1. Based on the fact statements provided, summarize the maintenance department’s most important strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
2. Compared to a profit-making company, is it more difficult or less difficult for a government entity to develop a strategic plan or mission statement? Explain your answer.
Eden Bay is a medium-sized municipality. The town has grown rapidly, and so has the demand for town services. Eden Bay currently owns 90 vehicles, which the town’s equipment department maintains. The fleet includes police cars, sanitation trucks, fire trucks, and other vehicles assigned to town employees. The maintenance budget has risen sharply in recent years, and people are asking whether the town should continue to perform its own maintenance or outsource it to private firms. This morning, Dawn called you into her office to discuss the situation. A summary of her comments follows: Dawn (IT manager): When I came here two years ago, I was told that Eden Bay had a computerized information system for vehicle maintenance. What I found was a spreadsheet designed by a part time employee as a quick answer to a complex problem. It’s probably better than no system at all, but what we really need is a new information system to meet our current and future needs. I want to develop a proposal for a new system. For now, let’s call it RAVE, which stands for Repair Analysis for Vehicular Equipment. I met with the town manager, the equipment department, and several maintenance employees to understand their needs and concerns. I want you to start by reading the interview summaries I prepared. Before You Begin Review the following interview summaries from Marie (town manager), Martin (equipment department manager), Phil (maintenance supervisor),
Alice (maintenance clerk), and Joe (mechanic): Marie (town manager): Maintenance costs have risen 14 to 16% annually. I’m not sure that we have any real control over these costs. Some members of the town council think we should get out of the maintenance business and contract it out to a private firm. That might mean laying off current employees, and I’m not sure whether outsourcing is the right way to go. Both the equipment department manager and the IT manager tell me that our current record-keeping system is outdated, and I wonder if a new information system would give us a better handle on the problem. My own view is that if there’s a way we can become more efficient, we should continue to perform our own maintenance. Dawn, our IT manager, tells me that she has developed a proposal for a maintenance information system. I plan to bring it up at the next council meeting.
Martin (equipment department manager): I hear a lot of criticism about the maintenance budget, but I’m doing the best I can. We operate from one budget year to the next, without a long-term plan. I belong to a professional association of fleet maintenance managers, and I know that we should be developing a strategic plan instead of juggling annual budget figures. I’d like to build this department into a first-class organization. Our people are great, but they could use more technical training. Our shop and equipment are generally adequate for what we do, but we haven’t kept up with some of the newer diagnostic equipment. We have a real problem in record keeping. Instead of a short-term solution, Eden Bay should have developed a maintenance information system years ago. Prior to taking this position, I was assistant maintenance manager in a medium-sized city, and they had developed a system that handled scheduling and cost analysis, in addition to day-to-day maintenance operations.
Phil (maintenance supervisor): I’m in the middle — I get pressure from above to cut costs, and I get complaints from below that management doesn’t know what it’s doing. One thing for sure — short-term solutions are not the answer. I hope they don’t ask me to cut back on preventive maintenance. The last time we did that, we extended routine oil changes and servicing, and we ended up with even more repairs than we had previously. My mechanics are capable people, and they’re doing the best they can. One problem I see is that it’s hard to pull up a history for a particular vehicle. We keep the data on a computer, but different people used different codes and procedures over the years, and the system probably needs a good overhaul.
Alice (maintenance clerk): I’m in charge of maintenance record keeping. We use a spreadsheet system that was designed by a part-time employee who is no longer around. Because we work on a monthly budget, the spreadsheet has a separate page for each month. When the year is over, we start a new set of monthly pages. The spreadsheet is supposed to record labor and parts used, and assign the cost to a specific vehicle, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I also use a notebook to keep track of vehicle mileage and scheduled service intervals, so I can let the department heads know when a vehicle needs to come in for service. I write up work orders for scheduled service or necessary repairs, but often a mechanic finds other problems and has to write up an additional charges form. Each time a vehicle comes into the shop, I start a new row on the spreadsheet. I enter the vehicle number, mileage, and date. Then I enter the rest of the data into the columns for parts, labor hours, job code, shop supplies, and miscellaneous charges. At the end of the month, I calculate total costs from the spreadsheet, and we compare these with actual payroll and parts vouchers for the month. If the totals are close, everyone is happy. If not, we try to figure out what work didn’t get reported and entered into the spreadsheet. The labor codes also are a problem. Specific codes are assigned for certain types of shop labor, but these were changed three years ago when the new director arrived. Also, about half the labor can be coded, but the rest has to be entered manually — and there are no standards. Two mechanics might do the same job, and one records four specific tasks, while the other calls it a tune-up. I know the mechanics don’t like paperwork, but what can I do? I asked the IT manager if she could do anything to help, but she says that it isn’t worthwhile to update the current system. She says she has heard some talk about developing a new information system specifically designed for vehicle fleet maintenance. It can’t be soon enough for me.
Joe (mechanic): I love my job, but I hate the paperwork. We get a work order from the clerk for all scheduled maintenance, but if we find other problems, we have to hand write an additional work ticket. Personally, I think some of these vehicles should be retired before they get too expensive to maintain. I would hate to see the town contract out the maintenance. I’ve put in 17 years here, and I don’t want to lose my job, but I know that some specialized repairs would be less expensive on the outside. Most of the mechanics realize this, but let management figure it out — they’re the ones with the fancy computer system.