City fleet services helps peers at Alliant Energy

 by Tim Kenyon

CEDAR RAPIDS – It seems more often than not that the public sector turns to the private sector for consultation.

In a turnaround, the Cedar Rapids Fleet Services Division held a training day last week for about a dozen of their counterparts at Alliant Energy.

The Alliant Energy fleet supervisors and mechanics visited to learn how the city’s division implemented and uses an updated software program to improve efficiency and aim toward a more paperless operation.

“The (city’s) fleet services division is one of the first organizations in the Midwest to successfully implement the Asset Works Info Center part of our fleet management software. Info Center is the shop automation portion of the software package that fully automates the parts and repair sides of the garage operation, and effectively eliminates over 95 percent of paper work orders,” according to Cassie Willis, communications liaison for the city.

Rapport between the two organizations made the site visit a natural as both Dennis Hogan and Joy Huber, city fleet services manager and senior fleet administrator, respectively, formerly worked for the fleet department at Alliant Energy.

Both fleets face busy repair and maintenance schedules, as Alliant’s fleet includes about 3,400 vehicles and the city has more than 900 vehicles (not including tractors or mowers).  

The city runs two shifts of mechanics to keep fewer vehicles waiting for work.

Several Alliant fleet staff members noticed the quickness and time savings they should see when they implement the software upgrade this summer.

The logging system provides ways to track labor hours more precisely because of the on-and-off job time required. Supervisors can better assign jobs and monitor time spent by mechanics on varied work tasks.

A handy option for them is being able to edit the notes of their staff mechanics, Ms. Huber said.

She said the city fleet staff continues to look to improve capabilities of the software. For example, staffers are reviewing ways to fine tune performance measurements for the parts shop and inventory management, she said.

The shorter shop time turnaround will aid in reducing down time for vehicles, a big benefit, particularly in bad weather conditions when calls increase, said Joe Carter from Alliant’s location in Madison, Wis.

The city’s fleet divides into two shop locations: the main one in the former Sign Productions facility at 1010 First St. NW, and another at the police station, 505 First St. SW.

In contrast, Alliant’s fleet locations are spread out over 14 garages in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Thus, the company will benefit greatly in the improved communications expected from the system upgrade, said Bryan Bohland, a Cedar Rapids shop foreman.    

Ken Fish, a supervisor based in Anamosa, said time gained is important as “it frees you up and gets vehicles back out rather than sitting around waiting for repair or maintenance.”

It also helps provide quicker customer service, Mr. Fish noted.

Mr. Hogan said he learned from his experience at Alliant and with the city that sharing ways to improve the work flow and reduce expenses are common objectives for vehicle management in public and private sectors.  

“We tap into every networking opportunity we can,” he said, noting his frequent contact with colleagues in both sectors.

The city’s main fleet department is forced to be more organized than before the flood because it has half the space of the old location at the Public Works Complex on Sixth Street SW, Mr. Hogan said.

“This is a building of necessity, not function,” he said regarding the First Street facility, which he believes will be the main fleet facility for at least a few years.

Forcing improved organization is a good thing, though, Mr. Hogan noted.