It is a daunting challenge to staff a vehicle maintenance shop for the most efficiency and operational savings. Many variables and factors need to be considered and addressed.
Among the considerations are organizing the workplace and outlining the direction of management control of the workers; deciding upon staff structure; determining and clearly defining day-to-day duties, responsibilities and authority of all job positions; and having systems in place in order to track, measure and analyze technician and shop expenses, activity, productivity, efficiency, etc.
Beyond this, there needs to be systems for prioritizing and assigning work; ensuring compliance with federal, state and local laws, regulations, codes and/or standards; and creating safety committees. Policies and procedures, along with training and certification, are necessary for maintaining safe operating practices, quality standards and a safe working environment.
Several years ago, to help shops better manage their staffing solutions, NAFA Fleet Management Association produced its Fleet Maintenance Staffing Guide. It was a complete source of information on staffing and organizing fleet maintenance operations.
NAFA is a not-for-profit, individual membership professional society serving the needs of members who manage fleets of sedans, public safety vehicles, trucks and buses of all types and sizes and a wide range of military and off-road equipment for organizations across the globe. Its members are responsible for the specification, acquisition, maintenance and repair, fueling, risk management and remarketing of more than 3.5 million vehicles, including in excess of 1.1 million trucks of which some 350,000 are medium and heavy duty trucks.
The staffing guide was very well received and generated a lot of requests for additional information and guidance on maintenance operations. As a result, NAFA earlier this year, published its Fleet Maintenance Operations Guide. A comprehensive reference for in-house and outsourced maintenance operations, it includes an in-depth section on maintenance staffing and offers ways and means to determine the appropriate staffing levels.
Material and resources are provided to help shop managers develop accurate methods for evaluating technicians individually to ensure they are functioning at peak efficiency given their experience level when compared to peers and industry benchmarking standards. There is information and guidance on eliminating excuses for poor performance by providing adequate tools, shop equipment and work space, as well as on how to adjust staffing levels, including overtime use, until fleet downtime is acceptable to all parties.
"There are a wide range of considerations when it comes to shop staffing," says NAFA project volunteer Mark Bellamy, CAFM, fleet manager for the County of York, Virginia. "The number of technicians and supervisors will depend on the organization's size and make up of the fleet; its mission; whether it is a private, corporate or government fleet; types of maintenance and repair services; and so forth.
"The organization's overall structure will certainly have an impact as well," he continues. "Traditional organizations may use many layers of management, where as some industries are seeing flatter structures in a depressed economy.
"But no matter the number of variables involved, the surest place to start is with the boots on the ground - technician staffing."
A relatively quick way to start the process of optimizing a shop's maintenance staff is to develop maintenance repair factors and vehicle equivalencies. This information will help in determining minimum staffing, need for shifts and, ultimately, provide a guide for the number of bays needed based on the number of technicians needed and the type of equipment that makes up the fleet.