Ask Autoglass fleet manager Ged Raymond about the single-most important part of his job and his reply is instant: keeping vans on the road.
However, with barely pause for thought, he adds: ensuring drivers have the right vehicle for the job, customer service, minimising cost and maximising safety. It sums up the multi-faceted role of the modern fleet manager; duties are spread across a wide range of responsibilities and they all have star billing. And a key part of fulfilling that billing is new technology.
It’s a far cry from when Raymond joined the business in 1979. Back then it was written ledgers, no audit trails and very little focus on customer service – the job was simply to fit glass.
Today the fleet operation is fully computerised and its fundamental purpose is to help Autoglass deliver outstanding customer service. Add to that the fact that the fleet has grown in size from just over 300 vehicles to almost 1,700 and the increased level of complexity over the past three decades becomes apparent.
However, one factor has remained constant: the need to keep vehicles on the road. Autoglass handles, on average, 6,300 phone calls a day and serves more than one million customers each year – equivalent to one every 30 seconds; Raymond’s ability to minimise downtime can make or break the business. So, too, can route optimisation; helping drivers to visit more customers per day by streamlining their routes and forward planning.
Improvements here have only become possible with the development of innovative technology, an area in which Autoglass is frequently an early adopter.
All maintenance for the van fleet is undertaken by ARI and Arval on pay-on-use contracts, with strict KPIs on vehicle downtime and operating costs. Pence per mile data shows costs have fallen in real terms over the past decade. “We outsource maintenance because they can do it better than we can and it’s cheaper, especially with a fleet of our size,” Raymond says.
“We’d have to employ four more people to manage it in-house.
“It’s also cheaper than leasing with maintenance because we would have to pay upfront. Compared to what we pay now, with maintenance would cost us about 25% more per year.”
Each Autoglass branch has maintenance charts detailing future service dates – as Raymond says, “prevention is better than cure” – which are checked by the company’s audit teams as part of monthly branch inspections.
Daily driver checks pick up on any smaller issues while speed limiters set at 70mph not only act as a safety measure against excessive speeding, they also contribute to reducing maintenance requirements. Autoglass has long-standing relationships with ARI, Arval and its two leasing providers, Activa (part of Arnold Clark) and Inchcape.
The partnership approach underpins its fleet success, helping to keep a tight lid on costs while improving operational performance. “You have to find companies you can rely on and have full access to accounts as far as your fleet is concerned,” says Raymond.
“That’s easier said than done, but we were small when we started with our current partners and we have grown with them.”
However, long-term loyalty to key suppliers doesn’t make Autoglass a conservative stick-in-the-mud, clinging to its partners through an irrational fear of change: it is constantly looking for the next big thing, often scouring the world for new innovations to trial.