There may be a large market for full-service truck leasing, especially among private fleets, but that doesn't mean any leasing provider can expect customers to beat a path to its door. Unless, of course, that lessor has invented a better mousetrap.
This trap is actually a well-thought-out effort to beat the shop clock. More specifically, reports Duane Johnson, gm of the PacLease franchise that's in place at each Kenworth truck dealership operated by the Inland Group, technician productivity is being greatly enhanced by computerization and some rearranging of the shop environment.
Based in Burnaby, BC, Canada, Inland has shops at 16 locations in British Columbia, two in California, two in Arizona, and two in New Mexico. Some locations feature mobile service units to handle PM at customer locations. All told, the company has some 1,600 vehicles out on lease — about 1,100 in the U.S. and another 600 in Canada.
Even though it has been named the PacLease franchisee of the year three times and the last customer survey showed that 94% of its customers said they would lease from Inland PacLease again, in the competitive leasing market, Inland knows it can't afford to rest on its laurels.
Instead, Johnson says, they recognize that on top of quality service, they can differentiate themselves by doing everything possible to reduce downtime for every leased vehicle entering their shops and enhance customer communication by implementing several key changes.
The company's Phoenix shop, which processes 800 to 900 repair orders monthly, was the first to roll out the new strategy. The results there were outstanding, so the program is now being introduced across the Inland network.
According to Johnson, the effort to speed up service time in Phoenix increased technician productivity by a whopping 15% and efficiency per repair order improved by an average of 30 min.
How the results were gained is as straightforward as the results are impressive. “Each service bay is now set up so that the technician can operate much as a surgeon does — everything he needs is either within reach or is brought to him by a parts runner. And each tech has a computer right in the bay so repair orders can be input, tracked and approved by managers.
Johnson says this “benefits both the leasing customers and our franchise. It gets customer vehicles in and out of the shop much faster and since the process saves us time, we can be more competitive on lease rates.”
Enhanced communication between techs and managers is also a hallmark of the new setup. “Once the vehicle is in the bay, we open up the repair order [on the computer] and then keep in touch with the tech [as the work progresses],” relates Johnson.
“Using the repair order interface, which our in-house IT staff put together,” he continues, “the tech opens the order and can make comments as well as request parts be delivered to him as the repair progresses.” He notes that frequently required items — filters and such — are racked right in each bay, and the computerized program means techs no longer have to hand notes over to a service writer. “Before the repair order is closed, the supervisor can edit it, etc. And the customer ultimately gets more information, and all the data hits the vehicle historical record as well.”
Johnson says the clock-beating concept was first introduced to the Phoenix shop about three years ago and has since been rolled out to several of the other larger Inland shops.
“There's a lot of [computer] networking that has to be done so we do not have this setup in place at every shop yet,” he explains. “[The full concept] also entails things like numbered parking spaces with key lockboxes on each vehicle in the yard so we can find customers' trucks quickly and efficiently.”