How Virginia Beach City Public Schools Improved Communication, Workflows, and Analytics with FleetFocus
Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) is a diverse community and the largest school division in Hampton Roads and continues to outperform school divisions across the nation on key academic indicators. In their jurisdiction, they are responsible for a total of 86 school centers, split between elementary, middle, high, charter and specialty. Daily, the fleet management team is responsible for over 650 buses that may be on the road, though their total number of managed assets is higher. They are responsible for managing approximately 1200 assets, 800 of which are buses between daily use and back-up preparation, along with mowers, golf carts and more. As a result, they determined that they needed a modern fleet management solution.
Fast-forward one year, and VBCPS has been live and thriving with AssetWorks FleetFocus fleet management software. This transition was particularly exciting and necessary, as they were leaving behind an outdated Windows-based system for a modern, web-based solution. Phil Noteboom, Fleet Supervisor, noted that there was apprehension before and during the implementation. “Our technicians were wondering if they would lose old work, if they would have to adopt to new workflows and figure out new screens,” recalled Noteboom. “Thankfully, the actual swap over to FleetFocus was pretty much seamless, and people picked it up quickly.” Noteboom went on to mention that there were three primary pillars to the successes that they have recognised since switch to AssetWorks: Communication, Workflow and Analytics.
Improving Communication Internally and Externally
VBCPS recognised straightaway the improvements that had been made to their internal communication. Namely, the communication between their campuses, the FleetFocus system and their mobile teams drastically increased. Noteboom explained that the change in licensing created dramatic improvements for them. “Compared to our old software, which has licenses keyed in on users, AssetWorks is keyed in per unit. Here we are allowed to have as many users as we have computers – meaning our guys on the trucks and on the roads can access the system too. That level of accessibility has been a key difference for us.” In fact, VBCPS has something pretty unique going for them: their schools. “The beauty of serving schools allows us to connect to the internet at any of our schools – they serve like hotspots for us,” smiled Noteboom. “Our techs can go to any school, connect to our system in the parking lot with their Chromebooks, and provide mobile maintenance.”
Allowing their mobile teams to connect and transfer information all throughout their district helped to reduce load time and the painful wait for data for work orders or reports. Improvements to communication with your enterprise-wide software provider and with a large portion of your mobile workforce is nothing to laugh about. Noteboom and the team identified it as one of the three major differences that have improved their day-to-day work and team cohesion overall.
Communication improvements weren’t only within VBCPS, however. Greg Massa, Transportation Systems Specialist, is in charge of making sure that FleetFocus is up and running on a daily basis and that all applicable upgrades have been applied. “Go-Live went well,” he remarked, “Jodie Bentley [Sr. Project Manager at AssetWorks] was great and worked well with our particular transition, as she has experience going from Windows- to web-based software.” In fact, the transition was one of the key points of communication that VBCPS was happy about. Noteboom explained that they felt heard and appreciated by Bentley during the entire process. “She was very flexible. She had a base set of classes that she wanted to go over, but based off of our people and roles, we could modify the schedule and teach whoever whatever we needed,” stated Noteboom. “It was effective.”
Due to the success of their transition, the team at VBCPS could spend time exploring and learning the intricacies of the FleetFocus software. From screen to screen and report to report, there are a lot of hidden treasures to be utilised for the benefit of the organisation. “We really liked the Help sections,” recalled Noteboom. “On screens, they provided significant information that would assist us in figuring out what we could do with the software. It would ultimately save us some time from contacting Jodie!” That being said, contacting Bentley or the services team at AssetWorks wasn’t a bad experience: “They have been respectful and attentive – even if my questions seem silly to me!” laughed Noteboom.
Customising Workflows While Maintaining Data
To get a better understanding of the workflows that the VBCPS team experiences, Noteboom explained what a typical day might look like around the main garage:
On the maintenance side, we got early morning repairs. By 9:00, our scheduled services come in and we get busy, since all of the kids have been dropped off. Getting our tickets in is quick, quicker than our old system. After we go through the services, things start to slow down around lunch. As people go back out on their runs around 2, we end up getting a few more people come in that need repairs. Throughout the day, but especially at the end of the day, I’ll be working on any reporting or analytics that the Director will have a need for.
There are several notable workflows utilised during a standard day: sending and receiving work orders and part orders, interacting with drivers and scheduling maintenance, labour hours, internal reporting and analytics and more. Changing all of those organisation-standard practices at once may have made the transition uncomfortable or even frustrating for employees, but the customisation in FleetFocus eased the transition. As Noteboom put it, the customisability in the software helped them to maintain their effective workflows: “Field customisation – a lot of customisation on reports with headers, fields, specific, relatable data on your own terminology. You don’t have to change your terminology to fit the program’s.” Certainly, customising reports and forms to your preferred style would save a lot of time and headaches while you are busy learning the other ins and outs of the software.
Noteboom explained that one of the things they were concerned about was the transfer of old work order data to the new system. For them, this old data was imperative: “Our technicians use it as a diagnostic tool when a vehicle returns to the shop: what was done on this vehicle before, has this issue been addressed before, did that solution work, or not?”
The FleetFocus Data Load Tool was used to help VBCPS move their original data into the new system. The Data Load Tool is used to move over large sums of data that fit a particular mold, or algorithm. “I love the Data Load Tool. How much stratification do I need for this topic or this set of data? It allowed us to take an active role in the transition of our old work order history so that we knew exactly where it would be,” said Notebloom.
Analytics and Reporting Made Easy
When Noteboom first started digging in to FleetFocus, he noted something interesting, “This system is complex. There is a lot to learn, but you can always figure something out, and you end up improving how you are doing things.” Noteboom went on to explain that while complex, the system offered so much more than he used to be able to do in their old system, including reporting and inspections.
For any school district, reporting is crucial to success. Notebloom may be called on at any time by the Director or Department of Education to provide high-level reporting and statistics. With customisable reports, the Ad Hoc tool and more, Noteboom feels one step ahead of the game. “I have found the Ad Hoc tool to be simply invaluable, it is a wonderful tool. The functionality of the system creates a much simpler and accessible process to organise and present the information that I need,” said Notebloom.
As a school district, VBCPS has a particular set of inspections and guidelines that they must adhere to in order to help guarantee the safety of the schoolchildren. “With FleetFocus, we can create tests that mirror the Department of Education mandatory checklists for checking school buses. Each of the parts, such as tires, are set as tests and recorded. So, if the Department comes down and wants to see any information, we have it ready.” It wasn’t always that simple, however. VBCPS has to run their inspections every 45 school days to ensure that their buses are up to code in safety and reliability. “Previously, we had to pull in and import an Excel spreadsheet and note sheet,” recalled Noteboom. “But now it’s all integrated in our software and forms. It digitised and made the whole system much simpler.”
Virginia Beach City Public Schools took on a large challenge by moving from a Windows-based fleet management system to a web-based one. Yet, it paid off for them in spades. They have seen dramatic improvements in convenience and effectiveness through three key areas: communication, workflows and analytics. These areas are responsible for helping to keep their fleet management division effective, safe and cost-efficient. After having used FleetFocus for about a year, Noteboom is happy with all of the things he has learned and implemented and is excited for those that have yet to come.