September 2014

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Page 27 of 59

Field Service 26 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | September 2014 veterans of field service largely through attrition, with only a partial understanding of where essential replacements will come from. The impending shortage has the industry working in tandem with the U.S. educational system to establish new field service training programs and to pinpoint the raw talent necessary to fill them. Along with technical ability, these programs will high- light the importance of safety, says service industry kingpin Bruce Bunting. Echoing Shaw, Bunting, who is an industrial product specialist with Knapheide Industries Ltd., emphasizes that safety today is much more than a buzzword: "Safe operations make more money by reducing downtime. Technicians in a hurry have to understand you can't use a 7,000-pound crane to do the job of a 14,000-pound crane." Highly skilled service representatives aren't a dime a dozen. They're a special breed, often more qualified, creative and dedicated than shop mechanics, quick on their feet and equally nimble between the ears. Another key ingredient is personality-plus. The field tech has to work the customer as well as the ailing machine. In the field, in the heat of the moment, there's no handy PR department backing him up. "A great shop mechanic doesn't necessarily make a great field mechanic," said Bunting, whose personal lineage in the equipment industry dates back to his great-grandfather. The largest supplier of service truck bodies on the conti- nent, Knapheide's history in supporting the industry goes back even further – 166 years. Keep on Truckin' The ability of the company to evolve into new techno- logy and new products has made and kept Knapheide an industry leader, Bunting maintains. Covering 480,000 square feet, the company's Quincy, Ill.- plant houses the most sophisticated manufacturing processes. The assortment of bodies coming off the Knapheide line ranges from dump and forestry vehicles to water and mechanics' trucks. Practicing what it preaches, the company's own customer support center prides itself in delivering a wide range of post-sales service, from distributor training on product installation to preventive maintenance education. Along with the mechanics' trucks, Curry has a similar line, including fuel and lube trucks, winch trucks and vacuum trucks. Quick service when required is part of the package. Diagnostics are channeled through computerized linkages and deciphered via on-board wireless screens; troubleshooting can be done remotely. Like Curry, Knapheide supplies basic trucks that are equipped to meet a given dealer's requirements. Larger units can be outfitted with cranes and other lifting devices, telematics systems, and air-compressors. An increasing volume of repairs and upgrades these days are conducted away from the dealer's shop. It's simply the most cost-effective, efficient way to keep complex machinery on the job. "If you're mining in Peru, taking a machine in for service isn't a likely option," Clark notes. Curry's proficiency in the business has been recognized in various ways, including through the Pennsylvania Governor's ImPact Award for 2014 given to the company in June for demonstrating consistent job growth. While locating talented technicians to keep its trucks out in the field is the dealer's responsibility, the availability and proficiency of human operators is fundamental across the entire industry. When a customer pays $1 million for a piece of equip- ment, he expects a $100,000 service truck to arrive at his door within a reasonable period of time if something goes wrong, Bunting observes. No dealer should risk losing that sale and the ability to maintain a satisfied customer by not being able to follow through on service. A fleet of service trucks can be a substantial investment, be it one or two for a smaller company to as many as 500 for the biggest dealers. A fully equipped service truck is a thing of beauty, says the admittedly biased Bunting. Pulling the picture together are the field techs, self-starters who don't mind long hours and making on-the-spot decisions. They function well in the isolated locations where they're often called to get crucial equipment back on track. They can handle – even embrace – all kinds of conditions including working in the rain, cold and snow. Field service trucks are the financial backbone of the business and their operators are the essential front line of responders, Bunting concludes. Harnessing Smart Technology Kim Prevost agrees on the importance of the human component and that a drastic technician shortage is imminent. She's director of Business Development for EBS Mechdata Corp., a software firm that's dedicated to speed- ing up the process for field service representatives through the latest in technological advancements. Prevost blames the industry for not doing more to attract younger generations into the field service business in an era when so many career options are available. The family connection is being lost, she says, with young people not necessarily following in the footsteps of their parents into similar careers, be they lawyers or service mechanics. "In many cases, prospects don't even know jobs are available in our industry," Prevost maintains. "We haven't ("Mechanic's Truck Still the Field-Service Mainstay" continued from page 24)

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