- Photo: Courtesy Wheels

Photo: Courtesy Wheels

Efficiency. It can mean many things to many different organizations. For some it’s simply doing the job better. For others it’s synonymous with the bottom line. And for others, it’s the way to stay competitive.

Whatever the case — for today’s fleet operations, standing still and doing things the same way can be a recipe for disaster.

That being said, continuous improvement is something that shouldn’t be taken as a given or as easy. It isn’t. Because it challenges the status quo and shakes up long-held systems and ways of doing things — it inevitably changes the organization as a whole. And that change needs to be managed carefully to successfully implement the improvements needed to keep the fleet operation running optimally. 

Wheels’ Jason Lipes, senior director of solution services explores change management further in this blog.

Building a Proactive Culture

Continuous improvement is simply a way of doing things better. And this means creating a culture that is proactive and not reactive.

Waiting until there’s a problem with the tried and true is too late. Instead, the proactive fleet manager is never satisfied with how things have always been done, and is willing to make improvements to the operation, even if it may shake up a seemingly well-oiled machine.

Below are a few suggestions on how to fold continuous improvement into your culture: 

Setting up driver ride-alongs. Knowing firsthand how drivers use their vehicles is crucial to determining if the vehicle and its upfit are right for the job. Ask the drivers for their honest feedback about their vehicles, including how they access tools and equipment. An honest, in-the-field conversation will build rapport and trust with drivers, helping to increase morale and retention, while improving the bottom line. Driver feedback coupled with TCO data will benefit the entire operation.

Hosting an annual supplier roundtable to prepare for the upcoming model year. Setting expectations, understanding lead times, and knowing product and upfit availability up front is critical to getting the vehicles the fleet needs, when it needs them. Your fleet management partner can help set up and facilitate an event with OEMs, upfitters, and other stakeholders. 

Enhancing the fleet’s safety program. In addition to the costs related to the event — including repairs and potential liability — a crash results in both vehicle and driver downtime. These costs can add up quickly. Enhancing the fleet’s safety program with telematics or other anti-collision technology improves productivity and protects drivers and the company’s assets. 

Finding ways to improve a fleet’s operation will certainly endear any fleet manager to their C-suite, but change can be difficult for others in the organization who are used to the way things have always been done.

Embracing Change

Change for the sake of it is a bad strategy. It is important to evaluate change on a consistent basis and its impact on the organization. Consider the level of impact and degree of difficulty of implementation – plan and engage accordingly. 

For example, if changing to a new supplier partner, the impact to drivers may be low as they may not notice a change. But impact to the business may be high, due to the cost savings. Alternatively, if enhancing a safety program with telematics the impact to the field will be high and would likely require buy-in and support at multiple levels. 

No matter the situation, resistance is inevitable. Any part of a good change management strategy includes ways to manage it. Be open to listening and take note of concerns as others may feel the same way. It is important that the fleet manager and their team manage change in a transparent and sensitive way, including:

  • Involving affected stakeholders in the early decision-making stages.
  • Clearly communicating any changes well in advance of implementation.
  • Holding town hall or other driver or employee forums to address potential misconceptions and concerns.

For the change to be well accepted by those that it affects, it is crucial to have support from the top down. A member of the C-suite or a senior vice president who is a champion of the change can help ensure it is implemented effectively. In addition, having a branch manager, driver, or other front-line employee as an ambassador of change can help with bottom-up acceptance — particularly if it’s going to significantly upend the status quo. 

Strategic Ally

There’s another ally you have at the ready to help you both find ways to continuously improve your organization and manage the inevitable change — your fleet management company.

At Wheels, we embrace change. Continuous improvement is baked into our culture. It helps us provide a wide variety of products and services designed to help improve our clients’ businesses today and tomorrow. For example:

Our 360+ Quality Assurance approach, takes a holistic approach providing results that are consistent, collaborative, visible and evolutionary. One way we consistently challenge ourselves is by holding kaizen events in order to improve our internal processes. We also are happy to take 360+ on the road and facilitate continuous improvement sessions at our clients’ offices.

Partnerships run deep at Wheels and extend past our clients to our suppliers. Our robust approach to supplier management not only ensures your needs are being met but also helps our suppliers become even stronger partners. We use a scorecard system to measure and regularly review their performance levels in order to help them enhance their business models. Measuring true fleet success is about gauging our ability to continually improve in ways that are most important to you.

The Results+ Fleet Performance Program is designed to ensure optimal fleet performance at the lowest possible cost, year after year. From your fleet consulting manager to your truck consultant, the team takes a proactive approach to understand your business before recommending solutions, ensuring we deliver outcomes that fit your needs.

Without improvement and the inevitable change it brings, a fleet operation may have a difficult time fulfilling its ever-evolving mission to the organization — and will be a drag on productivity instead of its engine. 

When change is embraced, everyone in the organization benefits.

To learn more about managing change, read Wheels’ senior director of solution services, Jason Lipes, insights.