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Setting the building blocks for a succesful field service operation

Dec 20 • Features, Management • 1787 Views • No Comments on Setting the building blocks for a succesful field service operation

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For many field service directors the opportunity to develop a brand new service organisation would sound like a fantastic opportunity to be relished. Ian Cockett of Cygnet Texkimp, who is in the process of doing just that, tells us what the process is like in reality…

Ian Cockett, Product Director, Spares, Service and Maintenance holds up a blank piece of paper. This is the opportunity I was presented with he says.

An opportunity to build a service operation completely from scratch. How could I resist?

Cockett is talking to a room full of around 50 field service managers and directors at a service community gathering and looking around the room at the nodding heads and wry smiles as he begins his presentation, it is clear that a number of those in the audience not only undersood the challenge Cockett was facing but also the lure of such a proposition.

Having spent some thirty years working in service, primarily within the domestic heating market, Cockett certainly has the pedigree for such an undertaking

Having spent some thirty years working in service, primarily within the domestic heating market, Cockett certainly has the pedigree for such an undertaking. He spent many years working for Bosch, one of the most respected organisations in the sector, having direct responsibility for the aftermarket team in the UK with responsibility for around 300 field service engineers, a contact centre of 80 people working 7 days a week and a technical support team of around 40 people.

More recently Cockett was Service Director for Domino Printing Sciences a company providing equipment used in print processes within the production environment. Here service was in constant high demand as if a printer goes down then production facilities are not working – so their clients would be directly losing a lot of money and therefore needed a highly efficient service operation to keep them onside.

However, just over two years ago Cockett moved to his current role with Cygnet Texkimp – a business involved in technical fibre processing.

A family owned company that has been in operation since 1974, Cygnet Texkimp operate in the fibre processing industry and design, manufacture, install and now maintain equipment that goes into technical fibre processing servicing sectors as diverse as carpet manufacturing through to aerospace and the automotive sector.

Having experienced significant growth within the last ten years the company now comprises of six main areas with a view to offering a complete turnkey solution for their sector – including the aftersales division which Cockett has been tasked with developing.

However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing as Cockett has looked to introduce the concept and culture of a service oriented organisation into an organisation focused on delivering high quality engineering solutions but without the service support structure or established KPI’s and processes that an established service organisation may take for granted.

It has had more challenges than I thought we would have. When starting a service organisation from scratch in an established organisation, the challenges are broader than just generating a service business

“It has had more challenges than I thought we would have. When starting a service organisation from scratch in an established organisation, the challenges are broader than just generating a service business.” Cockett explains.

“I am used to organisations where you’ve got a service team that’s an inherent service team, with KPIs in place, with scheduling systems in place, and with engineers all across the UK – so I was there to manage that team and then to drive continuous improvement.”

“This is a completely different beast I’ve found and it’s definitely given me some personal challenges, but nevertheless it’s an exciting opportunity we can work with and hopefully help the business to grow through delivery of excellent service.”

The challenges that Cockett faces are split into two main areas. The first is actual business development and the second is around developing a culture within the organisation that compliments an aftersales division.

Whilst the business is growing it is all too easy to focus solely on the here and now

The key challenge is that, as with many similar sized companies, whilst the business is growing it is all too easy to focus solely on the here and now, on delivering custom solutions for clients that meet expectations but without a forward vision of how these solutions can be maintained efficiently via a service division that is yet to even exist.

As Cockett explains “We are moving to standardise on our products more and more where this is possible and implement process improvement across the organisation as the business continually develops.”

Another additional challenge Cockett faces is that Cygnet Texkimp operates as a matrix structured business.

“In one sense it’s s great “ Cockett comments “it’s good for the business in terms of flexing through peaks and troughs and that is great in terms of the business and providing a stable platform.”

“The challenge I’m faced with on a service basis however, is that I have to go begging, pleading and robbing to get people to provide service support.

I’ve gone form 300 service engineers at Bosch to 1 here. We do have other organisations that we own which we can utilise – for example mechanical and electrical installation and service companies that we are part of so we can draw on that resource but because it’s not my resource the challenge I have is getting the right person at the right time to go attend a service call.”

In addition to this the other significant challenge Cockett faces is that most of their business is outside of the UK where they are based.

With no service team as such just where does Cockett start in order to begin building a service operation that can become a profitable element of the company?

“We have recently recruited a COO, which is now bringing in some of the structure, process and procedure that we need and also some standardisation to allow us to continue to drive through business and continue the growth pattern we are going on.”

“For example, one of our challenges associated with our progress with product standardisation is that of spare part naming and numbering conventions, which historically have been project led.”

The challenge I face, is we have all these different bits of kit and same widget may appear with a different name or part number when used in lots of different pieces of equipment

“The challenge I face, is we have all these different bits of kit and same widget may appear with a different name or part number when used in lots of different pieces of equipment. So trying to manage that from an aftersales perspective will give you some real challenges, as anyone involved with service businesses will agree.”

In order to overcome this hurdle Cockett is now working with design teams going right back to the design process to organise things in a structured way.

“Now our electrical and mechanical design team both use the same language, we all structure the parts in the same way and if we have a part we have used before we give it the same name and part number as before.”

Although it may seem an obvious step it is a crucial one and Cygnet Texkimp won’t be alone in having overlooked such steps as they evolved at rapid pace.

However, as Cockett begins working with his colleagues across the wider business putting these foundations in place, he is able to see the service operation and the company as a whole moving forward.

This in turn has allowed him the opportunity to begin addressing his other key challenge – of developing service business.

It’s about getting the right service, to the right customers and we need to have people in the right places to do that

“The opportunity is of course the legacy stuff – the equipment that’s already fitted and out there across the world – that’s my opportunity to go and sell spares and service.” he explains.

“It’s about getting the right service, to the right customers and we need to have people in the right places to do that,” he concludes.

However, the one thing that comes across clearly having listened to Cockett’s presentation is that he is a man that not only has the experience to know what service excellence looks like, he also is able to take the wider business view to ensure that service doesn’t just get added as a business unit in isolation, but is a central driver for the way the company evolves moving forward.

And whilst the challenges Cockett and the management team at Cygnet Texkimp remain numerous, there remains a genuine feeling that nothing is insurmountable.

The development of a service department is the natural evolution for Cygnet Texkimp and Cockett strikes me as a man that will ultimately deliver.

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