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Mechanics Corner: Outsourcing fleet management

Ed Faulk for Progressive Dairyman Published on 07 August 2017

Running a dairy operation today means something completely different than it did 10 years ago. As product prices and government regulations continue to fluctuate, owners like yourself have to find ways to work more efficiently while also reducing operational costs.

Fortunately, today’s advanced machines are being engineered with technology and advancements to help you accomplish this. However, as machines are upgraded, knowing how to effectively manage and utilize the equipment becomes an increasingly difficult task.

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This is why many dairy farm operation owners are choosing to outsource their fleet management. By doing so, they are able to collaborate with an outside team of experts to reduce their overall operating costs – by assessing how they currently utilize their machines and how they can improve efficiency and uptime moving forward.

I often tell dairy farm owners to consider the following when they are trying to determine if outsourcing fleet management could benefit their operation:

  • Do you have spare machines or backup machines you keep “just in case” there is an unexpected breakdown?

  • Have there been any accidents on your operation that have raised safety concerns?

  • How many hours are you using your machines, daily and monthly?

  • Are you concerned with the amount of fuel your machines are burning?

  • Do you keep an inventory of parts?

  • How often do you have unplanned machine downtime or repair bills?

  • Do you know how to utilize all of the technology and features available on your machine?

Finding the right fleet management program

If any of these issues are a concern for you, it may be time to talk to your equipment dealer about outsourced fleet management options. Some advanced equipment manufacturers offer comprehensive programs which can be tailored specifically to your operation’s needs.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to research outsourced fleet management programs that offer a variety of capabilities so you can work with the program team to establish the specific outcomes you would like to achieve. To help you get a better idea of the capabilities of a fully comprehensive outsourced fleet management program, Table 1 provides a few examples.

Capabilities of a comprehensive outsourced fleet management program

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I always stress these programs should be a collaborative approach. You know your operation inside and out; a fleet management team can help assess it through a different lens. And, together, you can work to find solutions to build on your farm’s success.

Proven success

Now that you’ve read about what outsourced fleet management programs entail, you’re probably wondering how they have helped other operation owners like yourself. I’d like to share a few customer success stories:

  • A dairy farmer was noticing significant machine idle times throughout the operation’s fleet. After assessing the issue and implementing a fleet management plan, idle times were reduced by 65 percent.

  • A feedlot operation owner wanted to reduce the amount of operating hours he was putting on his fleet of wheel loaders while maintaining optimal production. He initially contracted with a program to reduce monthly hours by 25 percent – and later signed a new contract term for a 50 percent reduction.

    The operation has now experienced a 63 percent decrease in operating hours throughout the life of the contract.

  • Another feedlot operation had a fleet of aging wheel loaders and no monitoring capabilities. After engaging with a fleet management program, they implemented a solution to update their fleet with new machines. By doing so, they were able to decrease idle time across the fleet by 51 percent – ultimately leading to annual fuel savings of approximately $50,000.

    Additionally, the operation experienced a 40 percent reduction in the amount of time required to complete work on the operation.

As you can see, outsourcing fleet management can bring significant value to agricultural operations; it’s all about tailoring a plan to your specific needs. This is why it’s so important to find a program that offers a variety of capabilities, backed by a team you can trust.

Bottom line: The ultimate goal is to develop an ongoing, collaborative partnership to make sure your operation continues to succeed.  end mark

Ed Faulk is a commercial manager with Caterpillar Job Site Solutions. Email Ed Faulk

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