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>> COVER STORY PRODUCT SUPPORT JOANNE COSTIN T he 2015 Summit panel session on Product Support Best Practices yielded some interest- ing ideas for improving parts and service departments among construc- tion equipment dealers. Panelists Steve Stai, vice president of Service, General Equipment & Supplies, (Fargo, N.D.); Dennis Goodman, vice president, Vermeer Texas-Louisiana (Irving, Texas) and Mitchell Ivey, fixed operations coordinator, Doggett Heavy Machinery Services (Houston) offered sage advice on hot topics they consider to be of highest priority today. Sharing a passion for continu- ous improvement, the three dealer veterans delved into: (1.) closing work orders faster; (2.) recruiting and retaining skilled technicians; and (3.) establishing service call centers. Other areas of interest explored in later interviews included (4.) Kaizen/lean/ process management and (5.) getting into the used parts business. Closing Work Orders Faster e time between when the last labor is posted to a job and when an invoice is sent to the customer is money out the window. It's an area where construc- tion equipment dealers seem to lag far behind their automotive dealer counterparts. "You don't get your car before you pay the bill. As an industry we need to get to that point," said Stai. "How many people know how long it takes to close a work order?" asked Goodman. At Vermeer Texas-Loui- siana, the time to close a work order went from 17 days to under five days by addressing the problem. Without measurements, you can't begin to know where you are, they agreed, and while five days is acceptable, two to three days is better. Creating a sense of urgency across his service department related to closing work orders has helped Mitchell Ivey improve the work order close process at Doggett. "We convey that it is not just a number or a total or jobs, but money we are waiting to collect," he said. "Customers are riding our backs." e panelists cited several contrib- uting factors that can slow down the process and advised dealers to break the process down completely to eliminate bottlenecks and inef- ficiencies. "You need to recognize the problem before you can figure out the fix," added Goodman. A focused and strategic way of sort- ing out what these problems are helped Ivey identify some issues at Doggett. He created a flow chart of the work order process in Excel to help identify pinch points where the process slows down. Bad handwriting in write-ups and not having a purchase order stood out as reasons for delays. Once he insisted that the customer support reps get that information up front before the job starts, Doggett went from $450,000 worth of labor closeout to $550,000 with the same staff and workload. Goodman advised comparing metrics across retail, warranty and internal jobs to further identify problem areas. "More times than not there is too much labor on the job; the labor is not what you quoted the customer; or you didn't fix the problem," he said. According to the panelists, warranty work typically goes to the bottom of the service manager's to-do list because it requires additional paperwork to be Parts and Service Hot List Three dealers share best practices to yield greater efficiency and happier customers. 34 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | April 2015 You don't get your car before you pay the bill. As an industry we need to get to that point. Photo courtesy of General Equipment & Supplies, where innovative product support leader Steve Stafki says, if something's not of value to the customer, then it's waste.