. “Companies that truly have the time and resources to manage that can achieve a lower cost per hour in some cases, but it’s rare.”

For those who’ve outsourced only planned maintenance, the tendency is to try to steer the schedule after entering a contracted program. “That can go two ways,” he says. “Customers will drive something to be over-PM-ed, or say they are too busy to do PMs, and ask you to come back next week. Next week they’re still too busy, and soon they have a bigger repair on their hands.”

A central aim of fleet management is measuring and optimizing an individual asset’s cost per hour, and only a well-defined maintenance program can produce a meaningful number against which to compare progress. “I believe there’s a very distinct process and order you have to go through to implement a full fleet maintenance program,” says Adams. “Then you can start talking about how to collect data and tweak things to make gradual improvements.”

About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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