ASHLAND, Va. - Richmond Refrigeration is a mechanical contractor that serves installation and service needs of supermarkets and convenience stores in Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. Its annual sales are estimated at $5-10 million.
The company earned a reputation as one of the best installation contractors in the region. Employees strive to give customers the best options in terms of function and aesthetics, and customers have come to depend on the contractor for providing honest and reliable service work, and for responding quickly and professionally.
This contractor does what most contractors strive to do: they do what they say, treat people like they want to be treated themselves, and if a mistake occurs, they take responsibility and fix it.
Slow response times aren’t necessarily an error, but it’s something Richmond Refrigeration wanted to improve upon. They realized that managing all aspects of field work manually delayed invoicing, added overhead, resulted in more callbacks, and reduced the effectiveness of dispatching. To improve efficiencies and give them a competitive advantage, the company implemented an automated system.
The contractor decided to use WennSoft MobileTEC, which is designed to improve the accuracy of data capture, guide decision making, and enforce standards and best practices. It allows field staff to update schedules, add parts and materials usage, record expenses, send and receive e-mail, and manage scheduled maintenance, in addition to eliminating redundant or inefficient data entry.
Richmond Refrigeration worked with Lexacom DBA, The Halden Group, to implement the program, in addition to Service Management Series and Job Cost. For more than 20 years, they have been helping clients optimize their use of Microsoft Dynamics GP software.
Richmond Refrigeration rolled out MobileTEC slowly. First they had one technician use it as a pilot project, which showed many efficiencies and great potential to help the business. Their 19 technicians are using it.
FASTER INVOICINGPrior to using the program, the company struggled to get paperwork from the technicians in a timely manner - all the technicians have fax machines, but it usually took a few days after a job was completed before they submitted the paperwork. This delayed the processing of invoices, which ultimately delayed the receipt of customer payments.
The result was a greater burden on the company’s finances, since they continually spent money servicing their customers - money for parts, labor, gas for the trucks, etc.
“Most of your customers will pay within 30 days, some might push it to 45,” said John Lollar, company president. “When you’re doing a lot of jobs, the credit you’re carrying can add up in a hurry.”
It used to take them five to eight business days to get an invoice processed. Now they’re able to process invoices in a day and a half.
“Our line of credit with the bank hasn’t been as high as it has in the past because we’re getting money in more quickly,” said Lollar. “Even with a difficult economy, we’re receiving payments in a shorter amount of time because we get the invoices in our customers’ hands more quickly.”
INVENTORY CONTROLIn order to provide the best customer service and reduce costs, Richmond Refrigeration strives to stock the right parts on all the technicians’ trucks. When they were managing their technicians manually, this was often challenging and inconsistent.
When a technician used a part, the replacement wasn’t reordered by the warehouse until the paperwork was received. Since there was a significant lag time in getting the paperwork, it was common for technicians to go a week before getting their parts inventory replaced.
“If a technician has to wait five days before the parts on their truck are replenished, they may not have had the parts they needed to do the job,” said Lollar. “That can lead to poor customer service.”
The technicians now can enter the parts they are using as they perform the work, thus eliminating the lag time. The back office staff can review all the batches at the end of the day and post the inventory changes, so the warehouse staff gets a list of the parts that need to be replenished.
Richmond Refrigeration also set up parameters in the software, so the warehouse is notified if any truck reaches a minimum number of units on any particular part. The warehouse can either send the replacement parts to the technician or order it to a supply house near the tech.
“It used to take up to eight days to replenish the inventory on the trucks; now the longest it takes is a day and a half,” said Lollar.
If a technician completely runs out of a part, MobileTEC enables Richmond Refrigeration to review the parts inventory on all of the trucks in the field to determine if someone near that technician has the part.
CALLBACKSBefore streamlining operations, when the contractor’s technicians went on service calls, they didn’t always know the previous work that had been done on a piece of equipment. This limited their ability to fix the problem. For example, one of their technicians might be working on a rack system at a supermarket that has five compressors. A technician might fix one thing, but something else could be wrong, and the tech would have no idea because he wasn’t familiar with the history.
Now the technician can look at the history for the piece of equipment prior to beginning any work. “When they’re seeing the history of the previous technicians’ work, they can spot trends more effectively,” said Lollar. “This helps us fix things right so we know we’re not going to get a callback.”
Reducing the number of callbacks helps cut costs on their maintenance contracts. Techs also experience an increased sense of pride. “When our technicians are working with a customer and they use their laptop to perform their work, they feel like they’re among the elite in the industry.”
Being able to look at the customer history also helps managers, because they are able to answer customer questions immediately. “Now we can answer a customer’s questions while they’re still on the phone, which goes a long way toward maintaining the relationship.”
CALL MANAGEMENTRichmond Refrigeration is now more productive by improving the way they manage the data entry related to service calls. Two administrators used to enter notes about work history and technician labor, which took approximately five hours a day. Now the technicians enter this info onsite as part of their normal routine.
“WennSoft made us more efficient, which allows our administrators to help out in other areas of the company,” said Lollar.
The company also used to have problems when they would get calls on the weekend. When technicians got a call over the weekend, they would write up manual work orders and gave them to an administrator come Monday.
“Monday morning would become a log jam because we had to rush to create all these service IDs,” said Lollar. “It also delayed getting the replacement parts to the technicians because we had to order them after creating the service order.” Technicians can generate the service call ID themselves and input all relevant information.
Richmond has been pleased with its streamlined solution, and they look forward to continued success.
For more information, visit www.wennsoft.com.