With a corporate mission to serve global healthcare needs, Abbott, based in Abbott Park, Ill., is devoted to discovering new medicines, new technologies, and new ways to manage health. The company's products span the continuum of care, from nutritional products and laboratory diagnostics through medical devices and pharmaceutical therapies.

Abbott's comprehensive product line encircles life itself - addressing important health needs from infancy to the golden years. The healthcare giant operates sales, manufacturing, research and development, and distribution facilities around the world.

The company, which employs 72,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries, is recognized for its global reach and ability to serve customers around the world. To accommodate company sales and service employees in the United States, Abbott operates 6,500 vehicles.

Vehicles utilized within the fleet include sedans, small SUVs, and minivans. The fleet team reports to Abbott's finance & administration department.

The five-member fleet team includes the global travel and fleet director, corporate fleet manager, fleet project leader, fleet/limo program specialist, and global travel & fleet analyst. This team maintains a comprehensive knowledge of Abbott's corporate mission and how the fleet supports that mission. Critical to the operation's success, the fleet department remains 100 percent in tune with Abbott business units' needs, exhibits strong analytical and customer service skills, and supports the company's senior leadership.

"The fleet organization's mission is to maximize value, minimize cost, and enable driver productivity," said Cathy Tillman, director, global travel and fleet. Tillman is responsible for strategy, policy, and management of indirect spend and service levels for all elements of Abbott's global travel and fleet programs.

Teamwork & Recognition Key to Operational Success

The fleet team's key external partnerships include fleet management company PHH Arval and preferred manufacturers. Crucial internal partnerships include fleet liaisons in the business units, expense reporting and finance support groups, and IT.

Of course, facilitating an open and effective relationship with senior management also is essential to a successful fleet operation. In fact, Tillman believes to be successful, senior management must be engaged in and supportive of fleet management activities.

In addition, each business unit's fleet liaison communicates regularly with the fleet team. When dealing with large-scale issues, fleet management communicates with the respective business unit's senior leadership to ensure a good understanding of opportunities or challenges that may impact the unit's business.

Assessing fleet financials and ensuring they stay in line with company goals is always top of mind for the fleet team.

"We consider total cost of ownership and also routinely assess lease terms and our replacement policy to optimize total cost of ownership," said Diane Lopez, manager, domestic fleet. Lopez is responsible for oversight and management of the Abbott U.S. fleet program, executive automobile and executive limousine programs, and the RideShare and employee shuttle programs.

"Our mission is clear and never changes, which helps us stay within company goals," Lopez added.

Best Practices Allow Streamlined Operations

Along with a steadfast mission, the fleet team relies on several best practices to ensure a streamlined and cost-effective operation, including:

■ Enabling a safe driving environment through vehicle selection, driver training, and safety awareness.

■ Ensuring quality vehicles, program processes, and customer service.

■ Promoting employee productivity.

■ Contributing to the corporate goal of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.

■ Saving money.

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To help facilitate an accurate and efficient operation, fleet management relies on accurate data to make important decisions and communicate those decisions and policies to drivers.

"We provide a Web site that supports drivers with all things fleet-related," Lopez said.

One of Abbott's biggest challenges lies with its vehicle menu or selector list. Because the company comprises multiple business units with diverse product lines, the selector offering is diverse. The challenge management faces is offering large cargo space and/or powerful vehicles that are also fuel efficient.

Another crucial policy for Abbott is fuel management. The company subscribes to a fuel card program allowing managers to report on and monitor fuel use at every level, a cost expense currently on the rise in many fleets.

"We include miles-per-gallon information in our analysis when determining vehicle offerings," Lopez said.

Abbott Significantly Reduces its Carbon Footprint

A significant Abbott fleet initiative over the past five years involves the company's commitment to become carbon neutral by reducing emissions through the use of hybrids and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

According to Karen Healey, director of PHH Arval green initiatives, "In 2006, Abbott wanted to be the pilot client for the PHH GreenFleet program."

Assisted by the Environmental Defense Fund, Abbott established a fuel use baseline, then reviewed vehicle choices for the next model-year.

A short time later, in 2007, Abbott announced a public goal of reducing operational greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 2004 levels by 2010. To date, Abbott is the first and only Fortune 500 company to become carbon neutral with its U.S. auto fleet, which represents 11 percent of the company's total emissions.

Abbott's GreenFleet program focuses on modifying vehicle options to include hybrids and more fuel-efficient four-cylinder vehicles, restricting 4x4 vehicle use to Snowbelt states, and encouraging employees to select more fuel-efficient vehicles through educational efforts raising awareness of the environmental and cost impact of employee vehicle selections.

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In addition, Abbott increased personal use premiums on less fuel-efficient vehicles, resulting in additional shifts away from SUVs and minivans to sedans and hybrids. In two years alone, employee SUV and minivan selections were reduced by nearly 13 percent. The fleet's 500 hybrids represent 8 percent of total fleet vehicles and 24 percent of total sedans.

Once Abbott began to move forward on the program, the company assembled a small team to work on the GreenFleet initiative. The team included staff members from environment, safety, fleet, communications, finance, and procurement. This team approach offered several benefits, including allowing everyone a seat at the table when fleet changes were considered.

"By having everyone work on this together, Abbott was able to ensure widespread acceptance of the program," Healey said.

Because driver satisfaction is a priority at Abbott, small, but meaningful steps were taken during the program's first year to improve the fleet's environmental performance.

"Abbott drivers feel good about having the option to drive a greener vehicle," Tillman said.

Since that first year, Abbott implemented additional changes to the fleet designed to achieve further environmental and financial savings while providing drivers safe and job-appropriate vehicles.

Going Green Allows Higher Fuel Efficiency and Lower Fuel Costs

Through its GreenFleet initiative, Abbott has improved its average domestic fleet vehicle fuel efficiency by nearly 16 percent over 2006, reducing gasoline consumption by more than 600,000 gallons per year.

The company estimates financial savings include fuel reductions and also go further to encompass full lifecycle savings.

Every year since the program began, Abbott has made fleet changes that not only reduce emissions, but also reduce fleet costs.

According to Tillman and Lopez, a fuel use baseline of 19.8 mpg was established using 2006 fleet inventory data. Since then, Abbott increased its fuel efficiency each model-year.

"For example, model-year 2009, we achieved 24.3 mpg, and for the fall buy cycle for model-year 2010, we're seeing 25.5 mpg," Tillman said. "That's a 29-percent improvement over baseline."

Abbott has received positive feedback about the GreenFleet program from drivers and employees. In addition, Abbott green initiative team members have earned significant internal recognition for the impact of their work, including an Environmental, Health, and Safety Excellence Award. Other recognitions include:

■ 2004 Governor's Pollution Prevention Award.

■2007 EHS Excellence Award.

■2008 NAFA Fleet Management Association Green Fleet Honorable Mention.

■2009 Automotive Fleet Environmental Leadership award.

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Model Changes Lead to Savings While Meeting Driver Needs

Various vehicle model changes since 2007 allowed the fleet team to move toward a greener fleet, while still providing drivers vehicles that fit their needs. For model-year 2007, fleet management changed vehicle offerings and restricted 4x4 vehicles to Snowbelt states. In model-year 2008, fleet modified vehicle options to include hybrids.

In the 2009 model-year, fleet switched to four-cylinder 4x2 SUVs and announced a new initiative related to an employee's personal mileage if he or she chooses a sales fleet SUV or minivan - vehicles typically less environmentally friendly.

"The initiative is applied on a cents-per-mile basis and is based on the amount of greenhouse gas emitted compared to a sedan, as well as the additional annual operating costs," Tillman explained.

"A driver can be exempt from the additional personal use fee if there is a business need to drive the larger vehicle," she added.

For model-year 2010, Abbott developed and presented each business unit four fleet vehicle scenarios for consideration. Each business unit was asked to choose one option to offer for model-year 2010. The first option, the standard vehicle menu offering, is the baseline. The remaining options decrease in cost and increase in fuel efficiency compared to the baseline. All business units chose one of the more fuel-efficient options.

"For calendar-year 2010, based on the vehicles ordered in model-years 2007, 2008, and 2009, Abbott will burn 750,000 fewer gallons of fuel," Lopez said.

Successfully Standing Out in a Field of Competitors

Abbott's creative approach to being a responsible global citizen is a major factor distinguishing the corporate healthcare leader from its competitors.

Abbott continues to look for opportunities - big and small - to reduce emissions. This creativity and dedication has made Abbott successful in reducing fleet emissions and saving money.

Moving forward, Tillman and Lopez will manage the fleet ramifications of Abbott's acquisitions. They will continue to incorporate GreenFleet principles into the management of the additional vehicles.

"We will continue to consider new, innovative ideas to continue the decrease in our greenhouse gas emissions," Tillman said. "We have also begun to build a global GreenFleet strategy and have started working with international affiliates."

 

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