As equipment owners search for ways to save money in a down economy, keeping older equipment running longer is often a popular option. A key to the longevity of any machine is following the outlined maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual, but this can be a difficult chore with tight deadlines and a lack of trained employees to do the work on time and without sacrificing productivity.
So tree-care and landscaping companies in Arizona and New Mexico are leaving the preventive maintenance and service up to their local dealer — this is becoming more and more popular as equipment distributors offer on-site service rather than require that machines be taken from the project site to the shop, an obvious benefit that minimizes downtime on the job.
Vermeer Sales Southwest, based in Chandler, AZ., developed its on-site service program in late 2002. Bo Adams, director of special operations at the dealership, says the concept was born in response to ongoing customer need.
“Customers already see a direct correlation between getting the dealership involved in the maintenance of the equipment and the length of time that the machine is operational,” he said. Adams explained that in the past, customers (to avoid downtime) often were apprehensive about taking equipment from the site to the shop, which resulted in missing scheduled service. At the same time, customers are often more comfortable with certified dealer mechanics doing the work. This program offers the best of both worlds, he said.
Adams and his crew have landed a number of clients for the new program. Among them are owners of new Vermeer BC1000XL and BC1400 model brush chippers. Many more new pieces of equipment will be added to this initial list, Adams said, allowing more customers to leave their maintenance schedule in the hands of the dealership.
Service Trucks on the Go
With the assistance of a small fleet of Iowa Mold Tooling Co. (IMT) field service trucks with telescopic cranes, mechanics can literally take their shop on the road and get work done faster.
The IMT telescopic cranes on the service body can be used to remove the mill or the chip chute on a brush chipper. The true benefits of the telescopic crane can be realized when working on equipment such as large track trenchers. Removal of a pump-drive motor, which may weigh between 2,500 or 3,000 lbs, or assisting in the assembly of a digger chain, are examples of tasks in which the cranes get used to their full advantage.
All technicians at the Vermeer dealership are involved in the manufacturer’s service technician certification program, enabling them to identify common problems and make quick recommendations, Adams said. The four-tiered program combines learning opportunities at the factory coupled with a variety of self-study aids, such as CD-ROM learning tools.
“I think in the long run we can save them (the customer) money by doing the job right the first time,” Adams said.
While the new program should generate additional sales revenue for the dealership, the company remains focused on current business. Adams said the two most important reasons for starting a program like this are to create a better working relationship with the customer and improve their overall satisfaction with the dealership.
“Manufacturers and equipment dealers need to find customer benefits that set them apart,” Adams said. “So we’re always trying to help customers find smarter ways to run their business.
“With a program like this,” he added, “a customer could reduce their service staff and have them only perform the routine oil and lube work, for example. Everything else could be left up to qualified technicians that show up at the site on a regular basis or in an emergency situation. We do oil and lube work, but we also do the much more sensitive and time-consuming work.”
The dealership’s new program follows service intervals recommended by the manufacturer; however, in some cases, the dealership goes to a 150-hour or 100-hour interval based on the workload the machine has sustained during the year. Equipment owners are still asked to monitor the maintenance schedule and notify the dealership when service is needed.
During each visit to the equipment, the mechanic does a full inspection, both operational and physical, checking tire pressure and fluids, and identifying any parts that may fail and need to be replaced. Although the trained technicians provide expert analyses of the machines, Adams reminds customers that it’s often the day-to-day equipment checks that reveal the need for maintenance, including adjustment of fluid levels.
Customers should remember not to operate brush chippers with dull blades, for example, because that could potentially lead to other problems. They should also watch tire pressure to ensure that a tire doesn’t blow during transport or on the job.
Adams is currently bidding on a new piece of business that will involve the need to service five or six machines at one time, a weekly requirement. The dealership currently has three service contracts with an additional proposal for 30 units with a local power service provider, as well as several other contracts with environmental equipment owners, such as grinders, chippers and stump cutters, according to Adams.
“Handing the maintenance over to someone else can, over time, result in a lot of saved repair money and saved headaches,” he says. “We’re in the business of selling equipment, but we’re also in the business of keeping it running, and we’re happy to shoulder that responsibility.”
Vermeer Southwest Sales has been serving the area for the past 13 years, under the direction of Alan Fenig and Bo Adams, dealer principals, and has grown to 35 employees.
(Ryan Johnson is a writer for Two Rivers Marketing Group, which represents Vermeer and IMT.)