Innovative Fleet Management with Sheffield City Council
Like many Local Authorities across the country, Sheffield City Council has been challenged by a combination of budget cuts and staff reductions in recent years. Tasked with maintaining throughput and high service levels in spite of these resource constraints, the council’s transport management team had little option but to get creative.
Assistant Transport Manager Mark Betts (seated left) has set about a process of modernising operations by making the most of available technology.
Today, his team maintain over 1,500 vehicles and processes more than 12,000 scheduled tasks per year – each involving multiple stock items – for multiple departments across the Council and other external contractors. They do so operating on reduced budget compared with three years ago, and with significantly fewer staff.
Most impressively – and most importantly – customer service levels have actually risen in this period. Here’s how they managed it.
On one level, Mark’s solution was a simple one: Sheffield already had a functioning fleet management system (Trapeze’s Fleetmaster), but staff didn’t know the extent of its potential. Mark resolved to find out.
Around the same time, a meeting with another council proved a key stage in the process. Trapeze arranged for Mark to visit Darlington Borough Council, where they were using Fleetmaster’s recently-developed touchscreen module, which enables workshop technicians to enter job details directly into the system, eradicating the need for paperwork and saving time. Impressed by what he had seen, Mark decided to implement it at Sheffield as soon as possible.
Budget reductions were unavoidable, but the changes that Mark implemented have enabled the team to meet their targets and continue to deliver a high level of service. “The Touchscreen module has pushed us into a new era,” he explains. “Recording job details used to be a very long and laborious process, accounting for about 60% of the back-office staff’s job – and there was often a backlog, so they had to do overtime.”
The touchscreen module has eradicated the need for re-keying data and this automation has enabled some staff to move to other sections of the council, reducing the team from seven office staff to four. Of the four that remain, three are new starters, illustrating Sheffield’s increased flexibility in recruiting.
Any technology investments have been made with an eye firmly on speed of return: “I’d estimate that the touchscreen module paid for itself within a month.”
And how about those customer service levels? Workshop staff now communicate with other departments and clients via e-mail rather than post, saving time and improving the customer experience: “Other internal departments can view the diary and find out what’s happening with their vehicles and at what times,” Mark says. “We can also track the progress of the vehicle via an audit trail: it’s a lot more professional – how it should be.”
By introducing new technology, Sheffield have better control over information and can manage staffing issues much more easily: “Before everything was in people’s heads so it was a problem if someone went on holiday or left.”
Furthermore, this process has been a catalyst for streamlining other areas. Other workflows, such as signing off invoices, are now inbuilt in Fleetmaster, and Mark has moved from Workshops into Transport, where he is aiming to streamline other processes.
And of course there’s an environmental benefit here too: “Getting rid of job cards also has environmental benefits,” says Mark. “One of the council’s objectives is digitalisation: there are a lot of cost savings and efficiencies in that.”
The quest to improve efficiency is never finished. “We want to continue improving the system we’ve got and squeeze more out of it,” Mark continues. “Recent budget cuts have forced us to do this but it’s the right thing to do. We want to keep on making our operation more streamlined and efficient.”
What makes Mark most happy about the changes at Sheffield? “Surviving the worst recession in living memory – and maintaining a high level of service throughout,” he says. “The budget and resources were reduced, but the work wasn’t – and clients still had the same, if not higher, expectations so the pressure on us increased. We have had to think about things differently; be smart and creative. I think we’ve done an amazing job.” We couldn’t agree more.
"I’d estimate that the touchscreen module paid for itself within a month."
- Mark Betts, Assistant Transport Manager