The vehicles your employees use on the job are more than just modes of transportation. When your workers get behind the wheel, they’re sitting down in a mobile office complete with data, video, voice and warning systems.
As vehicle technologies evolve, your fleet will need a strategic upfit plan and this is something you should do with very careful consideration. Proper installation leads to safer, more productive workers, while an upfit done without proper planning can do the opposite.
“A successful installation, or job well done, makes the process seamless, minimizes downtime for vehicles and maximizes the return for the company investing in the technology,” says Scott Glenn, business development manager at the technology deployment services company Velociti Inc.
Here are four questions to ask when starting to plan for your fleet’s mobile office upfit.
1. What Make, Model, And Year Of Vehicles Are You Using?
Your fleet may consist of sedans, but your drivers might benefit from using SUVs, or vice versa. “Vehicles” could be in a warehouse setting as well, forklifts and work carts these days are technologically advanced too, and warrant the same considerations. Before you begin an upfit, consider what vehicle would best meet your drivers’ physical, operational and functional needs.
And before you begin installing new equipment, make sure you understand the terms of the vehicles’ warranties. Upfitting a vehicle can violate the warranty in some cases. Some upfitters have approval from OEMs to modify a vehicle without breaking the warranty.
2. What Type Of Equipment Do You Have?
Do you have equipment on hand that you can transfer into a new vehicle? Check with OEM modifier guides to see what equipment is compatible with the vehicle’s make and model. Let the upfitter know early on which current equipment you want to install: tablets, radios, power, keyboards, cameras, etc.
Don’t assume the equipment you have in one vehicle will transfer into another vehicle in your fleet. Be sure to consult with fleet peers, installation partners, vendors and manufacturers to get advice on layout before you install.
Once you’ve identified the equipment you have, you can start to determine what you still need for your mobile office: software, hardware, screen blanking, mounting and docking equipment.
Be sure to account for lead-times on equipment orders and delays in delivery. Put together an inventory of parts and a schedule for deliveries so equipment is coordinated to arrive in time for upfitting. By having a plan, you lessen the risk of installing the wrong part in the middle of the upfit or hitting a delay because you haven’t ordered a part. Staging and kitting incoming orders will be helpful in your plan too.
3. What Do Your End Users Need?
When performing an upfit, keep in mind how the changes you make will affect the people using the vehicle’s mobile office in terms of safety, comfort and productivity.
If you’ve designed a mobile office that doesn’t take ergonomics into consideration, you’ve lessened your employees’ ability to produce and put workers at risk of potential injuries such as chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.
You can avoid this scenario by allowing fleet managers and drivers to give their input on selecting and installing new equipment early on.
4. How Will You Install The Equipment?
This is a question you need to answer early in the process, says Dave Flower, national business director of Mobile Installation Technologies LLC:
“Many anticipate installing internally and deploying in a short timeline without considering downtime or how the timeline affects return on investment,” Flower said. “Upfitting and installation are usually discussed late in the cycle, but should be discussed early because they affect deployment and opportunity costs.”
It’s important to think about how your installation timeline will affect the fleet’s downtime and overall return on your investment.
Ryan Scharnowske, founder of Oribital Installation Technologies, adds that it’s important to have a single point of contact or project manager to oversee installations.
“If a customer doesn’t designate a responsible party who can see the deployment through from their end, and provide any necessary guidelines and terms, then the overall outcome of the project can be compromised,” Scharnowske said. “Coordination between the installation service provider and the customer is the key to success and overall project satisfaction.”