Management

Owatonna Bus Co. Shares TCO Secrets

Kelsey Nolan
Posted on September 30, 2014
Owatonna Bus Co. has six locations, serving 48 states and all Canadian provinces. Though the company’s bread and butter is school buses, its various locations also offer services such as a full paint booth for outside work, charter coaches and special-needs transportation. 

Owatonna Bus Co. has six locations, serving 48 states and all Canadian provinces. Though the company’s bread and butter is school buses, its various locations also offer services such as a full paint booth for outside work, charter coaches and special-needs transportation. 

A minimal total cost of ownership (TCO) is the goal for any fleet manager. With some precise company procedures, Greg Lammers, the fleet manager for Owatonna Bus Co. in Owatonna, Minnesota, has managed to calculate and measure his exact TCO for each vehicle in his 275-vehicle fleet. What has helped Lammers perfect his system is management software called ManagerPlus.

With this software, some strategic forward-thinking, and an effort to streamline his labor, maintenance and inventory costs, Lammers has created a system that minimizes human error and safety checks that ensure no vehicle maintenance falls through the cracks.
 
Getting started
Owatonna Bus Co. began in 1967 with owner William E. Regan’s purchase of Mason Bus Co., which consisted of two charter coaches, 16 school buses and a few hearses. Over the next 46 years, the fleet expanded into various locations throughout Minnesota, Iowa and Nevada. Now, Owatonna Bus Co. has six locations, serving 48 states and all Canadian provinces. Though the company’s bread and butter is school buses, its various locations offer other services as well, such as a full paint booth for outside work, charter coaches and special-needs transportation with Type A wheelchair vans.

Lammers explains that when he started with the company in 1977 as a service technician, technicians had to record everything in a notebook. They wrote down the mileages of buses at least once a week or when they were being refueled. The technicians recorded how much fuel was used, the date and the mileage of the bus. These notebooks, of course, were not surefire, and if a technician overlooked a bus or recorded the mileage wrong, it could cause maintenance and cost issues.

“All of a sudden if someone realizes a bus didn’t get the oil changed for 10,000 miles when it should have been done at 4,000 miles, that’s a problem,” he says. “The chances of something like that happening now, slipping through the cracks, is pretty rare, just because there are so many systems put into place to double check itself.”

For example, if the driver enters a nonsensical mileage into the fueling software, the system understands that and prompts the driver to reenter the mileage. After three tries, the driver can manually enter it, but the software logs it as incorrect and Lammers will get an alert. That’s one of the processes that makes an oversight almost impossible.

The evolution
The company purchased ManagerPlus in 1997 in an effort to cut down on paper waste, cost and maintenance oversight. The system was originally run on DOS and then switched over to a Windows application, which Owatonna Bus Co. has been on for nearly 20 years. In that time, the software has enabled Lammers and his team to streamline their processes, allowing them to focus their energies on the bottom line.

The first thing ManagerPlus allows for is each technician to log his own maintenance at every facility Owatonna has. Lammers once had to enter all the data into a single terminal by hand, from work orders that were printed. Now, with three terminals in the Owatonna location for four technicians, each technician is able to create his own preventive maintenance work orders in the system, cutting down on paper usage. “Every bus that’s brought in is logged right away, and the system tells us which service it’s ready for. All I do is make sure the info and the data is correct,” Lammers explains.

The other main feature Owatonna uses ManagerPlus for is fuel tracking. The company uses an independent fuel software that is tied to its fueling sites. Each major location has onsite fueling. When a bus is fueled, the company knows who fueled it, what time, the mileage and the amount of fuel the driver took. That information is then exported and uploaded into ManagerPlus every two to three days. Lammers has the pumps checked every six months to ensure preciseness, which is, in turn, how ManagerPlus knows when to schedule preventive maintenance for the vehicles. Plus, this is another area in which the company has cut down on paper flow.

On top of fuel and labor, Owatonna Bus Co. uses ManagerPlus for tracking inventory. Lammers says that mechanics can create a purchase order for a part. With the system, he can see which bus these parts went to. “We can track our usage,” he explains. “If I want to know how many oil filters we use in a month or six months because a vendor is having a sale, I can order those parts accordingly with just a couple keystrokes.”

With the transparency of information provided by ManagerPlus software, Greg Lammers, the fleet manager for Owatonna Bus Co., can quickly determine the TCO for each of the fleet’s buses, and whether the shop’s procedures are saving money.
With the transparency of information provided by ManagerPlus software, Greg Lammers, the fleet manager for Owatonna Bus Co., can quickly determine the TCO for each of the fleet’s buses, and whether the shop’s procedures are saving money.
Owatonna Bus Co. has been able to cut down on paper flow with ManagerPlus, which tracks fuel, mileage and inventory, and can schedule preventive maintenance.
Owatonna Bus Co. has been able to cut down on paper flow with ManagerPlus, which tracks fuel, mileage and inventory, and can schedule preventive maintenance.

Related Topics: efficiency, software systems, Thomas Built Buses

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