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University of Minnesota's Fleet Services

AFL-feat-img-blog-minessota-uni-fleet-services copy Clint Schoeck is the Finance and Operations Manager for the University of Minnesota Fleet Services. He's been employed with the University for 11 years and has worked the past three years with Fleet Services. UMN Fleet Services is composed of a staff of 10 full time employees, and 15-20 student employees. Fleet Services oversees and maintains the majority of the University of Minnesota system's Fleet, which consists of over 900 licensed vehicles.

Q: What are some of the challenges you faced prior to automating your motor pool? What are your plans for further automation with self-service kiosk?

A:  We've come a long way with automating our motor pool. Staff still joke about the "old days" when the motor pool was managed very manually, via a large magnetic white board. One hard slam of an office door could send those magnets falling to the ground, and throw the operation into full panic mode. We couldn't imagine not having an automated system for our motor pool today. And we are continuously exploring ways to automate even further, such as with the self-service motor pool kiosks. With the enhancement, there will be challenges resulting from paradigm shifts. At the UMN, this may include changing the way we fuel, clean, and report damage on our vehicles - as we currently have fleet staff that fuel, clean, and inspect after each reservation. This will not always be an option with self-service kiosks. It is best to try to identify these types of challenges in advance, so that you can engage the proper stakeholders to appropriately address and ultimately implement processes and procedures that are in the overall best interest of the organization.

Q:  How important is it to your organization to communicate and enforce policies and how has that communication improved and/or helped reduced costs?

A:  We believe it is very important to not only communicate and enforce policies, but to also make sure those policies are frequently reviewed and kept current. For example, a new State of Minnesota law was recently implemented that now prohibits using handheld mobile devices while driving. Our policies had previously been written in a way that strongly discouraged mobile device use while driving, but did not prohibit it. It was important that we got this policy updated as soon as possible to align with new state statutes, so that we could help prevent staff confusion and potential unnecessary costs from traffic violations, fines, etc.

Q:  How important is data collection to running your operation? Have you been able to right-size the fleet (reduce vehicles, make composition changes etc.)

A:  Data collection and data analysis is vital in running our operations as efficiently as possible, and in keeping costs down. Data collection and analysis is a process that is continuously happening in our organization. Vehicle options, customer trends, and other factors are frequently changing/evolving that drive our fleet composition. Simply put, we work in a very fast changing industry. We try to be as tuned in to these factors as possible, via data collection and analysis, and adapt when appropriate. We have had success in continuing to "right-size" our fleet composition because of the great work the fleet services team does in collecting and analyzing data, and in keeping current with industry trends.

Q:   Any advice you have for organizations embarking on a fleet automation project?

A:  My advice to other organizations as they begin to undertake similar automation projects (like our self-serve kiosks), would be to include and get input and feedback from a wide range of stakeholders as possible. From the president - to the customers - to the front line workers, we all have different and valuable perspectives to offer. I believe gathering this feedback early on in the process will help lessen roadblocks and challenges further down the process. Also, don't be afraid to reach out to your peers who have undertaken similar projects and ask for their advice. There is an amazing network of fleet professionals out there that would be more than happy to share stories with you in hopes it will help make your project more successful.