Color-coding our way to success

Connie Campbell
Service Administrator at Wheelabrator

Late last year, Marty Magill (Senior Vice President, Wheelabrator Plus) wrote about how foundries and fabricators across North America are under increasing pressure to maximize production and reduce unplanned downtime. For us on the ground in the Services team, this means we have to organise ever more complex logistics and take a very disciplined approach – to deliver the best possible service to customers.

For many people administration is the bit of their job they try to avoid, but we love it. There is never a dull moment for the Service Administration team! To explain why, I’ll need to give you a better understanding of what exactly it is that we’re administering.

The work of the service team – a look behind the scenes

Our team looks after four key services that keep our customers’ machines in top condition. The first is Service Repairs which can either involve one of our service technicians visiting a customer to make repairs and install parts already owned by the customer, or it can be integrated with a ‘parts install’, where our customer has also ordered new parts from Wheelabrator.

Our second key service is Inspections, where our technicians carry out in-depth reviews of a customer’s machines to establish whether or not servicing or new parts are required. The third service is Contract Inspections – where we meet with a customer on a regular basis, from monthly to annually depending on their needs. As Marty mentioned in his blog, these scheduled inspections are something we’re doing more and more of.

Finally, we have our Operations and Maintenance service, where we train customers to understand how to operate and/or maintain their machines. They may request this when they have a new machine, or a new team working on an existing machine, or even as a refresher to current staff. We offer training at the customer site, but we also hold sessions twice a year at our Headquarters in LaGrange, Georgia.

Our 10 regional service technicians are on the road constantly and available to customers 24/7. The logistics of making sure they know what job they’re going to next, what they’ll be doing and whether there are any specific requirements involved are complex. It’s our job as administrators to make sure they have all the details they need to deliver the best service to our customers.


Organizing complex logistics – Connie, Command Central

Our parts install service is a good example of how the logistics can become tricky. It’s not just a case of sending the service technician to the customer on a specific day and time. The last thing we want is for the technician to arrive for the job and find that – for example – the parts have been delayed, or that the customer decided not to order a part that was actually vital for the job to take place.

We track the parts that the customer has ordered, check that the customer has all the requirements in place, and then ensure that the technician is scheduled to arrive when they will have everything lined up to get straight on with the job. This prevents the wasting of valuable time for the technician and the customer, and the job is done as quickly as possible.

Connie-Campbell-IMG_4339Over time we have developed a system to ensure that we’re keeping close track of scheduled jobs, and what is needed for each one of them. The different types of service are color-coded so that we can easily see what is required for the job. For example, we color code a ‘parts install’ red, which means that – at a glance – we know we need to check if the parts are on their way and will arrive at the customer on schedule.

I must admit, I have had a few people laugh at me for how strict I am about the color-coding, but over time they’ve realized how much easier it makes both my job and theirs. Indeed, as we’ve grown our service offering – expanding to Mexico and Canada, as well as covering the US – the administration side of things has become ever more important.

Our team is available to the technicians all day, every day, including outside normal office hours. What’s fantastic about being in this role is that we’re at the very center of everything. We speak to the customers, we know all about the services and we can put our hands on any information that’s required at any time because we’re so familiar with all the jobs we have scheduled.

No day is ever the same, but key tasks that are always on our to-do lists include monitoring our service inbox and dealing with the queries which can range from technicians requesting technical drawings to customers asking for a new inspection.

We also answer calls from customers, and sometimes need to direct them to the proper support team for their particular machine needs. We may need to organize help for them at short notice and rejig the schedule to fit in emergency work. All this is in addition to the day-to-day paperwork needed to make sure our customers get exactly what they ordered, as well as reporting on our performance and looking at where we can improve.

The benefits of paperwork

Administration may not sound glamourous, but I really do love my job. We’re lucky to have a great team who really understands what the service technicians’ work is like, and we do our best to make their jobs as straightforward as possible. There’s a lot of paperwork involved, but technicians are coming to understand why this is so vital, because ultimately the more information we have here, the easier we can make their job later.

The best part is seeing the work come full-circle, from taking an initial customer request to receiving a satisfied report from them following the job. We’ve received some fantastic customer testimonials which really make the hard work worthwhile.

It seems we must be doing something right, as our team’s results keep going from strength to strength and we’re continuing to expand, with plans to grow the team this year. We’re all really looking forward to an exciting 2016.


This post was written by
Connie Campbell
Service Administrator at Wheelabrator
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Beneath the surface - expert opinion and insight on surface preparation from Wheelabrator.
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