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High-tech fleet maintenance.

When the Jacksonville, Florida Transportation Authority (JTA) was looking to automate its fleet maintenance operations, it had a tall order to fill. First, the software had to be adaptable for the engineering department's cars, trucks, and construction equipment as well as the mass transit department's 185 buses and its Skyway Express, an automated, elevated guideway run on electricity. In addition, the software could not be "cookie-cutter" - it had to have the ability to be customized to accommodate the city-county combined government's federal reporting requirements on revenue vehicles. Finally, the software had to include bus scheduling and driver timekeeping capabilities.

JTA selected HTE (Orlando, Florida), a government software company that offered the most comprehensive package for its needs. HTE was also able to subcontract for the bus scheduling and driver time-keeping components.

Preventive Maintenance

The fleet maintenance software makes it easier for JTA to collect the information necessary to control and analyze maintenance and usage costs, including those associated with employee performance. JTA primarily utilizes the scheduled maintenance feature, which slates equipment for repairs and maintenance according to a preset elapsed meter reading. The feature can also schedule based on elapsed days or fuel quantity used.

"We rely heavily on this feature because we are required to do scheduled maintenance on our buses every 6,000 miles. In Jacksonville, the city and county are one in the same. Such a huge service area means that some of the buses will run more than that in just one month. The report tells us how many miles the buses have gone and will automatically put them on a scheduled maintenance report," said Fay Joyner, JTA internal auditor, who helped set up the system and train staff.

Maintenance supervisor John Christenson not only uses the system to coordinate scheduled or preventive maintenance (PM), but also to track other repairs and time spent by mechanics. "The biggest advantage is being able to get the reports immediately. Once you've entered something, you can pull it up right away and know what work was done and how many hours were spent," noted Christenson, who oversees the 20 mechanics on second shift. Of JTA's 400 employees, 70 to 80 are maintenance personnel. The 24-hour maintenance operation handles approximately 40 to 60 vehicles each day.

As part of the routine maintenance, JTA can use the system to track all fluid consumption including fuel, which is important because 185 buses go through a lot of diesel fuel in one day. In addition, JTA can run reports on fluid levels that can help detect problems early. "We are able to run reports that show us miles per gallon and oil consumption, for example, and if they fall below our standard, we know we have a problem. That was one of the custom reports HTE did for us," explained Joyner.

Another custom report created for JTA was revenue vehicle tracking. "Because we get federal funding for some of our operations, we have to keep track of our revenue vehicles - mainly, the buses. Our reporting requirements are a lot more demanding," Joyner said.

Job Orders, Pooled Maintenance

Some of the other features of the fleet management system include equipment inventory tracking, billing, cost and quantity transaction entry, and job order entry. The job order feature provides reports on the frequency of job orders as well as the cost incurred for each vehicle system. Extensive codes are set up to be able to track work on the transmissions, engines, air conditioners, brakes, and other systems. Reports can then be run by the entire fleet, particular fleet models, and even individual buses if there is a problem. Maintenance costs of two fleets from different manufacturers can also be compared to monitor performance.

The system also handles JTA's inventory job order program by providing reports that would be practically impossible without a computer. Old vehicle parts such as alternators are often restored or rebuilt so that they may be used again. With the system, any additional parts or labor expended to rebuild a used part can be captured so that JTA can monitor those costs and compare them with the cost of purchasing those parts new.

In addition, a department feature helps JTA with cross-over maintenance. The same maintenance personnel who work on mass transit's fleet also work on engineering's cars, trucks, tow trucks, and the like. "We needed to be able to track the work our maintenance department does on engineering's vehicles, so we can get reimbursed," said Joyner.

In the future, JTA plans to use the software's capability to track system and equipment parts so when maintenance department personnel open a job order for a particular vehicle, they will automatically get a parts list on the previous jobs. That way, they do not have to look up the parts they are going to need every time they work on a particular vehicle.

System Training

JTA went "live" with the HTE system in October 1993. Like most governments considering automated fleet maintenance, one of the biggest hurdles was introducing automation to personnel with very little computer experience. Initially there was a little resistance because some people had never even typed on a typewriter let alone on a computer keyboard. The first year, especially the first quarter, was the biggest struggle, but employee skills have been raised to where they are comfortable with the computer. Now, when the system is down for a half a day while accounting closes out the month, they really complain because they have gotten so used to the computer and really look at it as a diagnostic tool.

Despite the fact that Christenson did not even know how to turn on a computer before JTA automated its fleet maintenance, he was eager to get the system up and running. "I've been wanting to get something like this in place for years. Before we got the system at work, I bought a computer for home. I bought a typing tutorial and brought it into the office so that the others here could learn to type," said Christenson, who has been with JTA for 20 years.

The mechanics had relatively good analytical skills from diagnosing problems with equipment. They actually picked up a lot of things about the computer more quickly than some of the clerical people.

Practically every aspect of JTA's maintenance, purchasing, and inventory was manual before the system was installed. When inventory parts were issued, they were recorded on a material requisition form. The mechanics also recorded their labor manually on a job order form. Those forms were forwarded to the finance department where an operator would key in the data. If the maintenance department wanted a particular report, it would have to submit another form to the finance department. Depending on whether the request was for a standard or customized report, it could take up to three weeks to fulfill the request.

One of JTA's goals was to decentralize the input of data so that the areas that were actually generating the work were operating the system. Now those reports can be run by the supervisor who needs them.

The system also proved useful when JTA was applying for federal funding to purchase capital inventory parts. Because the requirements were for specific parts like transmissions, JTA had to run specific reports so it would not end up with parts it would not use; JTA was able to do that based on the system codes it had set up.

The speed of the system has made JTA much more efficient in its operations. For example, fleet maintenance, purchasing, and inventory can be closed out the morning of the first day of the following month, and then the system is on-line by the afternoon. On the old system, JTA had to close out everything at the same time, including the general ledger, which took about one to two weeks. During that time, JTA had a backlog of work that would have to be entered as soon as the system was back up. So it has really saved JTA a lot of time.

Another advantage is a greater accuracy of inventory. When inventory parts are issued, they go directly on the job order. And because the system is on-line, it can instantly provide up-to-the-minute inventory details. Previously, there was a stack of manual material requisitions that may have been three days behind, so what came up on the computer was not necessarily what was on the shelf in inventory. "That has really helped us a lot because the maintenance department has access to inventory inquiries, so they can schedule a job based on when the parts will be available," Joyner noted.

"We are looking at how we can use HTE's system as well as other technology to help us improve our maintenance operation in the future. For example, the new buses we recently purchased came with the maintenance manuals and parts catalogs on disk as well as hard copy. We are moving in the direction of putting them on CD ROMs, so maintenance personnel are going to have to become even more computer literate," Joyner said.
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Title Annotation:Jacksonville, Florida, Transportation Authority
Publication:Public Works
Date:Nov 1, 1995
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