Van profile: Tennant

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The fleet adage “Going green costs money” is being disproved by a UK fleet manager who has won a top award for his company and is seeing his initiatives studied and adopted across the business worldwide.

Lee Twiselton took on the job of UK fleet manager at Northampton-based Tennant UK four years ago and admits management of the transport operation was fractured, with different parts of the company responsible for different functions and vehicle policy managed from the company’s European headquarters in Belgium with little local input.
Tennant UK’s expansion – it also has a manufacturing plant in Falkirk – with the acquisition of two companies turned the spotlight on the company’s fleet function and senior management decided to appoint a manager.

Twiselton, who has been with the business for 12 years, was appointed in 2009 and a four-year journey from initially pooling information from different departments and determining a new strategy has seen Tennant UK becoming an Energy Saving Trust Fleet Hero in the organisation’s recent 2013 awards.

The company joined the EST’s Motorvate scheme, which provides support and recognition to help organisations reduce their carbon emissions and fleet costs. Having achieved the top Gold certification status as determined by CO2 reductions in mid-2013, Tennant UK was named Motorvate Member of the Year at the annual awards.

Tennant UK operates a 70-strong light commercial vehicle fleet and 35 company cars. Critical to its achievement was a raft of measures delivering a 17% CO2 emission reduction across the fleet in two years; and an average 5mpg-
per-vehicle fuel improvement, netting an £80,000 saving in one year.

‘We can prove it is not expensive to go green’

Twiselton, who spends approximately 30% of his time on UK fleet management responsibilities and 70% on European logistics projects, says: “Our focus has been on driving down CO2 emissions across the fleet and driving up fuel economy. We have disproved the fleet adage that going green costs money. We can prove it is not expensive to go green.”

While winning EST recognition has been a triumph for Twiselton, he says senior management support for the introduction of initiatives underpinning a new fully focused approach to the company’s fleet operation was critical.

He explains: “It is vital to talk to organisations like EST and other fleet managers that have been on a similar journey; there are clear gains to be had in terms of operating efficiencies but ultimately it is about cost savings. Improving profitability is key for business.

“We challenged current practices by analysing numbers and being able to demonstrate what each initiative would deliver in terms of cost savings. It was not always easy, but by benchmarking current numbers and using external expertise and our own ideas we were able to prove what we thought was achievable. Our case for change was so strong that senior management gave their support, but you cannot introduce initiatives without doing your homework and proving the case with numbers.”

‘EST gave us the reassurance we needed’

Twiselton continues: “Involving the EST gave us new ideas to implement and crucially reinforced our own thinking. EST gave us the reassurance that we needed that what we were planning would deliver what we wanted.

“Fleet has moved from an evil necessity that was required to run the business to a transparent operation that is reported on effectively with known costs and specific objectives to make it better and more cost-effective.”

Tennant UK’s fleet is composed almost exclusively of Ford Transits driven by home-based service engineers, with a handful of Vauxhall Movanos and 4x4s used for transporting and towing cleaning machines.

Vehicle selection is based on wholelife cost criteria, with vans that average 25,000-30,000 miles a year leased from Arval and LeasePlan on four-year replacement cycles – around half the historic replacement cycle to maximise benefits from fast-moving vehicle engine technology improvements.

The company, which has its worldwide headquarters in Minneapolis, is a leader in manufacturing machines –including electric street sweepers – used by organisations to maintain indoor and outdoor surfaces and coatings for repairing and protecting floors and provides an aftermarket parts and maintenance service. The company is also a global leader in developing innovative cleaning technologies.

Tennant’s focus is on producing new products and fluids that are more environmentally friendly than others and that DNA commitment also gave rise to the focus on literally cleaning up its fleet.

“Creating a cleaner, safer, healthier world is core to Tennant,” says Twiselton, who witnessed Tennant UK achieving international environmental management standard ISO 14001 in 2013.

“We are now mirroring that in our fleet operation as a result of our focus on reducing our CO2 footprint. Our success has perhaps been a bit of a surprise to the business, but it has been very well received in the United States and the rest of Europe and we are now being asked by other parts of the business to share our knowledge and expertise.”

As a result, the UK fleet operation has been transformed into an award-winning centre of excellence delivering advice internationally.

For example, Twiselton is a member of a European team that has formulated an LCV replacement sign-off strategy delivering a reduction in the size of vans operated, while still basing selection on wholelife cost criteria and other key data including payload, volume and CO2 emissions.

Since launching in the UK more than a year ago, 26 Transit 330 vans have been replaced by Transit 300 vehicles delivering a range of benefits but notably fuel efficiency and CO2 emission improvements.

Weight reduction campaign

The introduction of smaller vans followed a major weight reduction campaign focused on reducing the number of tools and machine replacement parts and quantity of replacement machine fluids carried by service engineers.

The initiative has also resulted in most Transits in Spain, for example, being replaced by Transit Connects and in France Renault Trafics replaced with Renault Kangoos.

Twiselton, who is also responsible for managing service van inventories across Tennant’s 220-strong European van fleet, explains: “Our strategy focuses on replacing a van with a vehicle that has a lower CO2, which also aids fuel efficiency. We analysed what the service engineers were actually carrying in their vans and found it frequently included parts that were rarely used, unnecessarily large tanks of cleaning machine replacement fluids and duplicate tools.

“We were able to significantly reduce the weight of goods and equipment carried, in the worst-case scenario, by 300kg. That created space in vehicles and triggered a downsizing policy when replacing vans.”

Tennant UK’s lean service van programme is soon to include studies to reduce vehicle journeys through further improving service van inventories, telefixing and remote fault diagnosis and repair.

Meanwhile, comprehensive monthly fuel management reporting using information gleaned from Allstar fuel card data and AA fuel pricing information shows drivers their MPG performance league position. Drivers are also asked to refuel at low-price forecourts.

Twiselton adds: “Previously we knew what our fuel bill was, but we didn’t know where fuel was being bought or how it was being used. Our strategy has changed drivers’ attitudes and saved the company money.

“A competitive edge has been introduced and engineers have naturally reduced their driving speed, which helps cut the company’s fuel costs.”

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