By Rob Wilson – Director IPWEA FLEET
What will Fleet Management look like in the future?
The events of recent years may provide some insight into what lay ahead. While future challenges may be different, there are causes and effects that indicate two distinct areas that will continue to evolve in the practice of fleet management.
Agility is the ability to be flexible and respond quickly to change. This is a challenge for large organisations, but we have seen it can happen.
We’ve seen organisations compelled to extend their replacement cycles and this reinforces the need to evolve beyond a notional optimum replacement time to a broad risk-based replacement approach that considers a range of attributes to help identify assets that need to be replaced and those for which replacement can be deferred.
Supply issues have amplified the question of fit-for-purpose. For example, is the 4x4 Ute with a wait time of 12 months necessary or would another vehicle spec do the job just as well or better?
An example that demonstrates how COVID encouraged agility relates to mechanical workshop access by operations. Many of you would have experienced the problem of work teams rolling up to the workshop and going directly to their mate on the workshop floor. The tech responds by prioritising this request outside of all approved processes and systems. Other jobs drop down the priority order and proper records may not be kept.
Workshop managers struggled to curtail this practice. But when COVID hit organisations were telling me that they isolated the critical mechanical teams. Processes were implemented that required operations to drop their truck or plant item at the gate and report their faults to the front office in a socially distanced and safe way. Change happened quickly due to decisiveness, a shared understanding of the problem and commitment.
A big lesson over the last couple of years has been about recovery and resilience. Fire, flood, and pandemic have required Fleet Practitioners to respond and find alternate ways to keep the business running. This highlights the need for better Business Continuity Planning. The idea that you can’t plan for disasters or that plans aren’t adaptive is misplaced. A good BCP supports an organisation’s agile response, minimising the impact of the event and reducing recovery times.
An example of technology-based innovation is telecommuting. Recent times have seen innovative alternatives to the office-based workplace. I can remember, not too long ago, when “working from home” was seen as code for “day off”. This is no longer the case. We need to be innovative and open to new ideas not just at times of crisis but always.
We are also seeing higher levels of accountability. This is due to the community’s expectations of Government and big corporations, and from an increasingly regulated business environment.
In addition, there are challenging economic conditions ahead which will put increased pressure on Fleet Practitioners to not only do more with less but to demonstrate the value of the decisions they take.
The on-road and WHS regulatory environment is not new – but many organisations have not yet caught up. There will continue to be pressure on Fleet Practitioners to have robust WHS, Environmental and COR systems including Maintenance Management.
Further there will be a need to be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of these systems. This requires robust and documented procedures, comprehensive data capture and strong reporting capabilities.
In summary, the future of fleet management will require better management systems, both information management systems and business systems comprising policy, procedure, and assurance.
Good systems support both agility and accountability. Tools like a business continuity plan means when an organisation responds, it hits the ground running. Flexible decision making allows for judgement and enables management to adapt as required.
I conclude my role as Director IPWEA Fleet at the end of June, so this will be my last Fleet Manager’s Column. I’ve really enjoyed my time in the role and the opportunity it has given me meet so many people involved in the fleet management business. While it is with mixed feelings that I have made the decision to move on, I am really looking forward to having some more free time. I’ll continue to be involved in the industry through my fleet consultancy and still be involved with IPWEA as a keen industry participant.
I hope to catch up at an IPWEA event soon!