Should The Parts Room Be Outsourced?

The "why" and "how" one organization decided to use a vendor for this function


The purpose of the parts room is to support the maintenance and repair side of a fleet/shop operation. How effectively and cost-efficiently the parts room does this has a sizable impact on the operation’s overall costs, productivity and vehicle downtime. However, the parts room is not typically a core function, yet it requires staff and resources to handle parts ordering, receiving, issuing, etc.

Evaluating the parts operation and considering alternative methods and options for opportunities for efficiencies in the process can often considerably improve the complete maintenance and repair operation. Outsourcing the parts room function is one alternative that can provide a number of advantages. Among them: labor hours saved, maximizing resources, increased efficiency, greater productivity, improved customer service, lower maintenance costs and potentially lower acquisition expenditures.

Fleet Maintenance’s editor, David A. Kolman, interviewed Elizabeth B. Linck, CFM (Certified Fleet Manager) from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and retired fleet director for the Fleet Department of the Town of Greenwich, CT, about her successful implementation of outsourcing the Fleet’s parts room operation, as well as other fleet maintenance and management programs.

Linck, who has been involved in fleet management for more than 30 years, served as the Town’s fleet director from 1990 to 2009.

Q: Tell me about your experiences in Greenwich when you took over the Fleet Department?

A: That is a very encompassing question and covers a volume of issues.

Let me start at the beginning. My prior fleet experience was with a Fortune 500 company, so I was making the change from the private sector to the public sector and operating a maintenance facility. Those were challenging times and I owe a great deal of my success to being a member of NAFA Fleet Management Association – the world’s premier not-for-profit association for professional fleet managers – and to my colleagues who I could call for advice.

I took over the Fleet Department and the newly built Fleet facility. The Town had purchased a fleet maintenance program and an automated fueling system, neither of which had been fully implemented.

The Department was mainly manually operated, so my first objective was to implement computerization, activate the fleet maintenance and automated fueling programs and establish comprehensive programs for preventative maintenance and perpetual inventory.

At the time, the fleet consisted of 500 vehicles and pieces of equipment for all of the Town’s departments, including Fire, Police, DPW, Parks/Recreation, Board of Education and administrative departments. The vehicles and equipment had to be classified and inventoried. Additionally, a vehicle replacement program, with specific criteria for replacement at optimum intervals that focused on the unit’s job function, was initiated.

Staffing also needed to be addressed, and this was accomplished by reclassifications.

One of most satisfying achievements was the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certifications of the Fleet technicians and the Fleet facility becoming a part of the ASE Blue Seal of Excellence Recognition Program – a program that identifies highly qualified repair facilities. There were pay-grade increases for the participating technicians.

To insure that all the policies and procedures that had been implemented would be followed with uniformity, a 23-chapter Departmental Operational Manual was developed that included forms, data entry processes, building operations and user department interaction.

To measure customer service satisfaction, a TQM (Total Quality Management) program was developed. (TQM is a management system for a customer-focused organization that involves all employees in continual improvement of all aspects of the organization.) We achieved a repair/service satisfaction rate of 97.7 percent.

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