December 2012

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Service ROI the years is "can you build me a truck that covers everything I need?" The answer is unfortunately a resounding no, but this is a great place to apply the 80/20 rule. I do believe that if we focus the efforts to become as productive as possible on the primary work that is performed most often in the field each and every day, the overall productivity of the field service truck will improve or at the very least remain constant. So even though there isn't a one-size-fits-all design, I firmly believe that with performance measuring and consistent reviews you can improve the overall efficiency of service trucks. How many times are you, as an owner or decision making principal, reviewing things like: health insurance, phone plans or uniform cost? Are you reviewing your field service fleet performance with the same level of attention? Complaining when it is budget time once a year that field service trucks are too expense does not constitute a review. So Why All The Questions? When I meet with a heavy equipment dealer customer I ask a lot of questions, regardless if it is a new client or an existing one. Here are things that I frequently ask: What is your cost structure for field service trucks? Are you setting realistic goals and expectations for the field service trucks? Are you setting realistic goals and expectations for the field service department? What is the current expected life of your field service trucks? What method is applied as the guideline to determine when trucks get replaced? Unlike other commercial vehicles, field service trucks are unique, such that a truck might only have 90,000 miles in seven years but has 22,000 hours of engine time. All field service trucks will reach a point when they are "consuming" a higher percentage of the profit to the point that it is no longer feasible to operate them. Remember, the field service trucks have to be a profit center. Do not view your trucks the same way that some of your end-users do. To an end-user, the field service truck is a dead cost item so they are looking to keep it for a much longer period of time. The factors that determine where this point is for a company will vary slightly based on truck size and the severity of the terrain in which the service truck operates. If you are not tracking and reviewing your operational cost, either per mile or per hour and monitoring the trends, you will never know accurately when the replacement needs to occur. By carefully tracking this information you should be able to make scheduled replacements of the field service trucks rather than waiting until a truck has failed and then having to make an unplanned, last-minute purchase. Keep in mind that what is really happening here is that you, the dealer, are putting out investment capital, which in turn has to provide you with an ROI, and just like any successful financial advisor, field service truck sales people like me need all your goals and objectives in order to provide you with the maximum return on your truck investment. The process of purchasing field service trucks is no longer just about "bigger and faster" field service trucks – it is about integrating technology and systems that provide information back to a dealer in real time. I recommend careful consideration of the many aspects of your field service business and the goals you have for the coming year. From there, you and your manufacturer can custom spec the trucks for the correct applications, so they can work hard for your money. Do you incentivize the economical operation of your field service truck, for example, to achieve lower idle times? I know of one dealer location that provided additional tool allowances to technicians for lowered idle times, and it has been a great success. It is without a doubt more effective than simply imposing a zero-idle rule that can have a very negative impact on your retention rate for field service mechanics. My experience has been that when you engage field personnel in the field service truck specifications process it will greatly increase the success of your end result – whether it is inviting and incorporating their new ideas or simply changing an existing component on their recommendation. Over the years, I have found that field personnel can often times point out an issue that is causing them lost time, and it can be as simple as moving a bolt bin into a different compartment. Field mechanics spend so much time with their truck that they surely know the strengths and weaknesses of the field service truck better than anyone else. Also, I believe that your field service mechanics' personal safety is of the utmost concern, and so I'm convinced that productivity and safety go hand in hand. As your business grows shouldn't your field service trucks evolve and be a reflection of that growth? Lastly, always remember that your field service fleet functions as a rolling bill board. So ask yourself, "Are my trucks an accurate and positive reflection of my dealership? Do my trucks look like well-organized and productive units or do they look like chaos on wheels? Sometimes, just increasing side height of a service truck will provide internal storage required to eliminate the topside "gypsy wagon" look that detracts from a positive image. A lot should go into the design of an optimally functioning service truck – I hope I've give you some good food for thought. BRUCE BUNTING grew up in a family business that sold, serviced and operated heavy equipment. He learned firsthand about the business side of heavy equipment field service and how important it is to the dealer and their customers. Today he is the Knapheide Manufacturing Industrial Products Specialist. December 2012 | Construction Equipment Distribution | www.cedmag.com | 29

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