The Hitachi ZW220-7 wheel loader is among the many models of equipment Hills Machinery sells and services.
(Photo Courtesy of Hitachi, Roadtec and Case.)
In early summer, Hills Machinery, distributor of construction, environmental and agricultural equipment in the Southeast, held a series of awards banquets at its 12 branch locations to celebrate the achievements of its top product support professionals.
The company's customers have long known Hills Machinery's emphasis on bringing in talented people to work in product sales, rental, service and parts.
From its base in Charleston, S.C., Hills Machinery has managed to spread that expertise around to its growing number of dealership locations, which includes nine in the two Carolinas, two in Virginia (with another on the way), and one in Georgia.
According to Jim Hills, the company's president, the dealership provided a luncheon at every branch of Hills Machinery in the three states and "invited several of our vendors to join us both at the stores and on teams meetings."
Each gathering highlighted the work of individual service technicians, parts support people and recognized the overall support performance at the branch level. Additionally, he said, "we wanted to recognize the top achievements for our sales and rental personnel from a banquet we had earlier in the year."
Hills added that the full-serve equipment distributor also takes the time to present a lifetime achievement award, which he said is not an annual honor, as well as the Summit Award, in recognition of an entire branch. Finally, Hills Machinery bestows the Steven Davis Award to honor a person of character within the organization.
"We have established these types of awards in order to emphasize that [they are] the tip of the spear, so to speak, with which we retain customers and grow our business," he said. "We realized some time ago that if we did not take the time to recognize the people that were doing this work, that we were not honoring that commitment."
Building Its Reputation for Excellent Product Support
Hills represents and distributes products from several major OEMs, including Case Construction and Hitachi Construction & Mining, both manufacturers of heavy equipment. In addition, the dealership carries products made by Toro, Rokbak and Hudson Brothers Trailers, among others. Hills' paving lines include machines from Sakai America, Mauldin and Astec/Roadtec.
Enhancing its product support has been a major initiative for the distributor, according to the company's top executive.
"Number one, we continue to invest in additional personnel — our greatest resource," Hills said. "We have also continued to add service trucks and now, we have brought on Sprinter vans for light services, added lubrication services, and have begun servicing more and more compact equipment.
"In addition to that, we are opening new locations," he said. "In the last 14 months, we have opened three new branches, including the Savannah locations and the Virginia stores in Richmond and Wise."
At the Georgia and Virginia branches of Hills Machinery, the predominant product line is Hitachi, Hills said, but across almost the entirety of North and South Carolina, the company sells and services Case and Astec machines, the latter of which includes Roadtec and Carlson paving products.
When asked how well the marketplaces in Virginia and Georgia have accepted Hills Machinery, Hills answered, "I think the customer response was extremely positive because we brought a layer of product support that was missing previously under a direct relationship," meaning one where Astec and Carlson were selling directly to end users without going through a distribution network.
"Also, our commitment to both the parts and service side of [Hills Machinery] has certainly earned the business the customers are rewarding us with," he added.
The key difference between how an equipment maker offers its product support directly to a contractor and how Hills Machinery does it comes down to the latter having a larger network of branches and many more trained technicians at the ready.
"The manufacturer was very often putting remote technicians across the territory, and they were trying to supply their parts out of their main depot in Chattanooga, Tenn.," Hills said. "Today, Hills Machinery will soon have 13 locations in a territory where they had none. Plus, we have almost 80 service technicians in an area where they have five, so the level of support is tremendously improved for the end user."
He added that that has helped create a direct correlation between the growth of Hills Machinery's service business and that of its sales volume.
For more information, visit www.hillsmachinery.com. CEG
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