Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

How CPS Centralized its Fleet Management Data

Once hampered by a legacy, DOS-based data system, Crop Production Services' fleet operations improved efficiency and productivity with an advanced enterprise system providing seamless multiple data stream integration.

September 2009, by Cindy Brauer - Also by this author

When Stan Witkowski joined the Crop Production Services (CPS) fleet team in 2005, he faced a daunting task - research, choose, and implement a new fleet management software program to track and manage the company's leased and company-owned vehicles and equipment - some 15,000 pieces of rolling stock.

In addition, this new program had to consolidate multiple assets from different systems and track the company's fuel and maintenance program - all with a user-friendly interface.

Then known as United Agri Products, the company has since gone through change of ownership and acquisitions, growing to more than 800 U.S. retails stores and doubling its fleet units to more than 35,000, making Witkowski's software choice and implementation even more critical.

Headquartered in Greeley, Colo., CPS is the nation's largest agricultural inputs retailer and services provider, according to Witkowski, business systems manager for fleet. The company's products include crop nutrients, crop protection products, and a full lineup of seeds - "agricultural inputs," Witkowski explained.

The company also provides fertilizer and chemical application services requiring specialized applicators and support equipment. The CPS vehicle fleet includes more than 4,900 predominantly light-duty trucks and 3,900 medium- to heavy-duty trucks. Other CPS fleet units include 22,000 trailers, tanks, and flat beds, tool bars, and other field equipment; 2,700-plus loaders/lift trucks; and 1,300-plus applicators.

In addition to more than 800 U.S. retail locations, CPS operates three manufacturing facilities in Greeley; Billings, Mont.; and Greenville, Miss.

DOS-Based System Replaced

"One of the first things I was tasked to do when I was hired was to find fleet management software to replace our DOS-based flat software that could not track historically and had extremely limited visibility," Witkowski recalled.

From an initial dozen systems, he narrowed the field to five and requested a product demonstration from each. Two finalists were chosen as Witkowski pinpointed his system requirements.

"When evaluating the two finalists, it was clear that one application could quickly and easily meet our lengthy list of requirements," he explained. "We had three primary goals: track gross spend per asset, increase visibility of our fleet for all levels of management, and become a paperless department."

Witkowski selected FleetWave, a Chevin Fleet Solutions product, citing the system's easy customization and robust asset tracking capabilities.

"FleetWave provides customer ownership of the application, and they do a lot of initial customization to meet your specialized business processes," Witkowski explained.

Essentially, he said, CPS has an "enterprise license," without limits on assets or users. Hosted on the CPS corporate site, behind the company's firewall, the system is centrally administered and deployed over CPS' Intranet.

The system officially "went live" in first quarter 2006.

For Witkowski, a critical element of a seamless data management program is the ability to input data changes throughout the system "without going back to Chevin for their permission or help, which really saved CPS time and money."

He added, "I had a limited computer background initially, yet I could make pretty significant changes to the application myself."

The advanced software system manages complex streams of unlimited fleet-related data throughout the entire value chain and across the CPS organization, streamlining paper-intensive processes and improving workflow.

"We are now able to enter data once and then move the information electronically between multiple business systems," Witkowski said.

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