Picture of RVS drivers standing next to their vans

Why RVS invests in process, procedures and people

Published:  12 March, 2018

Good workshop management isn’t just about costs and savings. Spencer Law, MD of Refuse Vehicle Solutions, told LAPV how to create and maintain an efficient workshop and a happy, productive workforce.

‘It’s all about the people,’ says Spencer. 

He was talking about the three major accreditations Refuse Vehicle Solutions has achieved for its workshop in the last six months: ISO9001 for Quality Management; ISO 14001 for Environmental Management; and OHSAS 18001 for Occupational Health and Safety Management.

The choice to go down the accreditation route was not simply about processes, procedures and ensuring the workshop runs smoothing and efficiently.

'As much as anything,' says MD Spencer Law, 'it was about ensuring the safety of the company’s staff, identifying training needs and helping to create a career path for every team member.

‘We’ve always tried to invest in our people. In practice, this means that we want everyone to feel they are listened to and that their opinion is worth as much as the next person's, irrespective of age or seniority. We believe that if you pay people what they are worth and value them, they will stay.’

Health and safety is of the utmost importance to RVS, and the company put all of its management team through the IOSH Managing Safely course. It is also compulsory for workshop-based staff to attend the IOSH Working Safely course. ‘We don’t want to pay lip service to this issue; we want our staff to know that we take their safety seriously.’

Spencer explains that a benefit of going through the accreditation process is that it requires the creation of a procedure for every possible eventuality. By doing this, companies can automatically deal with anything that comes their way, quickly and effectively.

Using the same processes across every area of the business creates a consistency of service and also means that staff can move more easily from one job to another. ‘We like to swap people around and rotate their skill sets so that each person can do another person’s job. It provides variety, keeps things interesting, and removes the “single point of failure” situation. For example, a service controller can step into the shoes of the service administrator and vice versa.’

He adds that going through the ISO9001 accreditation process helped RVS to ensure a consistency of quality that reaches every corner of the business. The company makes sure that all field service engineers receive exactly the same training, and offer the same standard of service and experience to every customer. That includes always requesting that customers inspect vehicles on completion and asking if there is anything else they can help with. Similarly, the office always follows up with the customer the next day to make sure they are happy with the service they received.

‘Of course, as you go through the accreditation process and create these new systems and protocols, you inevitably identify weak areas. It’s a snowball effect and we are now on a seemingly never-ending path of continual improvement.’

Accelerator software was brought into the business about four years ago and has been very successful. This creates a virtual card for every job that is managed by the software, which keeps a tally of all costs associated with that job.

Every job is tracked at all times, providing a continuous live view of the business and the ability to see how many vehicles are on the road and how many are waiting for parts or maintenance. ‘A particular benefit is that we are able to demonstrate to customers exactly much time has been spent on their vehicle,’ says Spencer.

‘The software enables us to calculate the labour efficiency of different jobs, the effectiveness of each team member and the productivity of the workshop as a whole, as well as identify areas where we might improve. If productivity dips we can dig into the data and find out why. It could be seasonality or the type of work, or it could be that more training is required.’

He adds that another invaluable feature is the automatic scheduling of routine maintenance and servicing, LOLER testing and MOTs for customers’ vehicles and RVS’s own hire fleet. This is all managed to minimise disruption and vehicle downtime.

‘We can produce internal paperwork and get quotes out faster, and everything we have in stock is on the system so if an item reaches the pre-programmed minimum we are sent a reorder alert.

RVS has also just rolled hand-held PDAs to the engineering team to enable the company to more fully utilise the software. ‘Our field service engineers use the PDAs to plan their day. They clock on when they leave their house and clock off after each job. Customers sign for the job and all the information is there to see, including the invoice amount, so everything is transparent.’

In April this year, RVS will complete its plans to double the size of its workshop operation with five new bays. This will enable the company to increase its productivity further by organising the bays into specific areas of activity. Some bays will serve as welding and fabrication areas, others will be dedicated to repair work and body refurbishments, and others to finishing, valeting and polishing vehicles before they are delivered.

‘Our aim is to keep as much as possible in-house so we use the Delphi system for diagnosing engine and chassis repairs,’ explains Spencer. ‘The new bay fit-out will include an inspection pit and a brake tester, and we already have a Summers mobile lift. We fit all ancillary equipment, such as radar, cameras, and specialist lighting on site as well as sign-writing. The only service we don’t currently provide on our premises is vehicle painting, but ultimately the aim is to bring that in-house too.’

Looking to the future, Spencer believes that the return of apprenticeship schemes is good news for the industry, and RVS has apprentices throughout the business. ‘We have developed a good relationship with a local school and currently, have four apprentices who are ex-pupils. We visit careers fairs, take a refuse truck and talk to the students about what’s involved. The students love the hands-on, practical nature of what we do, and they are surprised by the level of engineering, design technology, and maths that goes into building and operating bin lorries.’

The company is also planning to continue its accreditation journey and drive to improve and by the end of April 2018 hopes to have achieved IRTA Workshop Accreditation. ‘This will rubber-stamp our efforts to maintain best practice across our workshops as well as across our field engineer maintenance and repair services.

‘In terms of adhering to best practice, we have also applied for Van Excellence certification from the FTA. The Van Excellence Code covers everything from driver licensing, competence and behaviour, to vehicle equipment and maintenance, vehicle standards and safe working environment.’

Spencer believes that getting all these processes and procedures in place is crucial for RVS to fulfil its future plans. 'It has given us a solid foundation and framework from which we can expand our operations, while still maintaining the high standards that our customers are accustomed to.

'Ultimately, we would like to open satellite depots in North London and Exeter to provide enhanced regional coverage for our preventative maintenance and field service customers. The Gloucestershire premises will then serve as a super centre and a base for truck sales, administration, and a hub for training.'

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