Corporations, rental agencies and the federal
government together utilize about nine million fleet vehicles, each
running an average of 25,000 miles per year, according to the U.S.
Department of Energy. That's a big carbon footprint.
"Going green" is no longer a fad for historically eco-conscious
companies. It has become a key management directive for corporations
facing higher costs, regulatory fines and potential customer backlash
for being dubbed "polluters." Service organizations - utilities,
telcos, home and office computer and equipment suppliers, etc. - with
dozens, or even hundreds, of fleet vehicles on the road at any one time
should especially be thinking about how to minimize their impact on the
environment. It's not just a business decision based on avoiding fines
or lowering costs. It's also a customer service and marketing issue.
Consumers are increasingly paying attention to corporate citizenship
and what companies are doing to become eco-friendly.
Outlined below are five ways companies can improve their green quotient.
1. Reduce fuel consumption - With oil prices hovering near $100 per
barrel, this one seems like a no-brainer. But the strategies for
burning less gas when driving are varied, and sometimes easily
overlooked. Regular engine and tire service is paramount to ensuring
vehicles perform efficiently, maximizing gas mileage while minimizing
excess exhaust. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage
by as much as 10 percent, according to http://www.fueleconomy.gov, a joint
project between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental
Protection Agency. Reducing aerodynamic drag from things like roof
signs or overly bulky side-view mirrors also helps vehicles reach their
maximum miles per gallon.
Driver training on how to avoid wasteful gas usage practices and the
use of GPS technology are less obvious, but equally effective tactics
for reducing fuel consumption. Actively minimizing bad habits such as
excessive idling and aggressive driving (speeding, frequent lane
changes, excessive braking) can lower gas mileage by as much as 33% at highway speeds.
2. Plan better routes - Planning better routes for field technicians to
maximize fuel efficiency starts with managing schedules. That is,
greater overall efficiency arises from transforming fuel cost
management into overall travel management by ensuring the right people
with the right skills are doing the right things at the right time.
It's true that companies can reduce total mileage by a few percentage
points by minimizing unauthorized trips and helping drivers pick short
routes. However, efficiently assigning tasks to mobile workers can
reduce travel by as much as 20%.
Location-based services such as street-level routing (SLR) can help
companies significantly reduce travel time and increase "wrench time" -
time completing jobs. Combined with GPS, SLR not only lets managers
know where technicians are throughout the day, it also ensures drivers
travel the most efficient distances between jobs. SLR takes into
account myriad variables including one-way streets, congested
neighborhoods, slow-moving highways, etc. and calculates the optimal
route each driver should take - reducing travel time and gas
consumption and ensuring on-time arrivals.
3. Avoid multiple visits - Frustration with repeat visits because a job
wasn't done right the first time is a fact in the field service
industry. But one of the effects, aside from customer frustration,
schedule delays and more time on the road, is more gas used to drive
back to the job. Consider that if 5% of your tasks aren't completed on
the first try, then you've increased travel by 5% and worse, you're
completing 5% fewer new jobs.
The problem isn't just about field technician skill or lack of proper
tools. It's about schedule management. Corporations need to ensure
they're sending the right technician, with the right skills to the
right job so the job is done correctly the first time. When you're
dealing with hundreds of technicians and countless variables, your best
bet is to automate the scheduling with automated decision support
software. This will help prevent repeat visits and the resulting
On the other hand, early resolution can minimize the need to roll
trucks. Occasionally, customer service issues can be resolved over the
phone. By asking just a couple of the questions that cover the most
common user-fixable problems (such as "Have you rebooted your
computer?"), companies can reduce travel time. Moreover, remote
diagnostics that allow companies to query equipment to determine
whether it can be fixed remotely or it requires on-site attention also
help organizations make smart decisions that can reduce travel.
4. Keep equipment in top shape - Equipment that is not at its best
possible maintenance status wastes more energy. First, elevators,
air-conditioners and just about anything else should be monitored
closely (via remote monitoring if possible) and maintained more
effectively to keep their energy usage at the most efficient level.
Electrical utilities managers are all too familiar with the need to
keep cables, generators, transformers, etc. operating at maximum
efficiency. This not only reduces overall operating emissions, but
replacing old infrastructure is also the preventative maintenance that
minimizes problems down the road.
5. Reduce unforeseen situations through analysis and planning - Service
organizations can also use historical trend analysis, reporting, demand
forecasting and planning to minimize unexpected situations that
increase travel time. Improper planning can lead to situations where
there is too much work for too few technicians, forcing technicians
from other regions to be dispatched to the site.
Utilities, home and office computer and equipment suppliers and other
service organizations would do well to study historical trends based on
variables such as the holidays, seasonal usage, scheduled promotional
sales, storm patterns, long-term projects, etc. to accurately determine
future demand. They can then ensure managers adequately schedule
technicians (based on shift, skill, etc.) to meet that demand. For
example, if a utility doesn't have enough staff on hand for a future
week of work, it can either relocate staff from another region or
negotiate contracts with third-party contractors to ensure the work is
completed. Automating demand forecasting and capacity planning helps
service organizations match workforce capacity to fluctuating demand,
which ultimately reduces unnecessary travel.
Going green requires commitment to eliminating wasteful practices.
These five tips are a good starting point for taking a close look at
what service organizations can do to burn less gas and minimize their
carbon footprint. Doing so cuts costs, elevates productivity, increases
revenues and assures customers that their service organization has
committed to being a better corporate citizen.