Maintaining a fleet of more than 5,000 vehicles – including cars, trucks, street sweepers, tractors, Fire Rescue and EPS riverboats, trailers, ride-on mowers and much more – requires a whole lot of attention to detail.
Day-to-day, in the City’s Fleet Services transit and municipal fleet facilities, dedicated employees focus intently on individual work orders or estimates, on precise scheduling of preventive maintenance and on making sure work is delivered when promised.
However, in an operation that large, it pays to have a few creative thinkers overviewing transit maintenance operations from the 50,000-foot level, looking not at detail, but for patterns that can point the way to operational improvements, which in themselves lead to better customer service.
That’s one of the reasons why the six-member Industrial Engineering Group was formed – to act as an analytical ‘eye in the sky’ looking at the Big Picture, and recommending ways to be better.
The group is composed of team lead Bart Agate, a mechanical engineer, and five others with skills in data analysis, engineering, service, autobody, and mechanical.
“Once we see a general pattern, we look a little deeper at specific operational processes,” says Bart. “Our job involves a lot of root-cause analysis.”
A good example of the group’s work is their analysis of ETS changeovers’ – bus replacements while on duty as a result of mechanical or safety issues.
A changeover can occur with a major mechanical failure, but more often it’s something small affecting safety or passenger comfort. A broken rear view mirror, an interior heating system malfunction or problems closing a door can all necessitate a changeover.
“In a fleet of more than 900 buses, we expect that some of them will have issues on the job,” says Bart.
Bart’s group performed an in-depth analysis of the top reasons for changeovers. They engaged transit maintenance foremen and staff, meeting with them every week for three months to discuss ways of making improvements to reduce changeovers.
It usually boiled down to something simple, such as formalizing a windshield wiper inspection whenever a bus is refueled, and arranging overnight repairs or replacement.
In another improvement, the group worked with ETS Operations Control to make sure staff know how serious each of a bus’ dashboard warning lights actually are.
“Some really are serious, requiring a changeover. But some are just alerts that can be looked into after the daily run,” says Bart.
Once they determined several operational improvements, they tested them by implementing them in two of Fleet Services’ four transit garages, and compared the results to the other two garages.
“The garages where we implemented the changes experienced a significant reduction in changeovers,” says Bart.
The group, originally formed to look at transit maintenance, is now turning its sights on municipal fleet garages. Among their interests will be ways in which to improve preventive maintenance compliance.
“Preventive maintenance is key to improving our key performance indicators, such as the average percentage of a client’s fleet available for work, and the percentage of time we deliver on our back-in-service promise.”