February 2013, Automotive Fleet - Feature
According to Gino Fontana, assistant VP, North American Maintenance Operations for Emkay, with the realization that having numerous platforms was impractical, Auto Integrate’s system held immediate appeal for the FMC, who suspended development of its own proprietary e-authorization maintenance portal.
“Rather than have multiple FMCs have their own proprietary portals, getting each of the vendors to do it, and having the vendors do the same thing to us, we liked Auto Integrate’s concept of having a universal platform, which has been successfully implemented in various other forms in the fleet management industry, such as new vehicle ordering and remarketing,” Fontana said.
The system is being used by Emkay’s personnel for two specific maintenance functions. “This is really an interface between us and our maintenance vendors and it’s also a platform for our maintenance techs to use for maintenance authorizations,” Fontana said.
Bartlett described the development process as a give-and-take relationship. This is where the system’s flexibility came into play.
Bartlett added that the system was designed either to be used in concert, with an existing system, as was the case with Emkay, or on its own.
The cost for Auto Integrate’s system is based on a transactional charge, according to Bartlett.
Emkay implemented the system in August 2012 and it is now standard operating procedure for the 90,000 fleet vehicles the company currently manages.
Anatomy of an E-Authorization
Emkay has been working with dozens of independent shops to transact successfully through the Auto Integrate system. The FMC said it sees the real benefits of the system to be seen when the larger national accounts to begin using the system. Sears is first in line.
According to Fontana, a typical fleet maintenance e-authorization transaction begins with a shop contacting Emkay that it has one of its vehicles in for service. An Emkay advisor will pull up the particulars and maintenance history of the fleet vehicle that has come in for repairs. As the shop describes the issue, the advisor is matching it to 4,800 repair codes, which are designed to give line-item detail both in terms of labor and parts cost.
The result of this approach is much greater granularity in detail, according to Fontana. “It gives us some pretty good horsepower for reporting and budgeting capability,” he said.
And, as the needs of Emkay and its fleet customers evolve, the Auto Integrate system can change with them, according to Bartlett.
“By starting from scratch with our own development team, it’s very easy for us to add downtime management and breakdown systems; it’s all to enhance the customer service experience as well,” he said.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the Auto Integrate system is that authorizations are easier to approve, according to Fontana. And, with that, drivers and vehicles are getting back on the road faster.
One of the biggest headaches of the old telephone-only systems was billing disputes on the back-end. According to Bartlett, the Auto Integrate system has eliminated this headache.
Ironically, while e-authorization is making maintenance more efficient, it has also made it more complex, because of the added level of detail, but that isn’t a negative.
“It is more involved for the advisors, but, at the end of the day, it makes the job of what’s going on with the vehicle a lot easier for clients to understand,” Fontana said.
While drivers and vehicles are getting back on the road faster and back to the job at hand, that’s only the immediate benefit of Auto Integrate’s system. The greater transaction detail helps Emkay’s commercial fleet clients identify patterns related to vehicles and drivers, according to Fontana.
Tepas sees nothing but wins for Auto Integrate and e-authorization in general. “Fleet companies and maintenance shops will gain tremendous efficiencies from this platform, but the customer will be the ultimate beneficiary,” Tepas stated. “Controlling costs is simplified, and the time to approve a repair is dramatically reduced, which means drivers can be back on the road quicker. The Auto Integrate platform has an integrated pricing model allows for more time to be spent on the exceptions.”
Likewise, Santor of Sears sees e-authorziation transforming maintenance. “The more suppliers that are on this, the more FMCs will want to be on it. If everybody’s on it, then we all achieve great benefits. Of course, we’re happy to be first on it and lead the market for as long as we can, but I think eventually everybody will be on it and it will serve to improve U.S. fleet service,” he said.