As a major multi-brand commercial products manufacturer, Ingersoll Rand has plenty on its plate without having to be fleet experts as well. That's why the company chooses to place the management of its 7,000-plus vehicle sales and service fleet into the very capable hands of Wheels Inc.

Ingersoll Rand, with corporate offices in Davidson, NC, and Piscataway, NJ, has had a working relationship with Wheels Inc. for 42 years. Jessica Messer, team leader-financial services/fleet for Ingersoll Rand's U.S. and Canadian operations, says Wheels has been working with Ingersoll Rand to help streamline the operations and efficiencies of the nearly 3,000 service trucks used in the company's various business sectors.

“We want fleet vehicles that will provide us with the lowest cost of operation possible,” she states. “At the same time, we want to make certain each truck is suitable for the task to which it is assigned and is upfitted with all the necessary equipment that will enable drivers/service technicians to do their jobs well.”

Ingersoll Rand manufactures products under the brand names of Hussmann (stationary refrigeration equipment for grocery stores, restaurants, etc.); Thermo King (mobile refrigeration units); Ingersoll Rand Industrial Technologies (shop air tools, air compressors, etc.); Schlage (locks and other security devices); Club Car (golf carts); and Trane (heating and air conditioning systems).

As diverse as the company's products are, so is its service truck fleet. Pickup trucks include Ford F150, F250SD and F350SD models, as well as some Dodge Ram 1500 and 2500 units. There are also a large number of vans in the fleet, mostly Ford E250s and E350SDs and some Dodge Grand Caravans, along with a handful of medium-duty trucks, primarily International 4000 and 1600 units.

The majority of trucks are leased through Wheels Inc., although some remain on legacy leases from other vendors as a result of acquisitions by Ingersoll Rand. The company's latest acquisition, for example, was the Trane climate control business.

A year and a half ago, Ingersoll Rand began a new initiative focused on making structural changes to the fleet for improved productivity. “We're going sector by sector, holding what's known as kaizen events, where we get together a team to study specific problems and find the best solutions for them,” says Messer.

“For example, we started with our Hussmann sector [which includes over 1,000 vehicles], asking ourselves first whether we have our technicians in the right vehicle for the job, and second, whether the vehicle upfitting package is optimal for balancing costs and functionality,” she explains. “Based on type of equipment carried, payload requirements, miles driven, and other factors relevant to the Hussmann service fleet, we determined we could go from Ford E350 vans to E250s, saving on vehicle costs as well as fuel and other expenses.”

Messer adds that through the kaizen event, the manufacturer was also able to take 500 lbs. and thousands of dollars out of the upfitting package for the Hussmann fleet.

Last November, the manufacturer held another kaizen event to evaluate the service trucks used in the Ingersoll Rand Industrial Technologies business sector. Based on final analysis of the data from that event, the company may be switching from trucks to vans.

According to Messer, engineers from Wheels Inc. have played a vital role in these vehicle utilization studies. “Perhaps the most important thing they do for us is give consistent and reliable service. We deal with just one national account manager for all our questions and concerns, and their online tool is invaluable, providing us with access to our fleet data 24/7. Wheels' maintenance expertise also saves us a great deal of money every year, advising us on matters such as when it's more profitable to replace vs. repair a vehicle.”