Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

Tim-King-Web

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Tim C. King, author of the book “Fleet Services: Managing to Redefine Success” published by SAE International (http://books.sae.org/r-447/) and former manager of fleet services for what is now NV Energy (www.nvenergy.com), an electric and gas utility in Nevada with over 1 million customers. King also will be a presenter at Utility Fleet Conference 2017 at ICUEE in Louisville, Ky., a fleet education event that will take place October 2-4 (https://utilityfleetconference.com/).

#1. Aim high.
“Require excellence with everything. Benchmark your service performance on organizations that thrive in the most successful industries – such as high-growth startups – not just other fleets. The goal is to consistently exceed expectations by achieving unexpected win-win results with all your customers.”

#2. Remember that successful fleet management begins by identifying all your customers.
“Customers define your success. So, all customers must be identified. These include your executives/owners and all internal recipients of services, external customers and ancillary customers, such as internal supporting services. This last group also includes external regulatory customers such as local, regional, state and federal regulators.”

#3. Be bold and lead change.
“Recognize you’re going to do things differently. For this level of success, you won’t be able to rely only on typical industry standards as a guide. By gaining a broader knowledge and perspective of customer service, learn to outgrow baggage such as history, culture, paradigms and similar other misperceptions. And realize success depends on process redesign, not just the normally required process improvement.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Todd Carlson, principal manager for fleet asset management at Southern California Edison (www.sce.com), one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving nearly 15 million customers in Central, Coastal and Southern California, with about 6,100 assets, including trailers, in its fleet.

#1. Learn from other utility fleet professionals.
“Leverage your peers in the industry to benchmark how they configure and utilize their utility trucks. And study their best practices and alternative work methods for crews. This way, you can shorten your own learning curve and put your fleet in the best position to succeed.”

#2. Avoid excessive customization.
“While most utility trucks are custom-configured for the buyer and their work methods, new fleet managers should be aware of all the costs of excessive or unique customizations not typically offered by OEMs. These costs can include longer lead times, engineering issues, trade-offs and unintended outcomes.”

#3. Track fleet performance so you can make smart business decisions.
“A good telematics solution can help you capture performance data – such as days utilized, idle time, boom utilization and driver performance – to equip you with the insight you need to make informed business decisions about your fleet.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Michael Rorison, director of fleet operations at Eversource Energy (www.eversource.com), New England's largest energy provider. The utility serves more than 3.6 million electric and natural gas customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with about 6,500 assets, including trailers, in its fleet.

#1. Build strong relationships with your team and your customers.
“This is the hardest thing and one of the most important things you can do. The relationships you build today will play a major role in your success as a fleet manager. Employee engagement through developing relationships and team-building initiatives will help you retain good, productive employees. And your relationships with drivers will help them better understand the value of a vehicle’s safety features, with greater appreciation for how those features help the organization achieve its overall safety goals.”

#2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
“The key to successful communication is to listen to all stakeholders who are involved and impacted by your business plan to ensure it supports your customers’ needs. And you must be able to clearly convey everything to your team. Consistent communication with team members and customers can solve or prevent most issues before they escalate into time-consuming crises.”

#3. Be a planner.
“Do you have a strategy that supports your organization’s business plan? And are you prepared for the inevitable crisis? Make planning a part of your standard operating procedure, with daily targets and goals to keep you on track. This way, you can reduce the number of ‘fires’ you need to put out on a daily basis, while putting yourself in a position to handle the inevitable crisis more effectively when it does happen.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Pete J. Matrunola, director of fleet services at Consumers Energy (www.consumersenergy.com), Michigan’s largest electric and gas utility with 6,227 assets in its fleet.

#1. Make safety the No. 1 priority.
“Safety is the most essential component of a successful utility fleet. So, take the time to invest in safety initiatives and programs that instill a culture around providing a safe work environment and excellent service for your employees and your customers. Safety must not simply be something that is done when it is convenient – it must be a core value and the only way to perform your work.”

#2. Build relationships.
“At work and in life, it is always easier to accomplish tasks and goals when everyone is working together. Spend time with your employees, customers and vendors to fully understand them and their needs, wants, limitations, abilities and so forth. By forging those relationships with your employees and business partners, each becomes engaged to achieve the common goal – to build a safe, reliable, cost-effective and compliant fleet operation.”

#3. Know your finances.
“Your fleet department will always be asked to do more with less. As such, it is critical to fully understand your finances and be flexible enough to quickly adjust to the growing needs of the business. Also, be receptive to change and look to instill a culture of continuous improvement. This will stimulate an efficient fleet that drives consistent financial performance.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Michael Donahue, manager of transportation and construction equipment at Omaha Public Power District, an electric utility headquartered in Omaha, Neb., with over 1,300 assets in its fleet.

#1. Master one aspect of fleet at a time.
“There are many aspects to learn about operating a fleet – learning how to write specs, learning about your customers’ needs, learning what vehicles are out there and available, and everything else that has to do with fleet. If you try to bite off everything at once, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Instead, I think it's important just to jump in and take one bite at a time, learning about one aspect until you understand it. Then expand your knowledge from there.”

#2. Invest time to study your customers.
“Get to know your customers. Go to their work areas and watch them work. Ask them questions about what they're doing, how they're getting the job done and what equipment ideas they might have. Ask them for feedback on what they think could help them get things done more efficiently. And observe the equipment and operators in action. The more you know about your customers, the more effectively you can serve them.”

#3. Get involved in industry organizations, forums and events.
“Attend fleet conferences. I think they're very valuable for networking and learning about issues and trends that could have the biggest impact on your operation. Attending industry events can help you connect with experienced fleet managers who can answer your questions and offer real-world advice.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is George Survant, senior fleet director at Time Warner Cable Inc., a cable and telecommunications company headquartered in New York with over 20,000 assets in its fleet.

#1. Listen to your customer.
“Often, customers will come and ask for this or that type of spec in a vehicle or piece of equipment. But when we dialogue with them and listen, we begin to understand what the real pain points are. And when we learn why they want something, there’s often an opportunity for us to recommend a better solution they might not have considered when they first made the request.”

#2. Know how your fleet is doing at all times.
“If you don't continually stay on top of how your fleet is performing, you can't manage it very effectively. For example, we know that we have 20,235 vehicles. Our incident failure rate is 2.7 percent; in other words, 2.7 percent of the fleet is unavailable on any given day. Our average burn rate for fuel is running about 11.2 mpg across all spectrums of the fleet. We anticipate burning 24 million gallons of fuel a year and driving 256 million miles. It's about always having your finger on the pulse of your fleet, because that's the only way you can catch outliers or discover new opportunities for improvements.”

#3. Act on the data to manage your fleet more efficiently.
“Make sure your data is good and then use it. There are a lot of counterintuitive things that people do in this business, or legacy things that they do that, frankly, don't produce good results. Accurate data can give you the insight you need to come up with a tightly focused response to a very specific problem.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Dan Remmert, manager of fleet services for Ameren Illinois Company, a rate-regulated gas and electric utility headquartered in Collinsville, Ill. Remmert oversees a fleet of about 3,300 assets.

#1. Care
“Truly care about your employees. Care about your customer, whether internal or external. Care about the equipment. If you don’t take on a caring mindset in all aspects of the job, you’ll lack the motivation and drive to be the best you can be.”

#2. Commit
“Commit to be the best. My fleet organization probably gets tired of hearing me talk about this, but it’s really important to commit to be the best out there. I have a little saying that I often get razzed about, but it captures what I mean: ‘You don’t wake up in the morning wanting to come in second place.’ So, come in every day with a commitment to be the best, whether you’re pulling an idle report, fixing a truck or talking with customers.”

#3. Execute
“Take action. You can have an MBA or great ideas, but none of it really means anything unless you act and execute your role as fleet manager. Execute the little stuff, and the big stuff will follow.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Holly Giffrow-Bos, fleet supervisor for East Central Energy, an electric distribution cooperative headquartered in Braham, Minn. Giffrow-Bos oversees a fleet of approximately 180 pieces of equipment across five locations.

#1: Involve your fleet team.
“When you give your team a feeling of ownership and involve them in decision-making, this gives them greater passion in their work. And that will translate in helping make your vision become a reality because you have everyone banding together for a common purpose.”

#2: Join a network of fleet professionals.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve learned by simply connecting with people in the fleet world. There are so many organizations available where we can network with other fleet managers and learn real-world strategies and best practices that can be vital for our success.”

#3: Make communication a top priority.
“We have a daily tailgate session with our technician team – even if it’s just five minutes – to go over the plan for the day and where we need to be at the end of the day. And then for our external customers, we recently started a monthly departmental update, where we share some of fleet’s achievements and important updates. Folks are really surprised about what we’re really doing here because we do a lot more than just keep a truck running on the road.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Dale Collins, CAFM, the fleet services supervisor for Fairfax County Water Authority (Fairfax Water), headquartered in Fairfax, Va. Collins manages approximately 270 vehicles and two maintenance shops in Fairfax County, with a total of 10 bays and five vehicle lifts.

#1: Get to know your fleet and how each vehicle is used.
“Learn as much as you can about how the vehicles and equipment are used by communicating directly with the operators. Also, develop a strong working relationship with your procurement folks and do whatever you can to help them help you get what your fleet needs.”

#2: Join an association, like NAFA.
“The fleet industry is very unique, and most fleet professionals are more than willing to help out and share their experiences. If you’re having a problem, chances are that someone else has encountered the same difficulty and can offer advice. Attend meetings and educational events so you can become your organization’s fleet expert.”

#3: Don’t get overwhelmed by Big Data.
“It seems like today there’s an ability to track almost everything under the sun and give it a value, which can waste a lot of your time. Spend some time learning what’s important for the fleet operation and any reports desired by the executive staff. Data is only useful when it tells you something; that’s when it’s useful information. Until then, it’s just data.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Jim Bishop, director of fleet services for INTREN Inc., a full-service utility construction contractor based in Union, Ill., with more than 1,000 employees and offices in Illinois, California, Wisconsin and Missouri. Bishop oversees a fleet of nearly 1,400 assets.

#1: Build a support network.
“Get involved with the various fleet organizations, such as NAFA [National Association of Fleet Administrators], where you can meet other fleet managers, learn from them and get real-world-tested ideas that you might be able to apply in your own fleet. If you try to do things on your own, without support, you can get steered in the wrong direction pretty easily.”

#2: Collaborate with the end user.
“Far too often you hear of fleet making a decision and buying what they think is the best thing, without talking with the people who are actually using the vehicle. When you include the end user in the specification process, you can make certain that you spec a vehicle that meets their needs to do their job most productively.”

#3: Pay close attention to the details.
“If you’re spec’ing a 33,000-GVWR truck but don’t take into consideration that you’re also pulling 25,000 pounds behind the truck, you may find that you’ve built a truck that does not meet your customer’s needs – after it’s too late. Be clear on the truck’s job description and go through the details to make sure the truck spec matches the job.”

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Curtis Marquardt Jr.

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Matt Gilliland, fleet manager for Nebraska Public Power District. NPPD is Nebraska’s largest electric utility, delivering power to about 600,000 Nebraskans. The utility’s fleet department provides direct life-cycle oversight for nearly 1,200 fleet assets in 41 locations within the state. In addition to his role as fleet manager, Gilliland serves as president of the Upper Midwest Utility Fleet Council, is a member of the UFP editorial advisory board and holds a master’s degree in business.

Tip 1: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
“It is so important to push information out as it becomes available as well as listen for, then act upon, the voice of the customer. One thing we do to accomplish this is through a monthly newsletter that is sent to every equipment operator and any supervisor or manager that has an equipment operator in their department. The newsletter offers a method of feedback and suggestions while communicating recalls, best practices, equipment replacement projections and progress, and other important information.”

Tip 2: Surround Yourself with Great People
“When you surround yourself with people who take pride in what they do, it creates an atmosphere of accomplishment. I owe my professional success largely to the members of my team. One would be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated, hardworking and expert level of people anywhere in the fleet industry.”

Tip 3: Create a Better You
“One of the best investments a person can make is an investment in themselves. Seeking professional certification, training, networking connections and education are tremendous ways to invest in yourself and foster professional success.”

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