Getting the most from factory fleets

Nov. 1, 2003
A Web-based asset management system drives savings for factory motorized vehicles.

When Premier Manufacturing Support Services Inc. won a contract two years ago to manage the North American mobile equipment assets for a major automobile manufacturer, the company knew it would need a new software modus operandi.

The deal involved management of more than 15,000 motorized vehicles, including fork lift trucks, riding sweeper/scrubbers, groundskeeping equipment, scissor lifts, tuggers and scooters. And those vehicles were deployed throughout 50 plants in the United States and Mexico. “From a software standpoint, for a program that large and spread out, we needed something that would allow us to easily track and obtain data from all of those 50 sites,” says Eric Faith, manager of maintenance systems technology for Premier, a Cincinnati-based subsidiary of The Dürr Group, headquartered in Germany.

Premier knew that its existing client/server asset management system would not be up to the task. The client/server application would require that software be installed at each site, resulting in “siloed” operations in which each site uses its own systems and data. It would not enable the sharing of data across the 50 sites, thus not providing Premier with the consolidated view that it needed to optimize its asset management activities. Further, Premier’s client/server software could not track warranty claims, which would be important for the new contract.

As a way to overcome these shortfalls, says Faith, “we went looking for a Web-based solution.” Premier found what it needed in Datastream 7i Asset Performance Management, a Web-based system from Datastream Systems Inc., of Greenville, S.C.

The 7i application relies on a single, central database that can be accessed using standard Internet Web browsers by Premier fleet managers in each of the 50 plants. The arrangement simplified system set-up by eliminating the need for duplicate entry of data such as parts inventories and preventive maintenance schedules. Instead, the data is entered once and shared across sites, says Faith. The consolidated data, combined with 7i Analytics, enables Premier to derive valuable business information about the customer’s fleet assets.

By drilling into the data, Premier can compare operational efficiency across plants, identify under-performing assets and determine the root causes for problems. If a forklift truck in Mexico City is breaking down more often than an identical unit in Detroit, for example, Premier can identify maintenance procedures used on the equipment in Detroit and transfer them to Mexico City to solve the problem.

Premier’s ability to track warranties, lease and rental agreements using the system has proven particularly beneficial for the customer, Faith says. When a piece of equipment breaks down, the Datastream 7i system enables Premier to easily check its warranty status. “Whereas the customer in the past might have just gone out and purchased parts from a dealer, we’re focused on it, and we clearly understand that the equipment is under warranty, and we take advantage of that,” Faith says. “So we look at the warranty cost recovery as a major value-add in this program.”

Right sizing

Breakdowns can also easily be tracked. This means that when a lease period expires on a vehicle, Premier can examine maintenance and repair costs over its lifetime to make a judgment on whether or not to extend the lease. By tracking hourly utilization of equipment, Premier can also help fine-tune preventive maintenance schedules. And it also helps with fleet “right sizing,” says Faith. Based on a 7i analysis, for example, one customer plant manager was able to eliminate more than 60 vehicles without affecting productivity, thereby reducing equipment inventory by one third and saving $500,000.

In all, since the contract began, Premier says it has enabled its customer to reduce its total mobile equipment operating costs by more than 40 percent. Premier is now using the Datastream 7i product on contracts for two additional customers under the service name Premier Manufacturing Support Services Internet (MSSI). And the company plans to extend its use further.

“From here on out, there will be no more implementations using client/server technology,” says Faith. “We’re going to move everything to the MSSI product, because it’s easier to administrate and it’s easier to implement. It’s the best thing for us right now.”