Logistics has always been an integral part of business operations. But the recent shift towards online transactions has given a higher strain to the logistics network of businesses around the globe. The digital capabilities of any company are built on top of the realities of the physical infrastructure that the company has.
Having an efficient and productive fleet is the necessary condition for robust logistics infrastructure. Optimizing fleet operations is necessary to bring down delivery time and costs. This is only possible when logistics infrastructure does not face any major disruptions. Knowing the most common logistics disruptors and minimizing such problems should be a priority for businesses.
The Logistics network of a business can be disrupted for a variety of different reasons. These include:
- Planning errors
- Unexpected demand conditions
- Unexpected supply conditions
- Bad weather
- Natural calamities
- Trouble with partners
- Employee/union troubles
- Finance problems
- Change in regulations
- Fleet downtime
Among all the different reasons, fleet downtime is the most frequent cause of logistics disruption. The breakdown of vehicles in a fleet may seem benign when a single instance is looked at. But such small disruptions happening on a frequent basis across different geographies for a large company compounds to a big problem.
Even on the basis of a single vehicle, frequent downtime of a vehicle increases the total cost of ownership (TCO). Any way you look at it, fleet breakdowns cause capital loss and disruption of logistics. It is therefore important to minimize fleet breakdown and unexpected downtime. Fleet maintenance and its best practices have to be implemented to achieve that.
Planning, strategizing, and implementing procedures to minimize fleet downtime is fleet maintenance. Minimizing fleet maintenance costs while increasing the lifetime of vehicles is also part of fleet maintenance. It may sound easy and simple, but implementing an efficient fleet maintenance procedure in place is not at all easy.
Depending on the size of the company and the goods to be carried, its fleet will have a wide range of variety. A single company could have airplanes, ships, trucks, vans, and motorcycles as part of its logistics and delivery network. This creates a great amount of complexity in maintaining the fleet. Fleet schedules and other operational constraints add to the complexity. These are just the operational side of the maintenance equation and the cost side of maintenance becomes even more complex. This makes it necessary to have a fleet maintenance plan to tackle the complex task.
Fleet maintenance plan
Plenty of factors go into creating and implementing a fleet maintenance plan. The following sections cover some of the most important considerations and steps to be taken to create a fleet maintenance plan.
Assess and document
The first step to be done is to collect all the relevant information about your fleet. This will include the specifications of your vehicles, maintenance history, mileage, fuel consumption, regular distance covered, etc. The starting point for creating a maintenance plan is to gain knowledge of how things are about the fleet. The specification of the vehicle, OEM guidelines, and maintenance history will help to gain clear insights on the maintenance necessary for the rest of the lifecycle of the vehicle.
Create a way to collect and store data points on all the important fleet metrics. You may also consider GPS tracking of vehicles in your fleet for live monitoring. The constant collection of data helps to track the root causes of problems. The data will also serve as the paper trail for various procedures. Make sure that data generated, collected, and stored is compliant with Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS). It is imperative that a strong software solution has to be used for detailed data collection and storage.
Once the historical data and live data collection are in place, the next step is to create a fleet maintenance plan. With the available data you are aware of the needs for each vehicle, the time required for maintenance, skills required for maintenance technicians, tools needed, materials required, and procedures to be executed. Assimilate all that information to a well-structured plan and schedule. Create SOPs and checklists for easier and procedural execution of plans.
Predictive and preventive maintenance
The regular collection of data points helps to perform analytics on the data. Predictive analytics helps to predict the potential breakdown of vehicles in the fleet. Complex statistical and mathematical operations can be performed on the data collected to predict a potential failure. Machine learning algorithms help in that. With the prediction, preventive maintenance can be done to prevent the predicted failure. This helps in bringing down unexpected breakdowns in the fleet and minimizing logistics disruption.
Create a culture of addressing root causes. Most of the symptoms displayed by vehicles are manifestations of much deeper problems. Addressing just the surface-level symptoms is not sufficient to eliminate further problems down the road. Empower maintenance team to conduct root-cause analysis to identify the underlying reasons for every problem. This will eliminate far more problems in the long run.
Maintenance plans and their execution should be carried out with stakeholder participation. OEMs of vehicles in the fleet, the drivers, maintenance teams, logistics teams of suppliers and vendors, etc are part of logistics operations for a firm. All the actors in the ecosystem have something or the other to contribute towards the fleet maintenance plan. Execution of the plan created also hinges upon active participation from stakeholders.
Final thoughts on Fleet Maintenance
A well-maintained fleet is essential for smooth logistics and delivery operations. It brings cost savings and operational advantages to the firm. A well-planned maintenance plan can make a complex process simple. Software and modern AI tools can help in improving various aspects of fleet maintenance. Ensuring active participation from stakeholders guarantees improved logistics and delivery operations.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.