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City of Galveston Leverages Business Intelligence to Succeed

with Windy Phillips, Marketing & Communciation Coordinator

Wikipedia.com defines Business Intelligence as referring to “computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting, and analyzing business data.” In other words: tracking and measuring key data you gather from your computer system.  Then using that compiled data to:

  • Determine how well you’re performing;
  • Find areas where you can make improvements;
  • Organize that data in ways that aid you in making decisions;
  • Compile the data to forecast and plan for the future;
  • And most critically—to sell your decisions and planning.

In short, “Business Intelligence aims to support better business decision-making.” David Smith, the Director of Fleet Facilities at the City of Galveston, fully understands the importance of Business Intelligence in running a successful fleet operation.

Due in large part to the City of Galveston Fleet’s successful implementation and use of Business Intelligence, their fleet operation experienced a complete operational turnaround. Today the City of Galveston successfully monitors the Business Intelligence of not only their own fleet, but also that of Island Transit, Galveston County and the park board. In addition to fleet maintenance record keeping, they provide fueling intelligence to the City of Santa Fe and the City of Jamaica Beach, among others. The Galveston school district has also reportedly shown interest in consolidating its fleet operations with the City in the future. But the future didn’t always look so bright. Once upon a time, the Galveston Fleet was a poorly run fleet plagued with problems.

How does this happen? What occurs to affect such a complete turnaround? For the City of Galveston, the catalyst was a management audit that found the Municipal Garage operation to be strongly lacking in several areas: “The conclusion was that the garage operation lacked in several regions such as organization, monitoring of downtime, and recorded keeping on the fleet for analysis, preventative maintenance, and financial data as well as all parts and sublet procurements data.” The result of this unfavorable audit was a drastic reorganization plan over a two-year period. What was the goal of this reorganization plan? “The new goal was to create a professional operation, which would run effectively, smoothly and without defects and would be cost effective to the city.” Step one was to replace the existing leadership. Step two was to find and implement a fleet management software system – to leverage Business Intelligence to foster a successful operation.

The City of Galveston got to work and made it happen. Two years after their unfavorable audit (and right on schedule with their reorganization plan), a new audit of the City’s Municipal Garage found: “The operation of the City Garage is one of the finest observed in a municipal government. The City and the employees of the garage should be proud of this operation.” And they have been a successful operation ever since. Director of Fleet, David Smith, keeps the operation running like a well-oiled machine using their fleet management system. In fact, they were recently written up by a local newspaper, The Daily News, highlighting the efficiency of the fleet operation and their overall success through their use of a fleet system.

As the article’s author, Heber Taylor, puts it: “It’s worth understanding why the city has been successful….in a nutshell, it measures things.” The piece highlights their successful use of Business Intelligence to right-size their fleet, right-size their staff, address training issues, address vehicle lifecycles, recoup warranty costs and manage preventive maintenance. Due to its efficiency, the City is also able to perform a good deal of insourcing for other organizations. According to David Smith, this insourcing adds funds to the City’s Fleet Facility budget. These funds can offset and reduce the repair charge rates to the city departments, which is a clear benefit for the City’s departments and budgets. Insourcing also means taxpayers can rest easy that funds are not being used ineffectively to keep more operations than necessary running independently.

So what Key Performance Indicators and intelligence does Galveston use routinely? Among their monthly data under review David lists the following reports:

  • Comebacks
  • Technician accountability
  • Fleet downtime 
  • Repair reason frequency

According to David, in their continual efforts to improve the fleet the City of Galveston chooses not to attempt benchmarking against other fleets, but rather “just analyze their own numbers and work to bring them in line after running a series of reports.”  This is not to say that benchmarking can’t be beneficial in some situations, but depending on how different fleets are run and the nuances of a given operation, sometimes it’s best to simply begin with yourself.

First a fleet should look to successfully record and measure itself. Then it should begin using its internal Business Intelligence to improve itself, to find problems before they occur and to make better decisions for the future. Finally, they may want to begin looking at benchmarking against other organizations if there are comparable fleets and data available.

A fleet system and the Business Intelligence it provides are only as good as how well and fully you leverage them. When asked what he’d like to relay to fellow fleet professionals, David’s one and only response was “when using your fleet system, make sure you utilize all the applications and reports.” And all the Business Intelligence in the world won’t make a bit of difference without strong leaders and advocates who can make sure it’s put to use properly. The watchwords of a successful fleet should be: perform, record, measure, analyze, advocate and improve.

Sources:

  • David Smith, City of Galveston Director of Fleet Facilities
  • Heber Taylor, “A Proven Way to Improve Efficiency,” The Daily News Galveston County, March 18, 2011, accessed May 10, 2011, http://galvestondailynews.com/story/218578.
  • David Smith, “CCG System FASTER / Municipal Fleet Software,” (Memorandum presented to Jeff McGinley, Fleet Manager – City of Pearland), May 23, 2007.
  • Wikipedia contributors, "Business intelligence," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Business_intelligence&oldid=426573516 (accessed May 10, 2011).