Taking a closer look at fleet management software
By Larry Jeppe10 January 2022
Larry Jeppe discusses how ALL uses fleet management software to improve processes, profits and customer experiences.
People often think fleet management software simply provides a means of more cleanly scheduling jobs, and it certainly accomplishes this. But it goes much deeper. Successfully integrating a fleet management system into your operation touches every aspect of your business, internally and externally. It affects maintenance, dispatch, workers in the field, accounting and even interaction with customers and suppliers. It will save time and make you operate more efficiently, all while adding value to your customers and enhancing safety.
At the ALL Family of Companies, our system employs desktop software as a central hub – our master control – augmented by a mobile fleet management app, as well as other ancillary support programs. They all tie together automatically. There are lots of software options out there and businesses would do well to measure carefully what’s right for them.
The desktop software is the brain of the system, through which all information flows. The mobile app is the point of entry, where field reps, mechanics, dispatchers and other employees can capture the tasks they’ve performed related to a particular project. The desktop software collects that information and keeps a running log along with related prompts for future tasks to be completed. That’s an oversimplification, but you get the idea.
Many moving parts
A fleet like ALL’s has, literally, a lot of moving parts. We have 3,500 pieces of equipment spread across 33 individual North American branches, most with their own service depot. Every day, dozens of our people are meeting with customers to plan jobs, hundreds more are in the field working on jobs already underway, and another many hundred technicians and mechanics are performing maintenance and repairs. Not to mention our dispatchers making sure everything gets where it needs to go, sales team members connecting with their customers, IT people maintaining our technological support and all the various front office personnel responsible for the daily business functions of the company. Our fleet management system impacts all of them.
The mobile app is where reps in the field initiate new jobs, capturing the details from customers. It’s how our folks do their checklists, record their time and how we invoice customers. This information helps our team know what equipment will be needed, when it will be available for the work and ultimately helps to get it on the schedule. As the project moves along, 3-D lift plans and other details are added to the project file. In real time, all stakeholders within the company know what’s going on … and what needs to happen next.
Jobs come to dispatchers through the customer relationship management (CRM) arm of the fleet management system. It feeds into the desktop system, where dispatchers issue job tickets that are pushed out to operators, oilers and truck drivers through the app on their respective mobile devices.
The desktop software is also our hub for equipment maintenance. We initiate work orders in the field for road mechanics, pull parts out of inventory and keep an accurate record available to everyone (instead of housing it at a parts desk like in the old days). The software tracks engine hours for every piece of equipment in the fleet, which is the basis for most scheduled maintenance. It creates an easily accessible record and eliminates a lot of paperwork. That helps us be a greener company, too.
The elimination of paperwork also cuts down on duplication of efforts. Because everyone is working from the same, virtual project file, there’s little to no need to re-key information for various departments. Everyone has access. It also gets projects moving more quickly, which helps us remain responsive to our customers.
Dividends for suppliers
Use of fleet management software has also paid dividends for our suppliers because our maintenance records can help them discover opportunity areas within their own supply chains. And the crane manufacturers seek out this feedback. It’s simple really: ALL buys so much equipment, our maintenance regimen often reveals if a particular component is failing at a predictable time across a certain model of machine. In other words, we can tell if Part X on Machine Type Y is failing within Timeframe Z. This information helps our crane manufacturers go back to their own parts suppliers and request remedies and improvements. This maintenance history also helps us, naturally. We use it as reference the next time that repair is to be performed on similar equipment, which gives us a head start on what parts we’ll need and how much time to allocate for the repair.
So, obviously, we at ALL believe in the value of fleet management software. But here’s something else we know: it’s only as good as the people using it. Yes, fleet management software can take a good company to the next level. But if you don’t already have that solid foundation of great people who care about the work they do, it won’t mask those flaws. In this era where technology gets a lot of credit for moving the world forward, we’d all do well to remember it’s still the human element that gets the work done and makes a real difference.
Larry L. Jeppe is procurement director for the ALL Family of Companies, the largest privately-owned crane rental and sales enterprise in North America. Learn more at www.allcrane.com.