A New Helmsman at NAFA


Claude Masters, CAFM

Manager of Vehicle Acquisition & Fuel Fleet Services, Florida Power & Light Co.

As the incom­ing pres­i­dent of NAFA, what are some of your edu­ca­tion­al goals for the orga­ni­za­tion?

There has been a great foun­da­tion laid for me by the pre­vi­ous two pres­i­dents, Doug Weich­man and Chris Amos. Both of those gen­tle­men have a strong bias towards edu­ca­tion and I do as well, hav­ing earned my CAFM back in the ear­ly 90s. I have been real­ly proud of our edu­ca­tion pro­gram and the con­tin­ued devel­op­ment of the CAFM pro­gram.

I recent­ly went through a Six-Sig­ma pro­gram that con­cen­trates on sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis. It is a very well-known and wide­ly used tool in the auto­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Many of us have heard the sto­ries about the Japan­ese auto man­u­fac­tur­ers, how they have a high degree of qual­i­ty built into their vehi­cles. Essen­tial­ly, where that emanates from is the sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis involved with Six-Sig­ma. So, with­out get­ting in too deep, you are striv­ing for a lev­el of excel­lence that is sta­tis­ti­cal­ly known as 3.5 defects per mil­lion oper­a­tions. The aver­age per­son would prob­a­bly say, “That is real­ly a high stan­dard when you think about it.” But when you start think­ing about it from the per­spec­tive of air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ing, if in every mil­lion take off and land­ings you are going to have 3.5 defects, is that accept­able? I think if you ask most peo­ple they would look at you and say, “That is not accept­able. I don’t want to be on that 3.5 flight that encoun­ters a defect!”

My point is that the busi­ness world is start­ing to embrace the use of Six-Sig­ma tools to strive for out­side of the man­u­fac­tur­ing com­mu­ni­ty, striv­ing for improve­ments in their process­es to make their busi­ness­es run bet­ter.

What I have asked our team to do is to look at not try­ing to teach peo­ple how to do Six-Sig­ma and how to be a sta­tis­ti­cian, but help them with the under­stand­ing of what the pro­gram is; what the ter­mi­nol­o­gy means, and then help them under­stand how it could be a use­ful tool for them in terms of run­ning their busi­ness, run­ning their fleet, and then if they want to get more infor­ma­tion they can enroll in a Six-Sig­ma train­ing pro­gram and dive a lit­tle deep­er into how the pro­gram works.

I feel like it is an impor­tant tie-in to the Beyond Fleet cam­paign because as our fleet man­agers and fleet direc­tors take on a larg­er role in their cor­po­ra­tions and are inter­fac­ing with exec­u­tives, that is the type of knowl­edge base they are going to need to be able to car­ry into con­ver­sa­tion.

There are some oth­er things we are going to do relat­ed to that in just ele­vat­ing the way that we com­mu­ni­cate with exec­u­tive man­age­ment; give our mem­bers some tools that will help them to make bet­ter pre­sen­ta­tions and be more effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tors. I am not say­ing that there are not peo­ple out there who are not already high­ly skilled with that, but what we are going to do is try to give every­body the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a peek behind the cur­tain and see exact­ly what it is that makes some peo­ple more suc­cess­ful than oth­ers.

You have attend­ed many I&Es and many NAFA events;  can you give us an exam­ple of some­thing that you have brought back from one of these events that has made a dif­fer­ence in the way you man­age your fleet?

I can think of sev­er­al but there is one that stands out in my mind in regards to a sim­i­lar con­cept of what we were just talk­ing about.  I attend­ed a class where they were talk­ing about how to do a real­ly good life­cy­cle cost analy­sis that had a lit­tle bit of a dif­fer­ent spin to it from the tra­di­tion­al life­cy­cle cost analy­sis. It was actu­al­ly a very, very effec­tive pro­gram that made you think dif­fer­ent­ly about how you make that eval­u­a­tion or make that analy­sis. It wasn’t like I came back with a chart or a spread­sheet that was dra­mat­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent from any­thing I had ever seen in my life, but it was more on the lines of a way to ana­lyze it look­ing at it from two or three dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

For exam­ple, there are a num­ber of busi­ness­es out there that look at a vehi­cle strict­ly as a tool to get a job done. The core phi­los­o­phy with­in that man­age­ment team is that we are basi­cal­ly going to run this vehi­cle as long as we can run it, we can main­tain it, and we can buy parts for it. We are going to do that until the day comes that it either breaks so bad­ly that it can no longer be repaired or I can no longer buy parts for it.

Then you have oth­er com­pa­nies at the oppo­site end of the spec­trum that man­age their vehi­cles as an asset just like any oth­er asset that is on their books. They try to min­i­mize the amount of mon­ey that they invest and try to max­i­mize their return on their invest­ment. You will see some com­pa­nies that have a very, very aggres­sive replace­ment pol­i­cy and man­age their life­cy­cles very well. It real­ly goes back to what their cor­po­rate phi­los­o­phy is on how they want to treat that asset.

That is real­ly what was at the core of that class, but it gave you some oth­er lit­tle tid­bits about how to even accel­er­ate replace­ment of cer­tain types of vehi­cles based on what is going on in the mar­ket­place. So, in oth­er words, if there were a short­age of vehi­cles of a par­tic­u­lar type and that par­tic­u­lar vehi­cle had a high­er return at auc­tion, you might actu­al­ly move your replace­ment sched­ule ahead six or eight months. It was a pret­ty inter­est­ing con­cept.

Tell us about anoth­er ini­tia­tive you want to pur­sue at NAFA under your lead­er­ship?

At the end of the day, my true desire is to have NAFA’s name rec­og­nized in Wash­ing­ton to the lev­el that when an agency such as EPA or Depart­ment of Ener­gy is mak­ing pol­i­cy deci­sions, NAFA is one of the first places from whom they seek help.

This is absolute­ly not meant to slight my friends at ATA, but typ­i­cal­ly what hap­pens is when there is some type of bill that is pend­ing leg­is­la­tion and it impacts the trans­porta­tion or the fleet indus­try, they call ATA because that is typ­i­cal­ly who the peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton think of. I want them to start think­ing of NAFA as well. Maybe they don’t have to think of us first, but if they will think of us sec­ond or think of us at the same time you know that will make me a hap­py guy.

What we are in the process of doing is reach­ing out not only to the major agen­cies with­in Wash­ing­ton, but also reach­ing out to sev­er­al oth­er large asso­ci­a­tions and enti­ties that have “like inter­est” with NAFA to devel­op a con­sor­tium that says on these par­tic­u­lar things we all think alike, we have the same inter­ests, we have the same desire for a par­tic­u­lar out­come and whether they ask them or ask us, we are all going to be say­ing the same thing. We want them to say, “Have you checked with NAFA yet?”
Let’s talk about your own fleet. What are some of your cur­rent chal­lenges?

They are twofold. We all know that vehi­cle tech­nol­o­gy is advanc­ing very rapid­ly and it means, par­tic­u­lar­ly for those of us who have our own inter­nal repair facil­i­ties and do our own repair work, that you have got to stay on top of the prop­er tool­ing. Nine­ty-eight per­cent of all of the things that are done on the mod­ern vehi­cle today are done with a lap­top com­put­er with diag­nos­tic soft­ware. That means you have got to stay on top of mak­ing sure that your tech­ni­cians have the right soft­ware to do the prop­er diag­nos­tics.

And then sec­ondary to that, it means that it requires a high­er degree and an accel­er­at­ed rate of train­ing for our tech­ni­cians as well.  I think most fleet oper­a­tors today who have their own inter­nal work­force will tell you that hir­ing and retain­ing qual­i­fied tech­ni­cians is a real issue because most peo­ple who are com­ing out of high school or col­lege today aren’t lin­ing up to get into the auto­mo­tive repair field. It is very com­pet­i­tive for that mar­ket­place and it is requir­ing some unique things that you have to do to attract and retain good employ­ees to do that type of work.

To address this, we actu­al­ly have a per­son on our staff whose pri­ma­ry job is to make sure he is keep­ing our tech­ni­cians cur­rent with their train­ing require­ments and keep­ing the right type of diag­nos­tic tools in their hands.

What are some of the goals for this year for your fleet?

One of the big­ger things that we have embarked on this year is a stan­dard­iza­tion pro­gram.  We are an elec­tric util­i­ty com­pa­ny and have quite a mix­ture of vehi­cles in our fleet to sat­is­fy the require­ments for our bat­tery elec­tric and plug-in hybrid elec­tric vehi­cles. The man­u­fac­tur­ers are start­ing to come out with a much wider array of prod­uct offer­ings. We have spent a lot of time strate­gi­cal­ly look­ing at what our long term offer­ing and prod­uct selec­tions are going to be for at least the next five years. While it has not been a mas­sive under­tak­ing, it has been a wel­come change for us because the selec­tions are now becom­ing much, much wider and I think they are a much bet­ter prod­uct offer­ing than we have seen over the past two or three years.


Claude Mas­ters is the Man­ag­er of Vehi­cle Acqui­si­tion & Fuel for Flori­da Pow­er & Light Co. He has been in the fleet indus­try for 38 years with 34 of them in var­i­ous super­vi­so­ry and man­age­ment roles. Pri­or to com­ing to Flori­da Pow­er & Light Co., Claude worked for Hous­ton Light­ing & Pow­er, cur­rent­ly known as Cen­ter­Point Ener­gy, for 29 years. He has been a NAFA vol­un­teer for over ten years and is the incom­ing Pres­i­dent. Claude has tak­en an active role in the devel­op­ment of Hybrid Elec­tric trucks and is act­ing in a lead­er­ship role with WestStart/CALSTART on the Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF). He also has Law Enforce­ment expe­ri­ence hav­ing worked as a Reserve Deputy Sher­iff and retir­ing as a Cap­tain from the Har­ris Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office. Claude holds a bachelor’s degree in Busi­ness Man­age­ment from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hous­ton. He earned his Cer­ti­fied Auto­mo­tive Fleet Manager’s (CAFM) des­ig­na­tion in 1997.

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