By: Vicki Allen, Business Services Team
This time of year often finds Fleet Managers and Staff in the midst of budget planning, preparation and budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. It can be a daunting, time consuming task that does not take into consideration your already full schedule of daily activities. Planning throughout the year will take some of the stress off of a budget deadline. Creating a planning strategy file for the upcoming budget year eliminates the last minute scramble. Add to this file throughout the year. A Business Plan can be an invaluable asset for planning a budget. Based on the goals you wish to accomplish, a Business Plan will create a road map, maintaining focus on your goals and allow you to acquire funding in increments to facilitate your plan. Budget justification that includes comparison graphs creates a clearer picture than words and figures. Using charts to illustrate how budget line items are dispersed also clarifies where expenditures lie and the size of related expenses.
When preparing a budget, consideration is given to proper staffing, predictive and preventive maintenance cost, parts, sublets, capital equipment, etc., which comprise the projected budget for the upcoming year. Adequate funding for operating capital and the services you provide must see you through that year regardless of the state of the economy. However, what plan do you have in place to continue to operate when unforeseen major expenses arise? It has always appeared that cutting replacement vehicles from a budget is foreseen by administrators as a means to balance funding. This is not a solution; it is a problem that has to be dealt with because fuel, parts and repair cost were calculated with replacement vehicles and equipment being added to the fleet.
Are you prepared for an unforeseen situation? Contingency is the big question: “WHAT IF?” followed by plan A, B or C. Having a contingency plan in place, for these and other unexpected occurrences just makes common sense. Many corporations take a percentage of a budget line item and set it aside to be used in a contingency situation. These funds can only be used in a justified situation. If the structure of your organization allows, unused funds can be carried forward and added to a future contingency amount, enabling the fund balance to grow.
If no plan is in place for the unexpected, you will have to become creative to do more with less. “Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul” is a strategy that will work for awhile, until Peter’s budget is depleted. Purchasing on credit is a widely used alternative, but the bill is going to come due and there may even be a cap on the amount of credit available. The result of creative problem solving usually culminates in a two fold monetary advantage.
A dreaded circumstance for a fleet is short staffing. Be it an injury, downsizing, or reassignment of personnel, it leaves the operation with a void that must be filled. Therefore, by having a contingency plan in place to handle the situation is essential. Employ “lean processes.” Lean Processes is a way of providing the most efficient use of employee time by identifying tasks that are a duplication of efforts. It is possible several people are assigned to a task that could be accomplished by one. The result may be a more focused and efficient finished product. A Service Writer or Supervisor should evaluate the repair strength and weaknesses of technicians. Assign repairs to the person that has the knowledge to handle it. Keep in mind, though, that cross training is vital to the efficiency of an operation. Look to Temp Employment agencies, technical schools, or reassignment of a qualified person within your own organization to fill a temporary staffing void.
All organizations have an Emergency Management Department that is prepared to activate a plan in the event of emergencies. Fleet plays a huge supporting role. Are you prepared to fill that role? Provisions need to be made in advance to handle extended hours and the inherent drain on your workforce. Design a shift schedule that will accommodate a possible 24/7 operation. Include built-in rest time at the facility and simple but nutritious in-house meals. Simple accommodations, like borrowing cots from your local Reserve Centers and cooking in a crock pot with an ice chest, will see you through. If your operation does not offer road side call-outs for repairs, consider outfitting a van or utility truck with essential tools, equipment, supplies, and parts. Additionally, consider having on-hand parts that might be required as a result of the situation you are in. Extremely important is to have all equipment, vehicles, and bulk tanks filled. Be prepared to provide fuel to agencies that normally do not pump fuel from your site. Create an emergency charge back system that can be implemented quickly. Inquire with your parts vendors and bulk fuel suppliers as to how long they plan to be able to provide services. Locate alternate vendors to use if needed. If you don’t already have an emergency generator for your repair facility, include this in your next budget preparation. It should be large enough to handle at least a third of the tools, lifts, lights and essential power equipment needed for repairs, also tire mounting and balancing, brake lathes, etc. Don’t forget to include dedicated power outlets for fuel island requirements, at least one computer, fans and TV’s. An automatic switch over panel from normal electrical service to generator should be part of the requirements. The generator RFQ should also provide for preventive maintenance to be conducted quarterly. A generator that won’t run is a huge wasted expense.
Bottom line, it is necessary to have a fall back plan. Shoving the possibility of needing additional resources during an emergency, be it monetary or personnel to the back of the table is poor planning. Look past tomorrow. Budget for the FUTURE by including a contingency plan for the unforeseen. Be prepared for when the reality of “WHAT IF” knocks on your door.
The FleetPros Blog is written and moderated by the Business Manager with contributions from the membership and Business Services Team.