Fleet Masters Outsmart Recession

By Larry Stewart, Executive Editor | September 28, 2010

Those who demonstrate mastery over the unrelenting challenges to running construction equipment efficiently develop remarkable and varied skills. None is higher priority than gathering machine operating data and compiling information that measures how cost effectively you practice the other skills. The Association of Equipment Management Professionals' 2009 Fleet Masters are applying equipment information to the limits of their ability to provide excellent equipment service when it counts most: during today's economic downturn.

No doubt getting the most out of vendors, getting the right machines and support onto jobs at the right time, and effectively buying equipment and supplies are key components of managing a fleet. But those are the basics — the blocking and tackling — that any equipment-using organization has to do well in order to survive. Fleet Masters measure how well they do those and many other things in dollars and cents.

Equipment information is never more crucial than during tough economic times. Fixed costs kill a company when revenue dries up. Equipment is the largest fixed cost in so many construction operations, and simply freezing machine spending is not the same as managing that cost.

Firms that refuse to replace machines, or that shortcut necessary major repairs, are spending unrecognized depreciation. You don't write a check for depreciation charges every month. It comes due when you sell machines at values below what you estimated in their hourly rates. Worse yet, it comes due when machines break down at the height of production on projects.

Fleet Masters, like Barriere Construction and Manatee County Fleet Services, save money on machines whose history suggests low risk if they rebuild rather than replace. And Fleet Masters watch the numbers weekly to be sure their calculated risks pay off. They extend component lives but watch repair costs and replace units as necessary to be sure their operations can respond nimbly to unpredictable work demand.

Manatee County uses CCG System's highly developed fleet-management software, called Faster, to create and manage repair work orders. Barriere maximizes the equipment work-order system built into a module of Enterprise's construction-business software. Barriere has no mechanics. Manatee County's staff of 33 includes 18.

The following pages detail how Barriere and Manatee County — very different organizations with very different objectives — use the same basic machine information to trim costs with surgical precision. Measuring success along the way, and adapting to make the most of it, ensures they will emerge from this recession leaner and meaner than when they went in.

If you know of an organization that should be considered for the next Fleet Masters competition, please go to www.aemp.org to find out how to submit a nomination. All equipment-managing organizations are welcome to enter the competition.