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Technicians Take Shop, Maintenance on the Road

Wed February 16, 2005 - West Edition
Ryan Johnson

As equipment owners search for ways to save money, keeping older equipment running longer is often a popular option.

One of the keys to the longevity of any machine is following the outlined maintenance schedule in the owner’s or maintenance 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, an independent, authorized dealer of Vermeer Manufacturing Company based in Chandler, AZ, developed its on-site service program in late 2002. Bo Adams, director of special operations at the dealership, said 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 were often apprehensive to take equipment from the job 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.

Adams and his crew have several clients so far. Among them are owners of Vermeer BC1000XL and BC1400XL model brush chippers. And many more new pieces of equipment are being added to this list, Adams said, allowing more customers to leave their maintenance schedule in good hands with trained specialists at 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 shoot on a brush chipper. The true benefits of the telescopic crane can be identified with the large track trenchers.

Removal of a pump-drive motor, which may weigh between 2,500 and 3,000 lbs., or to assist in the assembly of a digger chain, are when the cranes get used to their full advantage.

Trained Technicians

All technicians at the Arizona Vermeer dealership are involved in the manufacturer’s service technician certification program, enabling them to identify common service issues and make quick recommendations, Adams said. The four-tiered program combines learning opportunities at the factory coupled with multiple self-study enhancements, such as CD-ROM learning tools.

“I think in the long run we can save [the customer] money by doing the job right the first time,” Adams said.

While the program should generate additional sales revenue for the dealership, it 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 customers and to 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 Arizona dealership’s new service program follows the recommended service rate by the manufacturer; however in some cases, the dealership goes to a 150- or 100-hour interval based on the demand on the machine during the year.

Equipment owners are still required to monitor the maintenance schedule and notify the dealership when something needs to be done.

On Site

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 do provide an expert analysis of the machines, Adams reminds customers that it’s often the day-to-day equipment checks that need to be monitored, including fluid levels.

Customers should remember not to operate the brush chippers with dull blades, for example, because it could potentially lead to other problems. They also should watch tire pressure to ensure that a tire doesn’t fail during transport or on the job.

(Ryan Johnson is with Two Rivers Marketing Group, representing Vermeer Manufacturing Company.)

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