Basically, vehicle equivalency is a method for breaking down a diverse fleet conceptually into a homogeneous one so it is easier to deal with, explains Bellamy. This technique is especially useful when comparing one garage to another, or even one fleet to another, and makes sure that it is an "apples- to-apples" comparison. It also provides an idea of what staff is needed to support a fleet expansion, reorganization or new facility where no direct experience supporting the particular mix of vehicles to be maintained in a given shop is available.
Maintenance repair factoring is an analysis technique that categorizes a fleet according to a vehicle classification, with vehicles grouped into classes according to similar maintenance requirements.
Technician skill and certification level also factor into staffing a shop, Bellamy says. "There is the tendency to want to hire all the best people with the highest skill sets. However, the reality is that a top-tier technician is not going to be crazy about changing oil all day, and a technician with a lower skill set will not be productive when it comes to complicated repairs."
Written, comprehensive job descriptions can help avoid these types of situation. Defining duties, roles, authority and responsibilities by skill and knowledge level for each position makes it easier to align each position with the appropriate person for the each position, says Bellamy. It is also a good idea to create specific guidelines that can be used for recruitment, and to develop information for employees related to what they need in order to progress through the organization. "The guide contains a section on model job descriptions," he notes.
There are also recommendations for recruiting technicians. "There are a number of approaches, but the key is to recognize which technicians you are trying to attract," he says. "Their experience and skill level will generally dictate where and how to look for them. Technical schools will produce younger technicians and career switchers, while traditional recruiting, such as newspapers and trade publications, will produce a different type of candidate. In addition, having your own employees recruit for you can also be a successful experience."
As for advice on figuring competitive salary and benefit packages, Bellamy says it is necessary to recognize what is important to the candidates. "For some it's all about the money. For others, benefits such leave, retirement and insurance are paramount. Keep yourself engaged in the employment market, know who is hiring and why."
Obviously a shop won't know if its staffing is effective or needs improvement unless there are systems and methods in place for tracking technician and shop activity, productivity and efficiency. Toward this end, Bellamy says, NAFA's Fleet Maintenance Operations Guide has thoughts, ideas and methods for benchmarking staff performance.
Benchmarking is a process used to evaluate certain aspects of an organization's processes in relation to industry best practices, sometimes within the same organization and often with other similar organizations or operations. The intent is to learn what an organization needs to do to achieve similar performance.
Benchmarking can also be used to help gauge progress towards the attainment of specific goals and objectives.
The guide also examines how shop management software can help with shop productivity and administration. Shops looking to purchase such software for the first time "need to be concerned with software that tracks fleet assets, maintenance and repair costs, parts costs, fuel and any other item that creates an expense for that fleet asset," counsels Bellamy. "Software should be able to allocate those costs against that asset and towards a department, division or cost center.
"Shops looking for software upgrades may want to add some type of document storage for accident photos, title, registration and sublet invoices. Another great feature is communication between shop, parts, drivers and vendors. Some programs allow for this non-verbal communication via email or texting, which is convenient for everyone.
"Another upgrade of real value," he adds, "is software with the ability to interface with your organization's financial software."
Outsourcing of some maintenance tasks and duties as a way to help a shop reduce downtime and costs is another subject addressed in the guide. It discusses, among other matters, some of the key considerations for deciding if outsourcing maintenance would be beneficial.