By Daniel Shardt and Venkatachalam Narayanan
Fleet management is a complex business. As the largest pure-play fleet manager in the world, Element Fleet Management handles almost everything for its clients: vehicle purchasing and acquisition, maintenance, fuel management, vehicle financing and scheduling, and on-road compliance. Element has over one million vehicles on the road at any one time, so providing great client service means being safe, smart, and productive—and never dropping the ball. As the only publicly traded fleet manager in North America, Element has a responsibility to its investors as well.
Recently, in pursuit of both superior client and employee experiences and increased revenue, Element’s executive leadership launched a business transformation program that promised to deliver $144 million of run-rate profit improvement in 2 1/2 years. Hitting the target meant unlocking better ways of working. And that meant automation.
But how do you affect change across such a large, complex organization in such a short span of time? The answer is to partner well, start small, harvest and trust your team’s ideas, and devise a future-focused plan.
Even in high-performing businesses, there’s likely to be low-hanging fruit. Element is no different on this score. Over the last seven years, Element acquired and integrated several fleet management providers, leading to inconsistent systems and processes. To compensate for these inconsistencies, Element relied on its employees to perform repetitive, high-volume, manual work, which was frustrating for them and inefficient too.
Element already had some experience with robotic process automation with two dozen bots operating on the Automation Anywhere platform. But the version of the software Element used was becoming obsolete. And Element needed help to migrate and improve the bots. So, the company turned to Genpact, a global professional services firm that makes business transformation real and an Automation Anywhere Platinum Partner with a strong track record of helping companies across a variety of high-value industries, such as banking and capital markets, make new automation breakthroughs faster.
Genpact immediately began migrating the existing bots to the new software platform. Two weeks before the migration deadline, the job was done. Genpact started enhancing each bot with new features and supporting them to maintain 100% uptime. Quick win complete.
Along the way, Genpact offered some advice. If Element wanted automation to make a more substantial contribution to its transformation goal, then a “lift-and-shift” for a handful of bots wasn’t going to cut it.
For Element to deliver a consistent, superior end-to-end client and lease experience, they’d need a management-supported, enterprise-level automation drive. This would include high-level orchestration, standardized and centralized processes for automation, and a scalable operating model.
Element didn’t need much convincing. Element asked Genpact to run automation roadshows to tap the expertise and creativity of employees in their service lines. Plenty came forward with their bugbears and bottlenecks, offering a more complete picture of what the company could solve with further automation. Together, Element and Genpact designed an automation roadmap that fit the company’s strategic objectives.
Genpact then began to develop new bots at five times the rate of the original effort. These bots would automate individual processes at key stages of the leasing process, such as collections, and in other high-friction areas of the business too, such as claims management, registrations, human resources, and telematics. For example, one bot would schedule the delivery of preventive maintenance notices to Element clients and their drivers so fewer vehicles would ever see a breakdown.
But true transformation is never going to happen on a bot-by-bot basis. So together with Genpact, Element decided to build an automation center of excellence with one team, one process, and one methodology to govern all automation efforts at speed and scale and help educate the organization as well.
The engagement yielded improvement in every area it targeted. In just nine months, the bots processed over 1.3 million transactions, sparing Element employees 44,000 hours of work. Some of the bots also delivered new net revenue to the business—for example, speeding up the client onboarding process for a new service that helps Element clients manage toll payments and ticket processing. As a result, Element clients are 33% more satisfied now, and Element exceeded its $144 Million run-rate profit improvement goal.
For fleet management and leasing businesses, automation holds the key to better ways of working. Now, Element is looking to add dynamic workflows that allow bots and humans to work together harmoniously and explore the possibilities of intelligent automation, such as conversational artificial intelligence to chat with clients.
If you’re looking to automate across your leasing business, consider the following. First, go for the low-hanging fruit. Find some simple, quick-win areas to automate that can showcase to leadership and staff the power of digital solutions. Second, if you need to (and you probably do), partner up, and partner well. Find someone who is aligned to your vision and who provides solutions that reflect where you want to go. Third, ask your staff where their pain points are, and listen to them—they likely know best. And fourth, don’t just focus on today; roll out automation solutions that can be scaled up for the business you want to be tomorrow and in five years.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Daniel Shardt is the vice president of operational excellence and asset remarketing at Element Fleet Management. Venkatachalam Narayanan is the global commercial banking and credit risk leader at Genpact. Find out more, visit www.elementfleet.com and www.genpact.com.