Upfitting your vehicles can be a complicated and overwhelming process—and it shouldn’t have to be. One thing that can help make the process more attainable is setting concrete goals for your upfit. These goals should be more than “get this off of my plate” or “get it done.” Concrete goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. We call these S.M.A.R.T. goals. When you set S.M.A.R.T. goals for your upcoming fleet upfit, it makes it easier to get the work done in a timely manner within your budget. In setting these goals, here are five things you should plan for in advance of your upfit.
BE SPECIFIC: Designate the Necessities
It’s important during your goal-setting to determine exactly what items you need to include in your upfit—establish a baseline. New technology is available almost yearly for vehicle upfitting, but you need to decide exactly which products you need—not necessarily what looks new and exciting. Trying to incorporate all the latest bells and whistles can add up to a greater cost per vehicle than the scope of your intended budget.
For example, your entire fleet will need a mounting solution for communication devices, including laptops, handheld communications devices, just to name a few. All of the components should be designed to be reached easily from the driver’s seat with intuitive device opperation. Some of the items that most vehicles use are an equipment console with an armrest, a siren light controller and vehicle sound speaker with a mount for the transmitter. And of course, you’ll need to consider a lighting solution—do you include corner LED lights, rear deck LED lights, and grill LED lights? And what about lightbars? There are many different styles from which to choose!
We get it—it can be overwhelming. That’s why we recommend setting out what you need to include in your upfit separately from what you might like to include additionally. Additional services could include things like IT services that respond in real time for emergency vehicles including ambulances, police, fire and municipal fleets or upgraded versions of the necessary items.
Also, decide whether you will be upgrading or replacing some of the items in your fleet, piecemeal, or whether it makes sense to have custom upfitting for an entire new fleet of all of your vehicles including cars, cruisers, trucks and SUVs at the same time.
BE MEASURABLE: Consider Cost and Quality
Not every quote compares “apples to apples.” When working with an annual budget for your upfitting needs, it is vital that you are future-proofing and leveraging your purchase by planning for quality equipment for your public safety vehicles. For example, a lesser-priced metal prisoner barrier in the rear seat may be compromised at some point, as it gets older due to the lighter weight of the metal structure. You would need to replace a lesser-quality item much more quickly, so in the long run you may be paying more per vehicle.
Making a decision on which items you want to upgrade or replace in advance can help you to have time to search for the best quality products at the best price available, allowing you to stretch your budget without sacrificing quality in the products.
BE ATTAINABLE: Find a Partner to Help
Here’s a little encouragement from the KELTEK team: “You can do this!” We understand that upfitting your fleet can be a time-consuming and complicated process. But you don’t have to go at it alone. Find someone to help you set attainable steps along the way and you’ll be putting that new public safety vehicle on the road in no time!
When searching for a partner to help, here are a few things to look for:
- Experience is King: Look for a partner who has years of experience in producing the type of upfits you want. There is no better teacher than experience. How long have they been in business? How long have they been upfitting? Ask these questions up front and you could save yourself a lot of headaches down the road.
- Vendor Relationships: Each upfit or installation company will represent a variety of products and brands. Make certain they are an authorized and reputable re-seller for the brand they are representing. If you have any questions, you can easily contact the manufacturer to verify the validity of your reseller. Even more preferable is finding a re-seller who is certified in the products they are representing.
BE RELEVANT: Leverage Approved Resources
Another way to save yourself time and potential headaches is to find out who holds a state contract for upfitting products you are considering. To qualify for state contract representation, these companies must be thoroughly researched through the state and have many years of experience in upfitting. All of the state agencies will obtain highly discounted prices for select, quality products without needing to write an RFP or going through a long and tedious bidding process. This ensures great products for you that are already state approved.
In addition, state contracts are only given to a company that thoroughly inspects their work against the original build sheet and test runs all equipment to make certain it operates properly for your safety.
Here are a few state contract links for the state of Iowa:
- NASPO Contract
Panasonic Toughbooks and Toughpads
- Iowa State Contract
- Iowa State Contract
BE TIME-BOUND: Get Ahead of the Pack
Since your budget for upfitting and fleet costs is associated with all of your public service vehicles, you should try to schedule any work as early in the fiscal year as possible. Other agencies may be comparing bids for months and then want the work finished before the year’s end to fit in the budget.
When you act proactively, you have already chosen the winner in your field for your upfitting projects and you can schedule upgrades and replacements in the first half of the year. Ordering a turnkey finished product is best to do early in the year so you can get a jump-start on your new fleet vehicles. This expedites the process of the labor and installation to get your vehicles back to you and on the job again quickly.
Consider these items when choosing upfits including secure wireless communications, video offloading, server management, computer sales, installations and repairs as well as command and control applications. Planning in advance can save you large amounts of time and money.
Keltek is a Des Moines area company offering public safety products and turn key vehicle upfitting for Iowa public service agencies, including police departments, public safety fleets, EMTs, fire departments, and more. Contact us today for more information on all of our public safety services.