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Technology in Focus: Maintenance Software

When evaluating their operations department, fleet executives often use sophisticated software tools to track and report a variety of daily driver and equipment productivity metrics. When it’s time to evaluate their maintenance department’s output, however, hasty executives may think only one question needs to be answered: Are they over or under budget?

But fleets should look much further under the hood. A more accurate measure of productivity for technicians is determining how they spend their time, says Charles Arsenault, president of Arsenault and Associates. Many maintenance software systems feature tools designed specifically to automate the tracking and reporting of technician productivity on both an individual and companywide basis.

The most practical way to track individual productivity is to divide the number of hours a technician spends on repair orders by his total hours, says Arsenault, whose company provides the Dossier fleet maintenance management system. “It has been our experience, as reported by our users, that the average productivity is around 65 percent,” Arsenault says. “If the average is 65 percent in the fleet, and a guy is running 80 to 85 percent productivity, you know you’ve got an ace.”

As is standard with most maintenance software systems, Dossier captures a technician’s time in and time out during a repair order, as well as his total hours. It allows users to compile reports that show the productivity of each technician and overall productivity, Arsenault says.

The latest fleet maintenance system from Mitchell 1, OnDemand5 Manager, includes a variety of standard management reports to track technician efficiency and productivity. Reports can compare technicians over any time period – by day, week, month or year. Fleet maintenance managers also can use the system to report the productivity of each technician for each type of task and compare it with a cumulative group average or pre-defined standard, says John Dwulet, Mitchell 1 senior product manager.

For example, software systems can report the time it takes to perform preventive maintenance services “A,” “B” or “C,” or to change or repair any type of part. The average time to perform PM service “A” may be one hour, but a manager might find that “Technician No. 1” averages .75 hours, while “Technician No. 2” averages 1.5 hours.

Over time, managers can collect this information to develop their own benchmarks of service performance, Arsenault says, and measure individuals that consistently over- and underperform – and take corrective action. In many cases, shop efficiency can be enhanced by using this data to assign tasks to each technician according to their productivity, pay rate and skill level.

As an option, some Dossier users track productivity with a point system for each type of task or repair and technician skill level, Arsenault says. For example, an oil change and lube might be slated at one hour with a five-point rating. The software assigns a score to the technician based on his performance. If he performs the service within the standard timeframe, the technician receives a full five points. If it takes more than one hour, he gains a point; if less, he loses a point.

Some systems can show supervisors the progress of open repair orders, which allows technician productivity to be monitored in real time and at multiple locations. For example, Vehicle Tracker from Squarerigger Software has an optional module called Shop Watch to customize and track the various states of each work order. The module lets users take a snapshot of tasks being performed by all personnel at any given time, allowing them to locate bottlenecks, improve workflow and adjust technician task assignments, says Ed Cooper, Squarerigger’s CEO.

“Any selected work order can be expanded to display each activity performed during its life cycle for real-time control of the shop environment,” Cooper says.

Regardless of how you prefer to track technician productivity – by a percentage, by comparison to a standard benchmark, or with real-time analysis tools – the ultimate objective of these tools is to create accountability for the entire shop, supervisor included.

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Aaron Huff is the Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. Huff’s career in the transportation industry began at a family-owned trucking company and expanded to CCJ, where for the past 14 years he has specialized in covering business and technology for online and print readers and speaking at industry events. A recipient of numerous regional and national awards, Huff holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Brigham Young University and a Masters Degree from the University of Alabama.