Crushing Supply Chain Obstacles: Top Fleet Maintenance Management Strategies To Stay Ahead

Crushing Supply Chain Obstacles: Top Fleet Maintenance Management Strategies To Stay Ahead

29 November 2023

Read time: 7 min

Get ahead of the curve

Fleet managers face a crisis due to an inventory shortage of automotive replacement parts, affecting fleet efficiency by increasing both vehicle repair time and maintenance costs. The shortage of truck parts is having a widespread impact, and parts can be on backorder for weeks or even months.

The long wait for filled purchase orders is causing operational disruptions, but the fleet industry still needs to keep its vehicles on the road and running at full capacity. To adapt to these challenges, fleet managers are relying on technology to minimize the impact of the parts shortage, while others are exploring unconventional methods to survive. Let’s examine the various strategies fleet managers are using to overcome the shortage of parts in the supply chain.

How Supply Chain Issues Disrupt Fleet Maintenance Management

The trucking industry has been grappling with ongoing inventory shortages throughout 2021, 2022, and now 2023, with the semiconductor shortage being the biggest culprit. This has led to temporary shutdowns of multiple assembly plants, resulting in a loss of new-vehicle production on a global scale. However, the shortage extends far beyond just semiconductors and encompasses a broad range of automotive parts, with the length of time to fix a vehicle becoming increasingly uncertain. This has led to longer fleet vehicle downtime and an increase in operational costs.

The shortage has become even more pronounced due to fleet vehicles being kept in operation beyond their scheduled replacement date due to a lack of available new vehicles. With high-mileage fleet vehicles at increased risk of unscheduled repairs, the wait time for replacement parts has lengthened, causing additional delays in getting these vehicles back on the road.

The average time for parts shipments has increased to several weeks, with some parts being on backorder for up to three months. This has led to longer repair cycles, with vehicles being non-productive at service centers for weeks waiting for essential parts to arrive. The situation has been compounded by a 20-30% increase in parts prices, driven by elevated commodity prices and supply chain disruptions due to the COVID pandemic.

Today’s parts shortage can be traced back to the winter of 2020, but it is worth noting that it is not the first time that such shortages have occurred in the global automotive industry. While the higher frequency of shortages is causing a more widespread impact on repair cycles, it is uncertain how long the situation will continue. Nevertheless, fleet managers must find ways to mitigate the impact of these shortages, as they can have far-reaching consequences for the entire supply chain.

The Key To Effective Fleet Maintenance Management

Keep Frequently Used Components On Hand

Minimize downtime and time spent waiting for parts by conducting a comprehensive analysis of your previous repair jobs. Identify the components that are most frequently used and consider purchasing them in bulk. Not only will this ensure you have the necessary parts on hand for repairs, but it also presents an opportunity to negotiate a discount with a parts supplier, leading to significant savings in parts expenses and the elimination of shipping delays for back-ordered parts.   

Evaluate Out-Of-Stock Purchases With Caution

For fleet managers, back-ordered parts can pose a major headache and lead to a cascade of issues and uncertainty. When a necessary component is unavailable and must be placed on backorder, even the staff who ordered it are unable to provide a clear ETA. This unpredictability makes it impossible for fleet managers to know when a vehicle will be back on the road. To mitigate this risk, Fleet Managers should take proactive measures such as inquiring which parts need to be ordered when booking a fleet vehicle for repair, including any potential backorders.

To mitigate this risk, Fleet Managers can look to a predictive maintenance platform for a solution. One such option is Pitstop’s own predictive maintenance platform, which enables the transmission of fault codes and engine component reports to a preferred repair shop. This proactive approach empowers them to diagnose issues before the vehicle even arrives, saving valuable time and streamlining repairs. By preemptively ordering necessary parts, downtime is further reduced.

Maximizing Efficiency Through Predictive Part Ordering

Leveraging the vast amount of data generated by vehicles, predictive maintenance platform provides fleet managers with a streamlined view of current and future vehicle conditions. This advanced technology is part of fleet maintenance management best practices, and allows for proactive maintenance, enabling issues to be identified and parts to be preordered before the vehicle even enters the shop. This results in an improved first-time fix rate, ultimately reducing unplanned downtime and its associated costs.

Can’t Replace It? Repair Or Rebuild Instead

In cases where parts are listed as unavailable or cannot be sourced, repairing damaged components may be a viable alternative. From bodywork on panels such as hoods, fenders, and doors, to engine components like starters, alternators, and even engine internals, several components can be repaired or rebuilt to restore functionality.

When exploring repair options, it is advisable to consult with local specialist rebuild shops as well as your regular repair facilities to determine the best solution for your fleet’s needs. By utilizing these cost-effective repair solutions, you can ensure your fleet remains operational and efficient without incurring excess costs and lengthy waiting times.

A Smarter Maintenance Strategy For Optimal Results

Enhance the efficiency of your analytical fleet maintenance management strategy through the strategic utilization of predictive analytics software. Many fleets currently collect this valuable information via their telematics system but fail to extract meaningful insights from it. By investing in the software to provide analysis and interpretation of this data, you can derive actionable insights that will inform your maintenance approach. For example, if the data reveals a pattern of premature component failures, a benefit of fleet maintenance management allows the adoption of a proactive strategy to address the issue.

Streamlining Fleet Operations With Fleet Maintenance Software

Integrating fleet maintenance management best practices will minimize the risk of a breakdown. To streamline this, fleet managers are turning to fleet management maintenance software – tools that are designed to help fleet managers better manage their vehicles by using artificial intelligence and predictive algorithms to provide advanced warnings of potential issues.

One of the main benefits of fleet maintenance software is that it provides a centralized platform for tracking and managing all aspects of vehicle maintenance. This includes scheduling regular maintenance and service appointments, tracking repairs and maintenance, prioritizing DTC codes, and monitoring the performance of each vehicle in the fleet. With this information readily available, fleet managers can make informed decisions about how to optimize maintenance schedules.

Another key benefit of fleet maintenance software is that it helps fleet managers automate many of their routine maintenance tasks, freeing up valuable time and resources that can be better spent on other aspects of their operations. For example, with predictive maintenance fleet management software, businesses can automatically sort through reported engine issues and diagnostic codes by severity, allowing for a more strategically planned maintenance schedule.

In addition to these benefits, fleet management maintenance software can also provide companies with valuable insights and analytics that can help them to identify and address areas for improvement within their operations. For example, with real-time data and analytics, fleet managers can track and monitor trends in vehicle performance, maintenance costs, and fuel efficiency, helping them to identify areas where they can make improvements and optimize their operations.

How To Choose The Right Fleet Maintenance Management Software

As a fleet manager, you understand that having access to real-time, optimized data plays a role in keeping your vehicles running optimally. One of the best tools to achieve this is fleet maintenance management software. To help you choose the right analytical fleet maintenance management software for your organization, here are some key factors to consider.

First and foremost, determine your specific needs. This includes considering the size of your fleet, the types of vehicles you have, your budget, and any unique features you require such as advance notice of vehicle issues or prescriptive warnings and alerts. Understanding your needs will help you identify the software that is best suited for your exact needs.

Scalability should also be considered. As your fleet grows, so will your needs, so you’ll need a software solution that can grow with your fleet. Some software packages may be limited to a certain number of vehicles, while others may not be able to handle the complexity of a large fleet. By prioritizing scalability, you can future-proof your fleet management approach and position your organization for long-term success. 

Integration options are also crucial when choosing fleet maintenance management software. With fleet managers using multiple systems to manage their operations, a software solution must integrate with the other systems you already use. This will help avoid data silos and ensure the accuracy of your information.  

User-friendliness is also an important consideration. A benefit of fleet maintenance management software is the user-friendly interface that makes it simple to sort data and identify trends. Look for software that provides clear and concise reports, alerts, and notifications and allows you to manage your fleet from a single location.

Finally, the availability of technical support should not be underestimated. Make sure to choose a solution that comes with exceptional technical support, including 24/7 customer service and access to online help resources. This will ensure you have rapid technical support anytime you need it.