Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Ingersoll Rand's Joris Honored as Fleet Executive of the Year

November 2014, by Chris Wolski - Also by this author

Ingrid Joris, VP and general manager of Ingersoll Rand’s HR Operational Services, has used a combination of people and analytical skills in leading the company’s fleet. Photo by Chris Wolski.
Ingrid Joris, VP and general manager of Ingersoll Rand’s HR Operational Services, has used a combination of people and analytical skills in leading the company’s fleet. Photo by Chris Wolski.

Ingersoll Rand’s Ingrid Joris was honored as the Fleet Executive of the Year for 2014 during the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA)’s annual conference in September. The award is exclusively sponsored by The CEI Group. 

“It’s an unbelievable honor, but I told Jonathan Kamanns, our fleet manager, that the award’s really not for me. This is really a win for the entire team,” Joris said.

It’s no secret, though, that senior management championship of fleet is the foundation of success. The secret, however, of the Vice President and General Manager of HR Operational Services (HROS) Joris’ success is an affinity for process improvement and an inherent willingness to listen to employees.

While a relative newcomer to fleet — she’s had Ingersoll Rand’s fleet in her wheelhouse for a little more than three years — Joris has led the fleet through a transformation and optimization that has saved the multi-national corporation more than $16 million in direct fleet costs over three years, and $6 million saved this year alone. Ingersoll Rand is made up of such brands as Trane, American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning, Thermo King, and Club Car.

Giving Fleet the Human Touch

Joris credits Fleet Manager Jonathan Kamanns and team as critical drivers of these successes. Joris said her role in fleet operations when it was moved into HROS was initially to open the door to senior leadership in an effort to come to an agreement to the fleet business strategy she and Kamanns formulated, she said.

“Now I’m the owner and sponsor of fleet, so that means that, if decisions need to be made or if decisions are not being adopted or followed, or if there are roadblocks, then it’s my responsibility to enable traction. Jonathan really is the operational leader,” Joris explained. “I make sure that, if he needs me, I’m there. If there are issues, they are raised in a project review. I stay close to the change and stay caught up on what the red flags are, what we need to do, and then my question is always, ‘Jonathan, where do you need me?’ ”

In addition to fleet, Joris is also responsible for all the global HR operational services for Ingersoll Rand, including payroll, benefits, mobility, pension, contingent labor, talent acquisition, employee contact center, and the company’s coaching center.

Joris said having fleet added as a core responsibility in 2011 made sense for a number of reasons.

“Before my current position with HROS, I was more of an HR business partner. I transitioned into Ingersoll Rand corporate when we integrated with Trane, and after that I accepted this role. I was previously in the business, and what I experienced in the business wasn’t always positive. We got pulled in when there were issues with fleet such as accidents, repairs, driver conduct, or drivers with less-than-desirable background checks,” she said. “It caused legal and compliance concerns, but it also caused the organization pain, because when our people got involved and it wasn’t handled correctly or a poor process was in place, it had an impact on our people and our businesses.”
Joris’ background in corporate HR and her affinity for data integrity and process improvement made her taking leadership of fleet a natural fit.

“First of all, I’m a process efficiency person, so, for me, the process was broken, and wanted to and knew how to fix it. Then, from a people perspective, as a company, we have very high values related to our people, and there was just something missing from fleet in our engagement of our employees, so that’s why I raised my hand for this. It fits together,” she said. “We have direct connection to environmental health and safety, to legal, to risk management, and that’s why this works so well.”

Cultivating People Skills

Joris moved to the U.S. from her native Belgium, when she accepted a job with an Ingersoll Rand competitor. She moved on to another organization before ultimately accepting a role with Ingersoll Rand in 2001.

“Both previous employers are very process oriented, and have a high customer focus. When I came to Ingersoll Rand, though we weren’t mature in our lean processes,” she said. “It was an area I could influence.”

Joris credits her process-oriented background, not her HR experience, with now helping to lead Ingersoll Rand’s HROS and fleet optimization to efficiency and success.

Engaging Employees

“Engagement” is something that’s cultural to Ingersoll Rand, and heard a lot in the halls of Ingersoll Rand’s Charlotte, N.C., headquarters, and it is a cornerstone in how the fleet and HROS have become an efficient operational center of excellence for the company.

“The top priorities for engagement for HROS are listening to our customers, being empathetic, and solving the problems. And, for Ingersoll Rand, employees are important customers for the company and are treated as such,” Joris said. “Engagement, for us, is part of what we consider our winning culture. It’s empowerment. You will see the acronym ‘PDI’ a lot in our organization. It stands for ‘progressive, diverse, and inclusive.’ We’re inclusive of the diversity of our employees as an enabling function of a progressive workforce, and engagement for us means that people understand the strategy, they are involved in delivering the strategy, they see what we call the line of sight, and they have a voice. If you have a better engaged population, you will have better productivity and better results, period.”

Having this customer engagement focus was a crucial step in improving fleet operations.

“Before we had Jonathan, the customer experience was lousy,” Joris recalled. “There were no process efficiencies; it was done in each business and completely disconnected. The savings opportunities were not apparent, and were significant compliance issues.”

Centralizing fleet services meant looking at ways to become more efficient end-to-end, and, after analysis of engagement, quality, safety, productivity sustainability, and cost that meant changing direction and doing things such as switching out the inefficient vans the technicians were using for more efficient trucks. Changes such as these required getting out into the field and engaging the drivers and their managers, and talking to them about how they use their vehicles and what might work better.

While it may be true that Joris’ biggest strength is her process-thinking approach, her HR expertise shines through as well when talking about engagement.

One driver, Jeff Payne, a seven-year employee and technician for Trane, is a testament to how and why customer engagement is a cornerstone for HROS.

“Jonathan was telling me when Jeff was due to get his new F-150 truck that he was currently in an E-350 van, and wasn’t quite sure about the change. Now, the truck is his pride and joy. Sometimes the conversation with our customers is, ‘Yes, I know that it’s initially painful, but here is the reason for the change. Trust me and let me explain why.’ I let them know ‘I get it. I hear you. Let me explain to you why we’re doing this.’ It’s a partnership — absolutely,” she said. “If they help us get there, and if then it doesn’t work, we will listen again, but you have the courage and influence in your organization to get this done, so help us get there.”

This approach has worked beyond just having engaged, happy driver-customers.

“They can now be so proud of their vehicles and the organization — that alone not only drives productivity, but also drives engagement,” she said. “Then, if you think about the safety piece, the cost, compliance, the sustainability, yes, those vehicles are nicer, but they also improve our organization in so many other ways.”

Joris added that, in today’s business culture, shifts in operations have to be discussed with employees and not just dictated to them.

“In this day and age, that does not work,” Joris said with a shake of her head. “When we started this optimization process, there were very clear stakeholders and focus groups that were involved, and we would not be where we are right now without that engagement from across the organization. That is the only way to do it.”

Running Fleet as a Business

While fostering employee engagement is a key element in successfully improving fleet operations, there is a more fundamental reason why Joris and, consequently, Kamanns and the fleet department have been successful.

“The most critical piece is understanding the businesses. If you don’t understand the businesses, you’re lost,” Joris said. “You have no credibility. So, you’ve got to understand the business. You’ve got to understand the customer. You’ve got to understand what the customer endures. You’ve got to understand their financials. And, you’ve got to know how to implement a change in the environment.”

During the past two-and-half years of the fleet’s optimization process, there has been a strong business component to everything it does. Taking into account HROS’ brand promise of customer experience, process excellence, economic value, and risk mitigation has been at the forefront of the strategy.

“The strategy was really focused on making fleet an operational, well-run, highly cost-managed, highly driven compliance group,” Joris said. “When that was put together, and the business case was approved, there were savings associated to it, but we delivered far beyond the forecast, and it just, again, speaks to the tenacity of the team, its leadership, and how they have run this program.”

The Ingersoll Rand fleet consists of 5,100 vehicles in its North American operations. Most of these are Ford vans — the company is currently transitioning to the full-size Transit from the Econoline — and F-150 models.

The company uses GE Capital Fleet Services as its fleet management company partner and The CEI Group to effectively manage the collision and safety programs.

Fleet efficiency has been achieved in a number of areas, including fuel efficiency, improved maintenance, and better total cost of ownership (TCO). The driver risk management process was also significantly improved to ensure that employees and applicants were qualified to operate company vehicles.

“It’s not just savings that we have accomplished, but it’s an enterprise responsibility and liability objective that we have accomplished as well,” Joris said.

Kamanns pointed to Joris’ business approach as one of the most gratifying aspects of managing Ingersoll Rand’s fleet.

“The idea of running an HR Operational Services like a business is just a different mind set,” Kamanns said. “When you use that approach, you start to change things across an entire organization. You’re affecting all of the businesses of Ingersoll Rand, and the mind set starts to change. We become very easy to do business with and our customers seek our assistance. We want to be able to say, ‘We’re going this way — oh, and by the way, here’s the data to support the directions that we’re going.’ And, we’ve coordinated with these 22 people, and these key stakeholders, to make sure we’re making the right decisions.’ ”

This approach is supported by analysis.

“In monthly business reviews, we look at targets and metrics, and we look at customer scores, just like the businesses. That’s what the change was,” Joris explained.

Joris underscored the uniqueness of Ingersoll Rand HROS.

“We’re not typical. If you think about productivity, every year we analyze and present next year’s target to drive indirect productivity, and the fleet group is a significant contributor to that,” she said. “This year we will have delivered $18.5 million net productivity across HROS. Last year it was $17 million. I think, over the past five years altogether, we’re over $100 million. That’s achieved by running HROS as a business, vendor management, the transformation of the processes, optimization, resourcing, improved technologies, and engaged people.”

Overcoming Challenges

While the fleet optimization has been a success, Joris had to overcome some challenges along the way. The biggest was resistance to change.

“These are businesses that have done this essentially on their own for years and years and years and years, making their own more-local decisions, and then, we come in from corporate, with a company-wide view and we tell them how they should do this,” Joris said. “The great thing is, we have Jonathan Kamanns, who knows fleet, who’s done this strategically for much of his career, so he knows what he’s talking about. But, still, there’s change management. So, it’s resistance. It’s the typical situation where we present the numbers and then justify the numbers. This is a very financially driven organization, so when we say we’ve saved a specific amount, we need to justify where that comes from.”

Justifying the numbers could be classified as Joris’ second-most important job, after initially wedging open the senior leadership door.

“From a business standpoint, we’re still a fairly siloed organization, an established organization, which still consists of the ‘We’ve done it this way for a hundred years, and we’ll continue to do it’ mind set. Ingrid, in her position, took quite a few battle scars in opening those doors and making sure they stayed open,” Kamanns said.

Charting Successes

For Joris, the biggest surprise she had when consolidating the fleet into HROS was connected to a reflection of her business mind set.

“The biggest surprise was the unbelievable amount of opportunities,” she said. “The simplest one was from a financial perspective, what we were letting lay on the table that we weren’t taking advantage of. The other was the fact that senior management did not have the data on what kind of risks we were accepting.”

With the challenges overcome and optimization accomplished, Joris counts some of her biggest successes as closing all of the fleet’s compliance issues and minimizing risk to the employee and the company. Transparency to customer-employees was another big success.

But, in Joris’ mind, the biggest achievement in the past two-and-half years has been the enhanced status of Ingersoll Rand’s fleet within the company.

“When I took over, fleet wasn’t even talked about. Now, fleet is consistently part of the conversation, so that’s No. 1,” she said.

Related to and fueling that heightened status is the fleet team led by Kamanns.

“What he and the team have brought to the organization is really how I want every team to function,” Joris said. “When you talk about the engagement and the leadership that exists, they are key competencies that we look for in our people. I have seen coming out of that group, driving those changes and the team never giving up. It’s important and courageous and that’s what makes you proud, because you realize that you brought the right people on board. Just working with people of that caliber, that’s what makes my job easier.”

Looking Ahead

Joris looks forward to the fleet’s next challenges and potential for success — even though, as Kamanns sees it, the fleet has accomplished nearly seven years of work in just three years. And, this is just the beginning.

At the forefront of its “next phase” is how the fleet fits into and can serve the company’s sustainability goals. How that became a priority for the fleet team illustrates how important the fleet has become to Ingersoll Rand leadership.

“Ingersoll Rand is a sustainability company, and, naturally, our stakeholders and our shareholders alike want to know what we’re doing as an organization to be a more sustainable company. Recently however the question was asked specifically of fleet,” Joris said. “We were initially surprised. But, fleet plays a critical part in the organization’s environmental footprint. Add to this the recent commitment of CEO Mike Lamach to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2020, while specifically identifying fleet as a strategic initiative in the company’s reduction goals.”

Kamanns expects that one of the key ways the fleet will be able to accomplish they goal is by implementing a company-wide, consistently managed telematics solution that intends to build upon current processes utilized by Ingersoll Rand’s businesses.

In addition to its 5,100-vehicle U.S. fleet, the company operates 1,800 vehicles in Europe, and has 500 in Latin America. And, again, the U.S. fleet is taking the lead with the global operations as well.

“We’re starting to model in those regions what Jonathan has been doing here in the U.S.,” Joris said.


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