Matt Dziak (host): Welcome to The Fleet Code, a podcast brought to you by Fleetio where we'll dive into the latest fleet trends, technology and best practices. Get the inside scoop as we decode the challenges of fleet management.
Ian Lomax (guest): [00:00:22] It's kind of almost guaranteed. It's almost law that when you assume you're done fixing all of your fleet, when everything's repaired, you get a storm of new issues coming in. Being able to track those efficiently and effectively, we can knock them out significantly quicker than we did before. And anybody that's been in this position knows how quickly the trucks can stack up working through the storms.
Matt Dziak: [00:00:46] In this episode of The Fleet Code, we welcome Ian Lomax, fleet maintenance supervisor for AAA Oregon, Idaho. Ian held several roles in the vehicle maintenance industry and used to manage an auto repair and maintenance shop. We'll discuss how AAA was able to achieve on-time service compliance and increased overall efficiency by transitioning from paper processes and antiquated solutions to software and modern technology.
Hey Ian, thanks for joining us on the show today.
Ian Lomax: [00:01:14] Hey, buddy, how's it going?
Matt Dziak: [00:01:16] It's going good. I'm glad that we were able to make this happen. I thought that we could maybe start things off by giving the listeners a little bit of background on yourself and your role.
Ian Lomax: [00:01:25] My name is Ian Lomax. I am the fleet maintenance supervisor here at AAA, Oregon, Idaho.I went through Portland, community colleges, automotive program here, local boy, or again, and I had two kind of career backgrounds that I could have gone through event management or work on cars and went through my education and got a good opportunity at school. Specialist shop. I eventually ran a shop for somebody else.
So more of a service manager, a general manager type of position that was pretty fun and a good experience. And then I got the opportunity here at AAA working in the approved auto repair, which is the approved auto repair shops from there on, I got the opportunity to move over to our fleet now and get to take care of all of our trucks. And that is where I am now.
Matt Dziak: [00:02:14] So you've been at AAA for some time now, what is it that is so important to your fleet, in terms of, having the reliability of your assets and why is that important to your customers as well?
Ian Lomax: [00:02:23] I feel the biggest part of our fleet besides customers members being number one is the maintenance on the vehicles. If those aren't running, we can't take care of our members. And this is something that we hit very hard here in the last few years.
Matt Dziak: [00:02:38] Now in the past, you had some other processes that you worked with and solutions to manage your fleet. Could you talk a little bit about those?
Ian Lomax: [00:02:45] The past processes that we had here at the fleet were antiquated, everything was still kind of paper. If it's written down it's recorded. As long as everything is organized, like this say on paper, it sounds good.
But if all the processes are not followed completely start dropping stuff. And what the level of vehicles we have and the employees we have, things can easily get lost under the seat. They could get dropped in transition from their locker to the truck, us moving from nearly all paper to nearly all web based electronics was huge for us on our maintenance.
Matt Dziak: [00:03:24] I wanted to talk a little bit about the types of vehicles you have. When everybody thinks of AAA, they're going to think of those light and medium duty tow trucks, but I thought maybe you could give the audience a little more detail on that.
Ian Lomax: [00:03:35] Yeah. So we actually have a pretty good group of vehicles. We have about 60 vehicles and about 90 team members. Fords for a good chunk of our light duty kind of service vehicles and light duty tow trucks. We have some more heavy duty Fords and Chevys as wheel lifts, what everybody considers a wrecker out there. And then we have. kind of in my mind, old faithful Toyota, which is a Hino and those are our flatbeds.
They are very reliable. And we also got a couple of Freightliners sprinkled in there, which my background's European vehicles we get to play with those ones periodically. They're fun.
Leveraging Technology to Limit Vehicle Inspection Failure Rates
Matt Dziak: [00:04:17] When it comes to inspections, one of the things that I was able to pinpoint is that you guys have an amazing failure rate on inspections. It was less than a quarter percent. It was like 0.23% on all of your inspections. I wanted to maybe talk about how that might've not been the case before and how you're always inspecting your vehicles and you're always keeping up on your maintenance. You're able to stay ahead of issues and that's why you're able to see such low failure rates that when things do happen, They happen very periodically, but you're still able to address them right away.
Ian Lomax: [00:04:49] It's pretty night and day. We really had no clue what was going on. It really depended on did the employee report this to the leader? And again, we go back to paper, did that piece of paper, make it all the way, did that word of mouth, make it all the way?
And then what are the chances of that actually being followed through and then to the completion process of something repaired, the difference is we can now see everything that's happening.
We can monitor the drivers, the technicians, how quickly they're doing the inspections, the geo area. They're doing the inspections, the alerts you can set up. There's all the information and you can see it from everywhere, which is really cool.
So the difference is us taking advantage of technology now, which is a huge part of our business right now, and making sure everything's efficient. We really had no way of really tracking finances, parts, but when it comes to inspections and the failure rate now where it is less than a quarter percent of where before we had absolutely no clue what was going on.
Matt Dziak: [00:05:53] We talked about how you are utilizing the inspections to identify some of those issues. And you also have your processes in place on the maintenance side. So how does your team collaborate on these issues or are there any communication that's going on within the system and how has that evolved for you?
Ian Lomax: [00:06:0] This is still an evolving work in progress for us since we've got past the development phase, and now we're into our kind of refining and making sure everything's in line and yeah. Having the ability to monitor all issues from, any location. Right now we have two centralized locations, one on the West side, one on the East side.
Like I said earlier, we have about 90 team members and those are split up between all of our city area. So the ability to have someone on the East side submit an inspection that does have a failure. It goes to our leaders, it notifies myself and the technician. We can judge the severity and we can down the vehicle.
If it is a safety concern, or we can wait till its next regular service to do something minor. But the ability to do it from anywhere is really key. We are wanting to get down to the minute. We want to be able to track it anywhere that geo-fencing is going to be really important to us.
Whether they're doing it standing in one spot, pressing buttons, or they're doing it as they're driving down the road. There's just the ability to track all of that brings out a lot of excellent coaching opportunities.
Achieving Vehicle Maintenance Compliance
Matt Dziak: [00:07:26] Yeah, having that technology at your fingertips and empowering your team to communicate issues in real time really allows you the flexibility to manage your fleet from anywhere. Speaking of issue management, I wanted to discuss servicing and maintenance. With a fleet of your size, how have you been able to stay on top of all the necessary maintenance for your fleet?
Ian Lomax: [00:07:46] We take a lot of pride in our maintenance compliant percentage we're hovering right about 96 percent we're always striving for 100 percent but there are a few to get a little out of mileage, but. Being able to track this with Fleetio, we're integrated with GPS as well, and we're also integrated with our fueling. So we have a lot of meter entries coming in to help us monitor mileage, lots of backups to make sure we do hit that mile mark that we're going for maintenance.
Matt Dziak: [00:08:16] There are so many sources of your fleet data and it can be difficult to stay organized and really remain efficient. How are you able to do all of this in order to track important fleet metrics like cost per meter or a vehicle’s total cost of ownership?
Ian Lomax: [00:08:33] The main reason we integrated into our fueling and our GPS is to specifically watch cost per meter. That is monitored very closely. We have our fuel costs, essentially made my own dashboard that monitors all these areas, our inventory. I wish you guys could see it. We have spent a lot of time on this and it looks great.
And it tracks very well in the work order system. It's actually helped us quite a bit keep track of costs. So we've spent quite a bit of time sitting up our inventory in house for both of our East and West locations. Right now we're just utilizing one. Inventory, but it has started out as quite a large compiled list of parts that we had in there.
And Fleetio has actually helped us slim everything down and we've actually cut the amount of items we purchased now that we can actually see items going in and out with the cost tracking of parts. We can leverage pricing with our vendors. It's just helped us track everything quite a bit. And I'm very picky about how things look.
Being able to walk out there and scan a barcode and it goes right into the work order. There's just so many benefits of that inventory. Not just cost tracking, that's really helped us.
Matt Dziak: [00:09:55] Yeah. Could we maybe talk a little bit about how important it is to track that inventory and know your counts so that you can avoid downtime and so that your mechanics or technicians have that part readily available, and they're not in a frenzy where they need to find that part that could potentially take weeks to source if it's coming maybe overseas or wherever your vendors are coming from.
Ian Lomax: [00:10:15] Well, that was actually a major hurdle that we had to get past when I first came in, was that there really wasn't an inventory. There was the basic fluid, there was maybe a set of brake pads here and there, but nothing to really track. So one of our big projects was to build this inventory. And now we are seeing downtimes of trucks being hours instead of. A day or two, like you're saying, you'd be surprised how hard it is sometimes to get a set of Ford brake pads.
Sometimes it takes a day to do that, having them in stock, being able to track by work order. I mean, it really takes the work away from me and does it all on its own.
Limiting Vehicle Downtime
Matt Dziak: [00:10:55] Circling back on the need to limit vehicle downtime and how that's critical to just everyday fleet management. How has your process evolved with the use of technology to enhance productivity?
Ian Lomax: [00:11:10] I can tell you it's made it a lot more user-friendly. I can tell you coming from a technician background, that's where it all started for me, was working on cars. That is the time that you really, I don't want to say aren't getting paid for when the flat rate world you want to put down as many notes as you can be.
You have to play this fine line of am I going to spend all day writing a novel? Or am I going to put cliff notes? And hopefully the service advisor gets it. I feel just about everybody nowadays is pretty good with computers, pretty darn good with mobile devices, being able to select individual issues, items, maintenance items, tag the work orders.
So you can keep track of say body damage, lost parts, things like that really brings everything together and keeps a good track of everything. So with the new technology, the work order process is much more efficient, user friendly. This keeps a central track of everything. My technician, Andrew, he uses it to keep track of everything.
We use our notifications, but what it's really done for me is I can be over at our other location and have something happen over here. I can approve a work order. I can order parts. I can communicate with. Leaders drivers the technician. And so just the ability to do this from a mobile device or do it from a laptop or even a desktop at home with the current conditions really keeps things rolling.
We were still using our paper methods. Somebody's sick or somebody's bad weather. Can't make it to work. How would they operate when they'd be able by phone? But. We can fully repair a vehicle from a remote location with this technology. Now, when you can't mess it up, the worst you can do is change something and cancel it. It's a very safe system to go out and explore. And like I said, that's one of my first recommendations is this go play in the system.
Matt Dziak: [00:13:15] As a fleet manager, you guys are tasked with juggling a lot of different things and really having to own a lot of different processes. In your opinion, what is fleet management to you?
Ian Lomax: [00:13:22]Fleet management to me is quite a few things. Not only keeping the vehicle on the road, keeping it safe. It's also a cost effective way to repair the vehicles' efficient timeline of repair. So fleet management, to me, incorporates quite a bit of things, the majority of my time is just tracking all those items.
Matt Dziak: [00:13:47] And when you think about having to rely on some of those antiquated processes, as you mentioned, the spreadsheets and what have you, what's the one thing that has allowed you to really transition into more efficient modes of managing your fleet?
Ian Lomax: [00:14:00] First thing, I'd go with accountability. We now know when the issues are present.
We know when they happen, GPS, we know where they happen. Like we've talked about in the past, going from paper and hopefully it makes it to somebody too, I know the instant an issue happens now, no matter where I'm at and it allows me to get the ball rolling on a quick efficient repair. With the software and technology.
Now I'm able to be notified nearly instantly when an issue pops up, no matter where I'm at can use it on my mobile device, whether I'm on a laptop at home, working from home. And that allows me to get the ball rolling instantly. I can order parts. I can start a work order. I can notify my technicians. I can down a vehicle and I don't even have to be in the shop. It's great.
Matt Dziak: [00:14:51] If there was one thing you could tell yourself about fleet management, when you first started, that you might know now, what would it be and why?
Ian Lomax: [00:14:58] The one thing I would want to tell my younger self and the fleet management world is to keep things simple. So many people, including myself in the beginning, tried to go overboard.
Way, way too detail way too, just too many options. And what I've found over time is that you do the work upfront, keep it simple. You have a simple inventory, simple vendor list and things work smoothly.
Enhancing Fleet Visibility
Matt Dziak: [00:15:28] If you were someone that was evaluating, maybe fleet management, technology or software providers, what would be some of the important features you think that they should be looking for in a partner?
Ian Lomax: [00:15:38] So what I was looking for most, in a partnership with fleet management, software technology was simplicity. I wanted to be able to have it, walk me through the process. I want it to be able to integrate easily. I want to keep track of things easily. And I also want it to be able to give me snapshots. So I don't have to dig through reports here, reports there. I have a clear view of my whole fleet at my fingertips.
Matt Dziak: [00:16:09] Can you talk about the importance of having that visibility into your fleet? These vehicles are always on the road and they're what we like to say is they're mobile by nature. So if they're all dispersed across areas where you need to track, but you're back at your home base at office, or if you're working remotely, can you talk about the importance of having that visibility into all those assets?
Ian Lomax: [00:16:29] Being able to have that visibility from anywhere you have a wifi connection or cellular service is a safety concern. Say break, start to make noise. That's a common concern for just about everybody, but being able to say, Hey, I noticed you just Mark this as brake noise stopped by our facility real quick, have our technician look at it, make sure everything's safe.
Get you back on the road in five minutes or the old way without being able to track this paper way is yeah, it's making noise. Someone gets that later in the day. What if this person's driving around metal on metal. So being able to intervene on potential safety concerns was very important to us.
Matt Dziak: [00:17:15] Having that ability to address those issues in real time is really what's allowed you to be successful then.
Ian Lomax: [00:17:22] Oh, yeah, we've cut our response time down. Do you know a day down to minutes, literally, depending, you know how quickly you can get an email notification once the system processes it, that's how quickly you know of an issue. Nowadays, being able to, like I said, jump in there.
Say, Hey, let's get a quick inspection. Oh man. It needs brakes. Now this two-day process has become an hour and a half and we have a truck that loses money sitting here waiting for parts. Or we have a truck making money out on the road and taking care of our members.
Matt Dziak: [00:17:59] Yeah. And those members that you serve for AAA, they need your help at that moment. How important is it for you guys to have reliable, properly maintained vehicles when they show up to a customer, right?
Ian Lomax: [00:18:10] Yeah. Image is huge with us and the AAA has been around for over a hundred years. Everybody knows the AAA logo and they have an expectation. We're not the cheap bottom of the barrel service.
We are the best of the best. And they expect the best. They expect a fully operational truck. We shouldn't have to send out two or three different trucks because equipment doesn't work and we can now track all of that and provide a much more reliable service than we had before.
Streamlining Communication Across Stakeholders
Matt Dziak: [00:18:39] Yeah. Now, if there was one thing in fleet management or just in the world of fleets that you could solve, one problem you could solve , or one solution you could provide, what would it be and why?
Ian Lomax: [00:18:50] My main issue that I would love to fix right now and just snap. My fingers is communication. So many potential issues or simple fixes. They're just lost in communication. And I feel that the systems we're putting in place are building an excellent communication platform for us to chat back and forth, to close out issues, to request inventory. That would be my biggest thing that I would like to fix right now.
Matt Dziak: [00:19:20] If we could summarize maybe just in general about fleet management and how important it is to remain efficient, perhaps you can talk about some of the other parallels that go on within your universe. Can you hit a little bit on that?
Ian Lomax: [00:19:35] Yeah, it's kind of almost guaranteed. It's almost law that when you assume you're done fixing all of your fleet, when everything's repaired, you get a storm of new issues coming in. So being able to track those efficiently and effectively, we can knock them out significantly quicker than we did before.
And anybody that's in this position knows how quickly the trucks can stack up down trucks. That's where the fleet management supposed to shine is working through the storms and just increasing the accuracy of all the reports and tracking.
Matt Dziak: [00:20:10] As a maintenance supervisor. You're constantly collaborating with so many other stakeholders, whether it's your drivers, your technicians, even your bosses and any sort of process that you have in your operation, you're going to have that sort of collaboration with your team.
You need to be able to highlight and track that progress with certain issues and then any metrics that are coming out of it, whether that's expense related, or anything else. And so how have you dealt with reporting on those metrics and making that part of fleet management easier?
Ian Lomax: [00:20:43] The report feature is good for a couple of reasons. One, the bosses above get to look at something and with our good numbers, they usually stay pretty happy. But a lot of the other reports we have on here, utilization cost per meter. These are all things that I look at quite often to make sure we're not spending too much on maintenance for keeping our parts costs down. Even fuel tracking is in these reports. That is a really big one for us to keep an eye on.
Matt Dziak: [00:21:16] Well, Ian, this has been a fantastic conversation,I learned a lot about the world of AAA and how you guys manage your fleet out there. Thanks for joining us on the show.
Ian Lomax: [00:21:23] Yeah, I appreciate the opportunity. I had a great time.
Matt Dziak: [00:21:27] Thanks for listening to The Fleet Code. If you're looking for a modern software solution to effectively manage your fleet, be sure to check out fleetio.com/podcast to learn more. Join our monthly newsletter to stay up to date on all things, Fleetio. And don't forget to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by following at Fleetio.