Presenting the 2015 Fleet Executive of the Year
Michael Bieger (center) was presented his Fleet Executive of the Year award by Fleet Financials Editor and Associate Publisher Mike Antich (left) and CEI Founder and CEO Wayne Smolda at the annual Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) conference. Photo courtesy of Chris Wolski.
ADP’s Michael Bieger, senior director of global procurement, was honored as the Fleet Executive of the Year for 2015 during the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA)’s annual conference in September. The award is exclusively sponsored by The CEI Group.
When reflecting on receiving the award, Bieger was quick to share the credit for the award with leadership, the team he leads, and the departments he works with.
“The real reason I was able to do all this was because of my leadership — Dee Dacosta, VP of Global Procurement — and currently the people who work for me: Anthony Ficetola, William Forsythe, and Robert Sausa, and the folks who have worked for me in the past — Wasif Bokhari and Julian Fernandes. Certainly, without Hugo Del Mar and his global team in EMEA that wouldn’t be a success either,” he said. “Without their hard work and dedication, I wouldn’t have the success I do. The only reason I’m the Fleet Executive of the Year is because I have good people working with me and for me.”
Having the support of leadership and a strong team behind him might be part of Bieger’s success, but the 19-year fleet veteran has transformed ADP’s nascent global fleet program a decade ago, into today’s well-run, best-practices oriented fleet of more than 2,200 vehicles in 14 countries.
As with most fleet managers, Bieger’s introduction to fleet was a fortuitous, life-changing set of unintended circumstances.
While pursuing his master’s degree in management from Montclair State University, Bieger was working as an accounts payable supervisor for Hoffmann-La Roche when an opportunity to manage the company’s 2,200-vehicle fleet presented itself.
“The fleet — as well as account payables and other functions — reported up through a particular director,” Bieger recalled. “The person who was in charge of fleet was moving over into sales and she asked if I wanted to take over the fleet. I would have done anything to get out of accounts payable, so I said, ‘Of course I know all about cars, I drive them,’ and that’s how it all started.”
Bieger ran Hoffmann-La Roche’s U.S. fleet for about eight years before passing the responsibility to Angela Gregorowicz.
During his tenure at Hoffmann-La Roche, Bieger was the North American liaison for the company’s global fleet.
“While I was at Hoffmann-La Roche, I formed a North American fleet council with our sister companies to really coordinate the fleet opportunities across all of Hoffmann-La Roche’s entities,” Bieger said. These included companies such as Roche Diagnostics and LabCorp, which Hoffmann-La Roche had a majority share in at the time.
After eight years, Bieger moved into procurement, leaving the fleet in Gregorwicz’s hands.
“I had other procurement responsibilities supporting sales and marketing at Hoffmann-La Roche for two-and-a-half years as well as some global responsibilities,” he said.
Bieger’s move into procurement was part of a career plan he had developed at Hoffmann-La Roche with the director he reported to while he was the fleet manager.
“The company was reshuffling some things and he and I had worked out a progression plan to advance,” Bieger said. “It would have been two years in procurement and then it would have been having fleet and travel and some other things under me.”
Unfortunately the advancement plan didn’t work out because the chief procurement officer left the company shortly afterwards, taking Bieger’s mentor with him.
“That whole plan went out the door,” he said. “I was relegated to procurement without a master plan or opportunity for advancement.”
Bieger’s opportunity for advancement came with a move to ADP, the human capital management (HCM) company, in 2005.
“I was brought over to ADP to assist with its very young fleet program,” he said. “I think it was only two years in, and the company was having some challenges, so it was looking for an experienced fleet director, and I was lucky enough to be hired by them.”
Bieger reported to Dacosta, who had global travel and fleet as part of her responsibilities.
“She was looking for somebody to help. I came over as director of fleet,” Bieger said.
About seven years ago, ADP — which had grown up around individual business units — shifted to a “One ADP” approach.
“It really brings everything together and represents all businesses and products as one ADP, so, as part of that, there was indirect procurement, there was direct procurement, outside departments as well — fleet and travel among them — that were consolidated into one global procurement group, and that’s how the fleet came under global procurement,” he said.
Today, Bieger is responsible for global fleet in global procurement, and logistics. He oversees a staff of four — three in fleet, two who are with him in ADP’s New Jersey headquarters, one located off-site in the Philippines — and uses Wheels Inc. to help manage the U.S. fleet. The fourth member of Bieger’s team is an associate in logistics who is located outside of Chicago.
“The logistics spend dwarfs the fleet spend, because we still mail paychecks to people who want to receive paychecks, so we send millions of packages a year out to folks who need their pay,” he said.
The company provides an overnight turnaround, so if a company uses one of ADP’s processes on a Tuesday, checks will be at the company’s door on Wednesday.
“The level of service we provide is part of what makes ADP unique in the business,” he said.
ADP’s fleet consists of about 2,250 vehicles globally, the majority of which are primarily midsize four-door sedans. Most of the vehicles are driven by sales associates. The U.S. is the largest single fleet among ADP’s 14-country global fleet, making up just more than half the total number.
One of the biggest challenges that Bieger faced when joining ADP was with the company’s fleets in other countries. Most of these fleets were well run independently, but could improve by implementing best practices, according to Bieger.
“Recognizing best practices — whether it’s a best practice in the U.S. or Europe or elsewhere has been a challenge, because previously each country had a history of how they were running things, and, at the time it was developed, I’m sure it was best in class and became culturally set, so having somebody come in and say ‘let’s have another look at this’ can be challenging and a concern to the people who are local,” he said.
When Bieger first came on board at ADP, the European fleets were running more than 35 makes and models, including a Hummer H1.
“We finally moved from 35 to around 13, and, last year, we completed a market tender where we have chosen four major manufacturer groups that will provide all of our vehicles for Europe — so we went from 35 to four — that’s a huge win,” he said.
Similarly, the European fleets were being managed by 25 leasing companies. That has, likewise, been reduced to a more manageable number.
“We now have three preferred companies. We’re not dictating who you have to choose, but certainly it has to be one of these three,” Bieger said.
As a best practice, Bieger has also instituted multi-bidding and matrix-bidding on all vehicles purchased by the company and removed the vehicles’ insurance from its leasing companies’ books turning it back over to ADP.
“While the leasing companies do a great job of providing insurance, it is another profit center for them — as it should be — but it’s best kept in our global risk management group and their negotiations with our global suppliers and we’ve taken that in-house and have saved significant money as well.”
The success of this tidying up can be attributed to a number of factors, but chief of them is communication.
“There was a lot of communication, and a lot of initial face-to-face meetings, because I find the results of interactions and all meetings that take place on the phone without any face-to-face interaction, without seeing body language so you can get a feel for them and they can get a feel for you, I find those projects to be more difficult to work with then if at the first time you meet with them is face-to-face,” Bieger explained.
The result of this face-to-face interaction is crucial in building trust.
“Once they get to know you and have that feeling of trust, then everything can be done by phone or e-mail, because you have that acceptance of the other person’s concern for you and they have that acceptance of your concern for them.”
Particularly with his international counterparts and colleagues, Bieger found that he had to include more groups and areas of influence in these discussions.
“There’s always — and I think this is more so when you’re working internationally — that challenge of influence without authority where you’re working with somebody, they’re not working for you,” he observed. “I coordinate fleet’s efforts with numerous colleagues across many countries, who are really the frontline people, who have to implement something. While they don’t report to me, they do support the fleet and I work closely with them, and their assistance and their help is immeasurable and without which nothing that has occurred with the global fleet could have been successful.”
Changing the way ADP runs its fleets in the U.S. and globally has had positive results.
“All these processes and systems that we’re able to make simpler, less complicated, fewer variables in the system makes it easier to run and makes it less expensive to run,” Bieger said. “They were really big wins.”
Efficiency isn’t just relegated to the bottom line, Bieger said that ADP has a set of core values that it works hard to live by. These include being socially responsible and each person counts. For his part, Bieger has translated these values into actions for the fleet.
Two examples are the fleet’s carbon dioxide (CO2)-reduction plan and its global safety initiative.
“Greenhouse gas emissions are something we should all be concerned about,” Bieger said. “I set a global goal of 140 grams/km, which is high in Europe, but in the U.S. at that time I set this goal we were running 255 grams/km, simply because the vehicles that we could economically put on the road that could hit that CO2 cap didn’t exist.”
This has changed over the past several years. To achieve this, the company switched from six-cylinder vehicles to four-cylinder vehicles in North America. The next step was changing to EcoBoost and eAssist four-cylinder powered vehicles. Today, ADP’s U.S. fleet is either 100-percent hybrid or high-mileage diesel.
“We have reduced our average from 255 grams/km to under 180 grams/km and it’s continuing to drop as we cycle out the older vehicles,” Bieger said.
And, by being socially responsible, Bieger has also helped the company’s bottom line.
“In the years when fuel was expensive and really high, we were reducing fuel spend by $800,000 per year. That’s year on year,” he said. “With the current cost of fuel, this past fiscal year it was just over $400,000 in fuel savings. But, we’ve literally seen thousands of tons of savings in CO2 reductions.”
One of the newest socially responsible efforts that Bieger has initiated has been a global safety program, which will follow on from what the company is already doing in the U.S.
“It’s fiscally responsible to run a safe fleet. It goes without saying,” he said. “When we’re talking about our values, we’re being socially responsible to the public, the people we’re driving with, and being responsible to our people, and the value that each person counts. I want our sales associates to be safe on the road and to get home to their families. As a person, they count, they matter. With that in mind, we’ve been pushing safety.”
ADP provides online training opportunities for its drivers, and runs motor vehicle record checks (MVRs). It also holds safety contests throughout the year, which helps connect drivers to the fleet safety message with a motivating reward.
The most recent contest rewarded drivers who met the mandatory safety requirements from an operating, driving, and training standpoint by giving them the opportunity to have their personal-use charges waived for up to three months.
The global safety program will be rolled out to ADP’s Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) regions with the help of its global insurer to provide safety training equivalent to that provided in the U.S.
“EMEA doesn’t currently have that kind of online training,” Bieger said. “We’re also getting senior management involved to spread the word in terms of training, and we’re taking our responsibility to make at-risk drivers better seriously.”
ADP is seeking to help at-risk drivers by instituting a telematics program, which will be piloted in the U.S., and will actively measure driving behaviors and provide feedback, so the driver knows what they’re doing wrong, including harsh acceleration, harsh braking, speeding, etc. The driver will then have the real-time opportunity to correct those behaviors. Once the behaviors are corrected, the telematics system will be removed from the vehicle.
“Many companies have to walk a fine line with telematics, because many employees see telematics as something punitive, so you don’t want to dis-incentivize the driver,” Bieger said. “So, if the employee is a good driver and has no issues, it would be somewhat of a punishment in their eyes to put that in their car.”
If the U.S. pilot is successful, then ADP will roll out telematics country by country as allowed by law, by local policy, and by the works councils in those countries.
"We’ll do our best to roll it out, Bieger said. “If it doesn’t happen this year, we’ll do it the next or the next or the next year. We’ll remain focused on safety.”
There are other ways that ADP’s fleet is making a difference, according to Bieger.
“Diversity and inclusion is a very important part of the company as well,” he said. “We mandate all our new vehicle orders are placed through diverse dealerships, and we only use PARS for our vehicle movement, which is a woman-owned business.”
At ADP, fleet doesn’t work alone. Bieger has built strong partnerships throughout the company with other groups both in the U.S., and particularly in Europe to improve operations.
“Risk management has been instrumental with our insurance partners to help craft our global safety policy, but over in Europe there is a team of global procurement professionals whose job is not to do fleet, but they support the operations from the standpoint when something new has to be brought into operation — multi-bidding, matrix-bidding, etc., so they’re a terrific group over there,” he said.
HR has become a key partner for Bieger and his team, particularly when working with the EU fleets.
“When you go overseas, you find that you have to work with HR who has a huge touch on fleet because it’s part of the compensation,” he said. “The first person the driver will call if they’re not happy about something with a product offering is HR. They have to be kept in the loop, consulted and worked with all the time. To a lesser degree some of the finance people have to know what’s happening, certainly you don’t work with them every day, but they have to be informed, because they’re responsible for the budget for the country. You tend to work with more people overseas and cast a wider net than in the U.S. While I don’t work with them directly, the HR people will take fleet initiatives and champion them through the Works Councils.”
Being socially responsible and engaged doesn’t end for Bieger when he goes home at night.
He has been actively involved with industry organizations for much of his fleet career. These include serving on the supplier client boards for GE Capital Fleet Services, Wheels, and General Motors. He has also served on The NAFA Fleet Management Association Corporate Fleet Advisory Council and is currently the executive vice president of AFLA. Bieger has also spoken at industry conferences, most recently the 2015 Global Fleet Conference in Miami, and has authored articles for industry publications, including Fleet Financials sister publication, Automotive Fleet.
This industry involvement is Bieger’s way of giving back.
“I think it’s important, because so many people have helped me on my journey that you have to give back, I believe,” he said. “But, also, fleet is an industry people are put into without preparation. There are very few programs if any that you can get a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts in fleet. Generally, you’re coming from someplace else and so there’s a lot to swallow quickly, and I think it’s the responsibility of everyone who has been successful in fleet to bring the next generation along, and let them know how things have been done, maybe not how they’re going to be done, because the new people are going to do things differently, but if they have that initial grounding the whole industry can only get better.”