A southern Californian forklift dealer has bucked the industry trend to avoid mobile service technicians.
VLS Inc, of Brea, California, which trades as Vertical Lift Truck Services of California, has 12 field technicians.
Mike Snyder, president and CEO, said implementing the concept impacted on the whole company and required patience during the critical process of educating the technicians and other employees.
He said mobile services were not new, but most dealers shied away from them because of performance uncertainties.
He posed three questions to anyone contemplating introducing a mobile service: "Can my technicians be educated on the software of my choosing? Does the person or group I have chosen to implement the system do homework and understand the philosophy? Do I have the resources and funding to complete the change?"
In October 2005, VLS began operating 12 mobile units in its four-county service area. Each vehicle has a mobile computer and VLS-proprietary software. Preparations started in 2004.
Using customised features, "our technicians have the ability to invoice and quote customers on site and the options of on-board printing, fax and email capabilities", Snyder said. "For our technicians, it means having knowledge at their finger tips."
The billing improvement impressed customer William Tanaka, warehouse traffic senior supervisor with Nippon Express USA Inc, in El Segundo, California. "I get an invoice and can process that information, and it usually cuts down five days on getting bills paid," he said.
VLS's customer account tracking on-line system allows customers to preview equipment history and work in process, track hourly costs and payables and check invoice history by unit. A digital dispatch board enables VLS to view the status of technicians' repairs, preventive maintenance and other jobs.
VLS has reduced receivable collections by 10 days, virtually eliminated the cost of postage, envelopes and paper, and cut fuel expenses, Snyder said.
In addition to the 12 technicians, VLS employs six people with sales, parts and administrative responsibilities.
VLS distributes DV8r, Tailift, Navigator, Blue Giant and Rol-Lift forklifts and other equipment. Its building occupies 12,000 square feet (1,080 square metres). VLS gets 60 percent of revenue from service work, 22 percent from equipment sales and the remainder from rentals and parts.