Warrenville, Ill.-based National Express Corp. has instituted an updated certification and standards system for its maintenance operations, with a focus on improving efficiency and productivity. The system, which is a part of the company’s Fleet Excellence program (Fx), is known as PMx, or Preventive Maintenance Excellence.
With a staff of about 500 mechanics nationwide, National Express gathered personnel involved with maintenance and spent several months with this focus group analyzing preventive maintenance processes and creating a set of best practices. “Our opportunity was to leverage their experience across 500 people,” said Greg Miller, senior vice president of fleet operations. “We’re trying to promote the concept of predictable maintenance.”
In addition to standardizing inspection methods and preventive maintenance, Miller said National Express revised its contracts with school bus manufacturers to require involvement in their quality assurance processes to share knowledge on bus maintenance and improve vehicle reliability.
“We said, ‘For you to do business with us, we want to be included in that process,” Miller said. At press time, the company was scheduled to meet with its No. 1 supplier for such discussions.
Miller said that under the PMx system, mechanics are encouraged to offer feedback as to what criteria or problems should be included in the procedure. “We’re reviewing every single failure through a semi-automated process through our fleet management system,” Miller explained. Failures are then scored on preventability, and the resulting data is analyzed for any evidence of trends that point to a need for action, Miller said.
The data allow operations to regularly quantify vehicle availability and adherence to maintenance standards. “We measure on a weekly basis,” Miller said. “I can tell you that every single element that we measure has increased. Productivity, at a minimal level, has increased by 20 percent,” Miller said.
Beginning in January, National Express also implemented what it calls Gold Seal Certification for its maintenance operations. “We combined all of the elements that represent fleet excellence in a balanced score card, and then we come up with an overall score. If facilities can maintain a score of 95 percent or above for four out of six consecutive months, they become gold certified,” Miller said.
In addition, the shop must meet with the approval of its local customers, who verify whether expectations were met. “Lastly they have to have passed at least one of our external reviews or audits,” Miller said. Gold-certified shops are recognized in the company’s internal newsletter, Express Press.