Equipment maintenance in Greeley, Colorado

Judy Workman
Fleet Manager
City of Greeley, Colorado

The City of Greeley obtained the distinction of being the first American Public Works Association city to achieve the status of "Accredited Public Works Association Agency" on December 15,1997. The process to gain re-accreditation was completed in March of 2001. Receiving accreditation was a good test of the Public Works Departments and Divisions to see if the practices being used were addressing the needs of the City.

A total review of practices improved communication between Divisions/Departments and gave insight to the necessary changes to improve operations. Examples include the rewrite of the emergency response plans to update and include steps for better communication and tracking of disasters; development of specific Safety Handbooks for areas such as Traffic Control; Equipment Operator and Mechanic Servicing training requirements included in specifications for new equipment; etc.

The City of Greeley Public Works Department Director is William A. Sterling. His support and encouragement helped Divisions/Departments obtain accreditation and improve operations. I was hired as Fleet Manager in July 1997, and have undertaken many changes over the past four years. The changes included returning to an in-house operation for the Central Fleet which had been serviced by a private firm for the previous eight years. Customer service, the ability to determine appropriate repairs in-house, and some innovative approaches to repairs have improved the fleet and Divisions/Departments productivity and cost containment. The Division received the support of the Public Works Director, City Manager, and Council in determining the change.

The Mission Statement for the Equipment Maintenance Division is as follows: "To provide maintenance and repair of equipment for safe operation in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible for the Department/Divisions and Citizens of Greeley."

  • Total size of the fleet is 462 units (23 Transit operation units)
  • Work orders generated per year = 7,110
  • Fuel dispensed = 429,500 gallons per year
  • Average age of the fleet = 8.3
  • Budget of $1,499,786

The Equipment Maintenance Division provides maintenance for all City equipment except the Fire Department. The Fire Department uses the Equipment Maintenance services for fueling, licensing, emissions and registration. The City uses outside vendors for various repairs such as body work, painting, glass replacement, and types of major repairs more timely and cost effective to send out.

The City has two Equipment Maintenance shops containing the Central Fleet and Transit Equipment Repair operations. The shifts are from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for Central Fleet and 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. for the Transit operation shop. An hour overlap is provided for shifts to have a transition of work and shop meetings. The decision to have a double shift was initiated for Central Fleet to accommodate late-night work to provide next-day service for increased productivity and emergency vehicle repairs after hours. Emergency on-call is provided via a pager for 24-hour-service to Central Fleet operations.

Keys to the operation success:

Support
Director of Public Works, William Sterling, was essential to getting the final in-house proposal before City Council, and his confidence in the Equipment Maintenance staff helped to boost morale. He worked to help get the necessary equipment and facility changes approved. The City Manager and City Council responded favorably to the need to change operations and supported the efforts.

Know costs
Cost reporting includes Target and Non-Target work. Target work is work that is done by in-house staff and at a specific labor rate. Non-Target work is work defined as unexpected repairs outside of preventative maintenance such as accident or unplanned engine failures. Non-Target work can be done by in-house shop if downtime, shop tools and cost criteria are met but normally is outside vendor work.

Teamwork
Equipment Maintenance has a crew which is dedicated to accommodating Departmental/Division needs in a timely and courteous manner. The employees were hired with a "how do you fit in" attitude in addition to experience. The team has a good rapport and created a work schedule allowing them to coordinate work and family needs. The diversity in skills and experience has enabled cross-training in the following areas:

  • Warranty Repair Tracking
  • Heavy Duty Equipment and Hydraulics
  • Heating/AC experience and Certifications
  • All-Data and other types of trouble shooting sources
  • Incentives for on-call service, shop operation and repair savings
  • Bus Factory in-house training, lift training, etc.
  • Customer Satisfaction Programs
  • Supervisory and Team Leadership Programs
  • Diversity of Heavy and Light duty experience and cross-training
  • A.S.E. Certifications for staff varies-Masters, HD/Light Duty, Bus etc.

Software
A review of the kinds of reports and tracking necessary determined the choice of software. The CCG Faster system was installed in December and produced billings by January 2000. Computers and software were ordered in a timely manner to allow input prior to the shop becoming operational. The experience of the Parts/Computer Tech hired for Equipment Maintenance helped to make the information input and report generation a smooth process. Although we lost all software history, a paper history was turned over by the private contractor to reference repairs on units. After a year we found that most paper records were not referred to on a regular basis.

Equipment Board
The Greeley Departments/Divisions were contacted and each area has a representative on the advisory board referred to as the "Equipment Board" to discuss upcoming fleet issues, pass on information, and be contacts for service. The representatives are asked to present issues of concern in their areas and share ideas on improving service. The Board meets once a month at a set time and minutes are passed out with the monthly billing information and notices for emission, registrations, and Preventative Maintenance schedules for their equipment. The Board provides Sub-committees for equipment specifications, driver training programs, fuel conservation measures, first aid and safety equipment, annual vehicle reviews, etc.

Customer service
The entire Equipment Maintenance team is aware of the need for quick response and positive customer service; therefore, an annual survey is done in addition to Customer Service cards to garner ideas for improvement. A few ideas produced from Customer Service meetings included:

  • A drop box for next day service with work order contact
  • A change in work schedules to fit the needs of the customers
  • A car pick-up service for the Police Department (freed up an officer)
  • Emergency contact information sharing in-state and out-of-state
  • A new checklist for the customer to show them items repaired on units and reference of Tech working on unit.

Right equipment
The startup of a shop is crucial because it is a one-time opportunity to choose the right tools and equipment. We found discussing the needs of the Technicians was essential in choosing the right equipment. At first glance some of the equipment we thought we needed was not what the Technicians preferred to use. One example was choosing a gentry crane over a four post lift resulting in cost savings and a better fit and use for the shop.

Outside vendors
Overhead and startup of a parts room was another concern. The local vendors willingly agreed to carry the necessary parts we needed on hand and delivered on after hours and emergency basis. The cooperation of the vendors has helped improve local economy, save shipping charges, and cut inventory costs, and bids and review of pricing various parts were competitive.

Reduce clutter
Get rid of parts on shelf that are driving up the inventory and are no longer of use. Clean up the shop to make it a safer and more efficient environment to work in. Throw out old files and information that is of no value. Upgrade to environmentally friendly and ergonomic work areas when possible to encourage staff productivity.

Inventory
Take a physical inventory of equipment to determine utilization and condition for replacement. Identify underutilized equipment and get a handle on your fleet to determine the need for a more efficient type of equipment for the end user. Conduct an inventory of shop tools to eliminate old or risky tools.

Innovations
The Equipment Maintenance staff has tried the following new and unique ideas:

  • In the case of accident repair, retired trucks or sedan parts are used to repair accident damage when possible to cut costs.
  • Units are stripped of usable parts prior to auction.
  • Buses cut down on electrical repairs caused by spills by installing cup holders.
  • Replacing drivers seats on buses resulted in reduced repairs and drivers being less fatigued.
  • A list of replacement units is given to each technician to avoid costly repairs on units soon to be out of the fleet. Any repair over $500 has to be approved by the Fleet Manager.
  • Engineering problems were caught by technicians and shared with the companies to change future designs and correct existing problems.
  • Idea boards have been installed to encourage staff innovations with training and City prizes as reward.
  • New picture lockout tags identify the technician to talk to if your unit is down.
  • Specialized Unit Daily Inspection books and driver inspection training for Loaders, Graders, Backhoes, etc.
  • A checkout board is provided for pool equipment.

The accreditation and in-house process brought our team together to work as a unit. I would like to thank the members of the accreditation process for their suggestions and input on how to improve our operations. Being on the accreditation team is not an easy process; there is a lot to review in a very limited amount of time. Doing the re-accreditation made us review things we needed to improve upon from the original process and make sure we are still doing what is necessary for APWA standards of approval.

Judy Workman received the "Fleet Professional of the Year" award from the Rocky Mountain Fleet Management Association in Reno, Nevada on August 11, 2000. She can be reached at 970-350-9375.

Portions of this article first appeared in the March/April 2001 California Fleet News (www.fleetnews.com), reprinted with permission by Mike Corbett, Publisher. Mr. Corbett will be presenting "Best Fleet Management Practices and Trends for the 21st Century," one of four Pre-Congress Workshops on Saturday, September 8, at APWA's Congress in Philadelphia.