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[2016 | Keywords: Business, Operations, Service]

Equipment dealers continually strive to run an efficient and productive service department. From reducing redundancy to scheduling and communicating with road techs, innovative ideas and cutting edge technology are helping them reach this goal.

Kunau Implement, a Case-IH dealership with locations in Preston and Dewitt, Iowa, tracks and communicates with its service techs on the road using a combination of Garmin GPS units and Fleetmatics software. The software allows a dispatcher to see which trucks are on the road and where they are located at any given time. “Basically, we’re keeping track of our assets and doing it efficiently, with very little intrusion on the technician’s work time, which results in maximum benefits to the customer,” said Todd Kunau, owner of Kunau Implement.

The dealership implemented the system nearly three years ago to improve communication with its service team. Kunau had just decommissioned two-way radios from the 70s and was looking for a new way to communicate with his techs. “I wasn’t ready to buy everyone a cell phone, since we work in a rural area with spotty cell phone coverage,” he explained. “Fleetmatics’ satellite two-way communication gives us the ability to communicate with anyone anywhere.”

The dealership has up to 15 service trucks out at any given time. “Typically, we have several trained people and vehicles out in our territory servicing equipment,” said Kunau. “This software allows us to respond more quickly and accurately to customer needs.”

For example, when a customer calls with an urgent situation, the job can be given to the tech that is closest, regardless of which store they call home base. “It is nice being able to share the workload between both store locations, because the last thing we want is to have two of our service vehicles passing each other on the road.”

Communication between the service manager and techs is done through text messaging delivered to the tech’s GPS unit in the truck, rather than calling to ask how much longer the job is expected to take. “What’s great is that we’re not calling our techs on their personal cell phones. Instead, we push the information to their Garmin so they can see that the order of stops has changed when they get back to their vehicle,” said Kunau. “Our techs are more efficient when they aren’t being hounded by us back at the dealership.”

The techs have liked the change. “They understood that we were trying to make their job easier,” explained Kunau. “They don’t need or want instructions on a post-it-note or scratch paper. Instead they say, ‘Just send it to my Garmin’ as they walk out the door.” Techs also appreciate that the GPS screens have Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free functionality.

Customers are pleased that the dealership can give them precise answers as to where techs are located and when they can expect them to arrive. “When a customer calls the dealership to ask when they should expect to see a technician at their home, we don’t have to call the technician at a jobsite,” said Kunau. “Instead, we simply look at the computer screen, see where our service vehicles are located and give the customer a reasonable estimate. It helps keep things rolling and prevents our technicians from answering a call on their cell phone while driving a commercial vehicle.”

Kunau also appreciates that the system allows him to pinpoint exactly where a customer is located, saving both time and fuel. “Through Google Earth we can pinpoint exactly where on the farm a customer is located. For example, we can look back in the field and say, ‘See the oak tree?’ and then direct the tech from there to where the job is on the farm. The Garmin will lead him exactly to it rather than the 911 address,” explained Kunau. “You can pinpoint the job and see where it is in relation to your closest tech, which saves the tech from driving around in search of the exact location.”

The software allows the dealership to generate a variety of reports using any metric it wants to track. “These reports help us determine if a vehicle is starting to cost too much and if it’s time to look at purchasing a new one,” stated Kunau. While the dealership currently doesn’t have the software in every vehicle, Kunau hopes to increase this number each year.

The system has also made billing more accurate, since the dealership can now create a precise on-location time. “We can create a record of exactly how many minutes or hours the tech was on location, which is particularly helpful if the customer is a CNH warranty customer since CNH won’t pay for travel time,” said Kunau. “Now we have a time stamp report showing we were on location for an hour and 22 minutes and that’s what we submit to CNH. It’s a way to prove we were on location.”

The dealership also went to a fleet card to help monitor fuel, parts and more. “While we’re not that big of an outfit, we do have 35-40 licensed vehicles,” said Kunau. “The card not only helps us track all of the fuel purchased back to a specific vehicle, but to the employee driving it as well.” Oil changes and maintenance can also be billed to specific vehicles.

“We have definitely noticed an increase in efficiency since implementing Fleetmatics software and Garmin GPS units,” concluded Kunau. “Overall, I’d say the system has made all parties involved – techs, customers, accounting and management – happier.”