Making the job easier

Judy Workman, C.E.M.
Fleet Manager
City of Westminster, Colorado
Member, APWA Fleet Services Committee

The City of Westminster, Colorado, General Services, Fleet Maintenance Division, was looking for a method to streamline the snow removal process for their citizens and their staff. To accomplish that goal mechanic Steve Grabarek worked with local vendors in an attempt to identify a safer and simpler way to drop snowplows while at the same time improve workforce productivity. The answer came in the form of a 4-Plex coupler system.

Steve incorporated a 4-Plex coupler system that allows the operator to connect, or drop, the snowplow blade in a matter of seconds. The system is much safer because the operators no longer have to handle the hydraulic hoses; they simply push the handle down and it releases the plow. The amount of time saved is estimated at 20 minutes per plow resulting in a reduction of individual operator task time, labor costs savings, and an improvement in the time and cost of snow removal for both the citizens and the Public Works Street Division.

Steve also built a dump body on a truck chassis and incorporated a number of other ideas in addition to the 4-Plex coupler. One was a wiring carrier that was installed to protect electrical wires from the harsh elements found in snow operations. Another was a design that placed the electrical system under the passenger seat of the truck for easy access and electrical repair.

The fleet management division in any operation can benefit greatly from the talents and creativity of their workforce and should look for ways to encourage such activity. New ideas to improve the performance of equipment or shop activities frequently come from those closest to the issue. Not only does everyone benefit from the ideas and innovation, but morale, teamwork and productivity are also enhanced.

Another project that netted great results and "made the job easier" was the reorganization of the parts room. In November 2004, the City of Westminster parts room was inventoried and obsolete parts were identified and returned to vendors resulting in vendor credits of approximately $3,800 to the City. They also reduced the overall parts inventory by one-fourth.

In addition to the reduction in inventory and vendor credits, the parts room was reorganized to make ready for bar coding. The inventory was analyzed for turn rates and parts availability. An area was then identified and set aside for partially used parts on hand, and parts salvaged from retired equipment and available for reuse. Interestingly, there was a contest for the person that found the oldest part in inventory, and the winner was a 1960 part that they were able to put to use on one of the tractors in the fleet.

All shop personnel were retrained on billing, accounting for unused parts, and warranty replacement parts. The final step was a reorganization of shop manual storage, the cleaning and reorganization of the shop office, and the organization of work areas. These collective activities improved access to parts, reduced the time spent locating parts and significantly reduced the parts department labor cost. All of the activities combined to present a clean, professional image that improved morale, efficiency and teamwork.

For additional information about the 4-Plex coupler or the parts room reorganization contact Judy Workman, C.E.M., Fleet Manager at the City of Westminster, Colorado, (970) 430-2400 extension 2511, jworkman@ci.westminster.co.us. Product information about the 4-Plex coupler can be located online at www.forceamerica.com and www.fasterinc.com.