Optimisation and utilisation are twin considerations guiding fleet policy at security company G4S.
But the fleet also operates within a prevailing priority of fulfilling customer expectations – any new initiative designed to drive down costs must not affect this business prerequisite.
With an annual capital expenditure budget of about £16 million, within a total fleet P&L of £47m, any action that boosts efficiency will result in significant savings.
Take the company’s fleet of 1,600 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, for example. G4S invests an additional £55,000 in these £20,000 vans to install armour, ballistic glass, secure storage and technology equipment; it can’t afford to spend that capital on vehicles that aren’t fully utilised. Remove one or two and the savings quickly ratchet up.
Optimisation has been the watchword over the past year for G4S head of fleet management Darren Bell, and will continue to be his priority into 2014.
Bell joined the business three-and-a-half years ago from a fleet background primarily in the armed forces.
He leads a team of 52, 36 of whom are in-house technicians based at depots nationwide who carry out monthly inspections on every van as well as non-mechanical maintenance.
They also ensure the security integrity of the complex cash-in-transit (CIT) vehicles.
“We have been focusing on cost avoidance for the past 18 months and we are as lean as we can be.
Now our focus is on vehicle design so we are not overspending on bespoke vehicles,” Bell says.
“This is about understanding the type of vehicle future market needs so we can offer a low-cost solution that still meets our customers’ needs.”
The first step has been to create a multi-role vehicle, replacing two distinct conversion types for CIT and ATM (cash dispenser) roles.
“Reconfiguring the conversions to create one vehicle increases utilisation because we can move vehicles across the two roles,” says Bell.
“We can also have more standardisation on parts, which improves optimisation and results in less vehicle downtime.”
In addition to the reconfiguration, Bell extended the operating cycle of the Sprinters from eight years to 10. They are bought outright and have little value at end of life; extending the cycle enables G4S to maximise the return on its capital expenditure and conversion investment.
“The vehicles we were de-fleeting at eight years were mechanically sound, so now we do a cosmetic appraisal and keep them on fleet,” Bell says.
“They also get a four-yearly appraisal where we make any necessary adjustments, such as moving high mileage vehicles around the fleet to keep them below our 30,000-mile average.”
He has not seen any impact on maintenance bills. “We get an excellent service from BT Fleet and we have 97.4% available at any one time day-to-day. We don’t expect that to change.”