Labor industries, such as plumbing, have largely remained unchanged over the decades, at least to the customer’s eye. In many regards, industries like plumbing have changed how they operate and how they organize their fleet operations only marginally over the past several years. Plumbing work can often be completed with the same tools used decades ago. Plumbing vans still look the same, and mostly perform the same — even though they may be newer models. While the job of a plumber hasn’t changed much, there have been fundamental changes behind the scenes of fleet management, which ultimately means a lot of pretty big changes to how plumbers are dispatched, how they get to jobs they are assigned to, and how quickly they can get to the next job, among other things.
Let’s take a closer look at how fleet management could change how your plumbing company operates in today’s world.
Any plumbing fleet can operate as they have for decades, with paper files and time cards, a doling out of service schedules and routes at the start of the day, regular check-ins via phone, and so on. However, to operate at full efficiency, maximize capital, reduce costs and liability, and improve customer satisfaction to compete in the market today, your fleet needs high-tech solutions. Many fleets have already caught on to this trend, and have begun to implement technology and improve their fleet management. But technology is ever-changing, and many fleets aren’t aware of some of the newest features they can benefit from because of these newly implemented changes.
Let’s take a look at the best practices for fleet management in today’s tech age.
Technology for Plumbing Fleet Management
To survive as a business, you must be competitive — that much has always been true. But today, in the market we now operate in, being competitive means implementing the right technology to boost your business, make it efficient, make it visible, and make it competitive. You can provide the fastest on-the-job service, with the friendliest and most helpful professionals and the greatest customer service to back it all up, but you may find your costs are too high, and your fleet vehicle accident rate may hold you back.
You may find that your vehicles aren’t efficient enough or that your customers aren’t happy because you told them you’d be there at a specific time and your technician arrived late due to poor dispatch and route planning (that isn’t technologically optimized). Maybe the issues are even further on the backend. Maybe you’re failing inspections, or your technicians’ timecards got lost, or you’re spending way too much on repairs and administrative work.
Technology, such as fleet telematics, aims to alleviate a lot of the pains of fleet management in any industry. For instance, a GPS fleet tracking system makes it possible to know where your fleet vehicles are at all times. This eliminates the need to call them to check-in, which reduces the number of distractions to your drivers and also the sense of micromanagement they might feel.
When combined with route planning and route optimization, you can dispatch your drivers with the fastest and most efficient routes possible. You’ll send the driver, with the right tools, to the job sites closest to them, speeding up their response times and allowing your team to take on more work in a day. You’ll also be able to provide customers with a report on who their plumber will be, including their name, picture, and a bit of work history if you please, along with an ETA for their job. Drivers will be able to see information about each specific job, such as job site history and problem recorded, to ensure they have the right tools. Getting to the job site faster, with less runaround, also reduces fuel consumption, which will reduce your overhead and enhance your bottom line.
In other words, with GPS fleet management, tracking, and route optimization, your fleet can:
- Improve customer service and response times
- Reduce administrative labor costs and oversight of drivers
- Reduce fuel costs and mileage, leading to lower repair costs
- Improve dispatch efficiency
- Get accurate ETAs for both yourself and your customers
When you add in tools like idle time reporting and geofencing for fleet vehicle and asset tracking, you’ll even be able to see how long your fleet stays at a job site and how much fuel they consume at each stop. You’ll be able to provide your customers with the most accurate bill possible on the spot, boost productivity, and reduce waste as you go.
As you can see, just a little bit of the right technology can go a long way to improving multiple functions of your fleet.
Best Practices for Plumbing Fleet Management
Many plumbing fleet management best practices tips relate to the management of fleet vehicles. This is because fleets in industries like plumbing rely on their vehicles to get their jobs done. It’s one of the most vital tools, and one that costs the most, and requires a near-constant vigilance with regard to maintenance. Below, we share the best practices for fleet management in the plumbing industry.
Employ the Right Tools for the Job
This is speaking largely to the type of fleet vehicles you employ. If you don’t have efficient vehicles, then all of your other efforts are essentially moot. Even if you install fleet telematics in your vehicles, you’re going to get continuous alerts for fuel consumption, maintenance, idling, and other vehicle issues, as well as driver behaviors like harsh braking, sharp cornering, and rapid acceleration and deceleration. If you’re looking to tune up your fleet management, start with your vehicles. Consider purchasing through factory order. If that isn’t an option that works for you, consider leasing fleet vehicles instead. You want to implement a fleet vehicle replacement policy: a good vehicle lifecycle is anywhere from three to five years, which works well with many leases.
Work on Predictive Maintenance
Maintenance is a huge part of the cost for any fleet, which is why you should focus on predictive maintenance along with preventative maintenance. Predictive maintenance requires technology like engine diagnostics monitoring through telematics. This will allow you to monitor diagnostic trouble codes and alert you to potential issues long before the Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) set off. Preventative maintenance is the performance of regular maintenance, using a checklist and schedule to ensure things like filters, spark plugs, and batteries are replaced regularly — before they become an issue.
Put Safety First
A single fleet vehicle accident can cost your company a staggering $74,000. The costs rise even higher in the event of a fatality. You’ll face lawsuits, employee compensation, vehicle and property damage, and in some cases, more. You can avoid many of these costs by focusing on safety and implementing the right safety tools. Improvements to safety should include:
- Reducing accidents and resulting costs
- Improving customer and employee retention
- Reducing maintenance costs
- Reducing insurance costs
The right technology isn’t simply fleet tracking; it’s a comprehensive system that ensures your fleet managers and drivers take safety seriously. It employs tools like driver scoring and score sharing, incentive programs for better driving, driver behavior monitoring and training tools, and much more.
Focus on Retention
Every time you lose an employee and hire a new one, it costs your plumbing operation around $15,000. Finding new customers rather than retaining existing customers costs you even more (approximately five times more). You can improve the retention of drivers by improving their working environment through additional safety measures, digitizing and automating time cards and other paperwork, and adding an incentive program that allows drivers to compete in a healthy manner. Retain customers by improving response time, providing ETAs and driver profiles, keeping an accurate history of each job site, and improving your dispatching and routing efficiency.
Finding High-Tech Solutions for Your Plumbing Fleet
There are many high-tech solutions out there that aim to solve every imaginable challenge to your fleet, but there are only a few solutions that can do it all in one software solution, and even fewer that do this effectively and in a financially viable manner. Azuga focuses on making your fleet both efficient and safe, with features like geofencing, route optimization, fuel card integration, DriveSafe, and Azuga Coach. Learn more about how you can solve all of your plumbing fleet management problems, with Azuga Fleet. Request a demo today by clicking here.