Managing Materials

Managing Materials
A medium size fleet of 500 vehicles with its own garage may consume $1-million per year in parts and automotive materials.

Does your fleet team have the know-how to manage all the supplies and parts needed to run your department smoothly?

What is the process that we call “fleet management”? Essentially, four inputs are required: labour, material, contracted services and overhead. The expected product is a trip. If the fleet includes equipment, another product is a job.

Based on my own industry observations, material is one of the inputs that gets less attention than it deserves. Getting materials for a fleet—beginning with the fundamental step of acquiring a vehicle— involves a vast commercial system with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of choices. Many fleets have stock rooms with thousands of parts that need special skills and training to make them efficient. How confident is the fleet manager that the required competencies are in place?

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Supply Chain Management Association, which was created by the merger of the Purchasing Managers Association of Canada (PMAC) and the Supply Chain and Logistics Association. Their annual conference was held this past May in Montreal and brought together members from all 10 of its provincial associations. The SCMA website says that there are more than 7,000 members.

Professional development

SCMA offers a number of study options to educate and develop skills at all levels in the supply chain. There is on-site training offered in some areas. This creates an opportunity for fleet stock keepers in the same way that NAFA Fleet Management Association and other fleet-focused membership groups offer to fleet managers. A professional certificate can be earned— the Certified Supply Chain Management Professional. Just as a fleet general manager can become a Certified Automotive Fleet Manager through NAFA, employees in the stock room can also stand out.

Fleet stock keepers often come into the job with the same level of experience as fleet managers do, which is effectively negligible. I wrote recently in this space of my entry into fleet management that had I not become a member of a fleet association early in my career, I doubt I would have made any progress. It is logical to consider professional affiliations for stock keepers in the same way.

Trios College is an academic institution that offers a diploma in supply chain and logistics, which is another way to educate stock keepers and hold their interest in their jobs. It is focused more on freight than on fleet management but the fundamentals support both lines of business.

Lack of on-the-job training

Involving fleet stock keepers in a higher level of professional development is a good investment. A medium size fleet of 500 vehicles with its own garage may consume $1-million per year in parts and automotive materials, and the same amount again in fuel. On-the-job training used to be the only way that stock keepers learned the ropes. But with so many seasoned stock keepers now retired, the ability of most organizations to provide much help has eroded.

The news is full of discussion about NAFTA, CETA, TPP and Brexit. Even if you know what all of these things are, understanding what they mean for your materials input is not easy. We need to use resources like these to keep up.

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