Go Live Success!

Go Live Success!

Tonight, guest writer Christ Kohart shares the ins and outs of how to succeed at ERP in Go Live Success. 

How to Succeed at ERP despite what you’ve read!

Time to upgrade your dealer business system (ERP)? In a continuing series, this question was recently asked of you. If you answered ‘Yes’ or ‘Maybe,’ the following information is for you.  Approached wisely and thoughtfully by both the dealership and the ERP provider, an ERP upgrade will reap the rewards starting with day one. This article will share one of the best practices that delivered positive experiences for those well-prepared dealerships (and for their business partners). The dealership that provided the bullets below had a successful go-live and continues to thrive on its ERP.

Here are a few improvements experienced shortly after going live on the new ERP:

  • Increased accuracy
  • Ability to track your dealerships share of customers spend
  • Instant, real-time reporting
  • Financially close an accounting period within two business days
  • Simplified transaction structure
  • Immediate updates to global data from all areas of the solution

How were these results apparent so quickly? Preparation, research, planning, establishing metrics, training, and execution. As with anything we approach, properly planned new endeavors have a much higher chance of success than when planning was only at a high level. This article will look at the importance of reviewing processes you use throughout the dealership and then the subsequent implementation of standard processes throughout your dealership.

At this dealership, during the early stages of transformation (before committing to a specific ERP), there was extreme pushback from staff regarding the number of processes requiring review and standardization. There is still the thought process in our industry that “we’ve been successful for decades doing it this way, why change?” I’m going to continue those out who do not standardize processes now, whether or not the dealership is considering digital transformation. Why? If you do not embrace standard processes throughout the dealership, you are not creating consistent, repeatable (and reliably reportable) results. This same dealership demonstrated the fortitude to thoroughly review 300 processes across all business areas (Accounting, Sales & CRM, Rental, Product Support).   At the start, many processes had not been standardized between departments (such as purchasing) and locations (“every branch has their individual way of doing it”). At the end of this endeavor, the dealership had created a solid purchasing and purchase approval process and standardized operational processes across their branch network. The first result realized before selecting an ERP:  The dealership had the documentation necessary to establish metrics used during the ERP selection process. The second result:  The dealership solved their difficulty in capturing and correctly categorizing purchases, whether for internal consumption, resale on a work order (how many times have you received an invoice for outside work & materials long after a work order was closed and invoiced without the charges?), or components that should have been capitalized vs. expensed when installed on prime products?

Let’s address each bullet point and how cleaning up and standardizing their processes affected the outcome after going live:

  • Increased accuracy. By creating standards (processes), every manager and staff member creates and enters information in the same format. If your staff doesn’t format correctly, the entry will not be accepted until corrected. You are now reporting on clean, accurate and identically formatted data from all sources.
  • Ability to track your dealership’s share of customer spend. Suppose your machine ownership database is accurate (I will save that for a future article). Your employees follow an established process for tracking all sales and activities by equipment (asset). In that case, your ERP can produce a report based on product support sales by specific equipment and customer based on operating hours vs. sales. Telematics can further enhance this activity, and I’ll reserve this topic for the future. The bottom line is that you will gain the insight necessary to increase your product support sales to your customers.
  • Instant, real-time reporting. Since ERP’s run in real-time, the overnight batch functions required to update different modules within the business system disappears. A couple of examples: Once a rental contract is created, the status of a rental asset instantly changes from available to reserved; once it’s on rent, status changes from reserved to on-rent. When you close a work order, it updates A/R and is available for review within service history.
  • Financially close an accounting period within two business days. You deployed standardized purchasing processes: when goods are received, they are on the books whether or not you have received the vendor’s invoice. In Service, work orders or individual segments close the day after the completion of work, and labor hours are entered and posted each day. Closing periods become more of a final review. The ERP either automatically creates reports or advises management when the period is closed and allows them to create their custom reports.
  • Simplified transaction structure. Everyone undertakes the same activity the same way, and fewer steps lead to greater efficiency and fewer mistakes. It also allows personnel to cover/take over other activities as a standard process guide is available. Many ERPs will enable you to upload your process documents directly in the program help files.
  • Immediate updates to global data from all areas of the solution. Since you have deployed ERP, information entered in one area updates all pertinent information system-wide. Your CRM connects to Sales, Rental, Product Support, and Accounting instantly. For example, suppose a PSSR makes a customer visit and discovers they are unhappy with a recent rental billing. The PSSR can enter this information in CRM. The responsible rental sales representative, branch rental manager, accounting department, and anyone within the dealership who needs to know are notified instantly. This is all driven by a standard process that drives activity within CRM and, if you deploy it, workflow.

While only one of many steps, it’s incredible how vital the “boring” process becomes when running your business. It’s imperative to undertake this review if you want to have excellent odds to succeed when you go live.

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The Digital Dealership – Where Are We Now?

The Digital Dealership – Where we are now?

Guest writer Mets Kramer updates us on where we are now in this continuation of his series on The Digital Dealership.

Next week, at the AED Summit in Orlando, I’ll be presenting the Digital Dealership concept in the education series.  During the hour we’ll have a chance to dive more deeply into some of the topics I’ve presented over the past year. Even more exciting, we’ll get to have open discussion.

The Digital Dealership will focus on the transformative impact of information, expectations and the new channels of engagement with customers and your audience.

Over the past 2 decades we’ve seen a massive shift in the business models of many different industries. We’ve also seen the impact of a changing demographics as new generations come into the working world and as the world of digital communication broadens. The result is a growing gap between the old approach to business, and the younger generations. The old approach to business was built by the older generations who are also, frequently the most senior managers.  The newer generations, who are often the buyers, have their own expectations on how they want to carry out business. This collision of generation, technology and expectation creates both the most significant opportunity to differentiate and grow, and the highest risk to existing dealerships. In the past decade alone, we have seen major retailers and corporations lose decades or even a century’s foothold in their industry. Gone are companies like Borders and Blockbuster, and JCPenney almost joined them. Numerous others have simply failed to keep up and been relegated to the margins. Each of these companies failed to react to clear changes in the industry and buyer expectations, while their competitors did.

There are clear differences between the companies that failed or succeeded. Those that succeeded have several things in common. First, they saw the change in the market and buyer’s expectations and changed their business model to address these changing conditions. Second each of these companies started to understand the importance of information to their business and learned how to apply it. Finally, these companies applied these first 2 points to their entire business, they didn’t make it a bolt on to their existing business, which remained operating in the old way.

The first point is probably the hardest to grasp as it’s a combination of 2 inputs each effecting the other to produce an exponential rate of change in buyer expectations. In today’s business world we have 3-4 generations comprising our teams. With some of the last Baby Boomers still in the work force and often in the most senior positions, Gen X is now well placed throughout organizations, the Millennials are getting a strong foot hold in decision making and now Gen Z is entering the workplace. All this means we have some people who started in the corporate world before any computers existed and, at the same time, we have new entries into the business who have only known a world with smartphones and internet. How these different generations see the realm of possibilities couldn’t be farther apart. I’ll admit, I’m in the generation that thinks if the internet goes down, in a store, they should switch to handwritten bills and take cash, but that makes me old.  Some people have never seen this type of POS terminal, it’s completely foreign, so they would avoid a store that still uses it. Furthermore, our youngest generations have always been able to find the information they needed, when ever they wanted. When they wanted something, they can order it from their phone. This collision of generational experience gap and changing expectations will drive the fastest change in business to business buying and business process we have ever seen. Change we’re already seeing in other industries.

Information has both contributed to the prediction of change and the resetting of expectations in all areas of commerce. Many of the most admired and referenced companies in our world have been the best at applying information and technology to their business, vaulting them over competitors, or blasting from obscurity to relevance. Information, and more importantly the analysis and application of information, has allowed organizations to foresee changes in the business. They have fine tuned their operations to trim waste and better apply capital.   Furthermore, the analysis has driven action and change. Change in how companies engage with their customers and meet their customers’ growing expectations. While personal relationships and partnership remain a cornerstone of any business relationship, the expectation for partnership now includes deeper integration and focus on improving the transactional efficiencies. Information has inspired a massive improvement in understanding the drivers in a buyer’s decision making. It has highlighted the small differences in presentation and product definition that impact sales. The best competitors have combined this insight with a growing database of customer data to capture increases in total sales and market share.

When the acceleration of changing expectations come together with information, we see the genetics of the best of the best organizations. Those “Most Admired”. These organizations have used the information they are collecting daily to see the growing rate of change coming from new generations, and new expectations fueled by technology, social media and digital systems.  They apply this analysis to all aspects of the business, changing the structure of the organization.  In some industries we’ve seen long standing businesses either change or be replaced by new entrants who understand what a modern organization need to be. For dealers in our industry, both mainline OEM and independents, it’s no longer adequate to meet these changes with partial measures. Your website can no longer be a billboard, your social media engagement can’t just be advertising, your parts department can’t remain a “call for availability” or a “call to place an order” department. Your sales department won’t survive on “call for details”.   The growing rate of changing expectations is your opportunity to succeed.

Each one of you have no doubt worked with family-owned contractors that saw a change in generational management. The original owner handing the business to their children came not just with a change of faces but came with changes in the approach to business relationships, focus of the business and new expectations on your role and how to be a partner.

The Digital dealership looks at all these items in more details. We will also look at actions any dealer can take to assess the impact of these changes in their business. We will look at what actions can be taken to implement new approaches to the business and remain a leading competitor in the field.

If you’re going to AED, I look forward to seeing you in the Digital Dealership session, and if you’re not, I’ll continue to develop the details in this blog series.

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The 5th Element

The 5th Element

Our guest blog post, The 5th Element, has been written by a new guest to our website: Patrick Fisher. Over the past two decades Patrick Fisher has been primarily focused on distribution development of large complex agriculture and construction equipment dealerships.   Patrick was the Vice President, from March 2013 – October 2021, of Sonsray Machinery, Inc. with P & L responsibilities for Construction Equipment locations with Sales and Service Area (SSA) of 15+ locations within five contiguous states on the west coast.   Patrick was the former Vice President, until March 2013, of the Construction Division at Titan Machinery, Inc. with P & L responsibilities for Construction Equipment locations with Sales and Service Area (SSA) of 40+ locations within eleven contiguous states in U.S. While in this role he successfully developed and launched Titan Rentals, a Rent-to-Rent business unit within the construction stores. Mr. Fisher also served as Director of Operations for Titan Machinery responsible for all parts and service operations for all of the Titan Machinery locations.

 He was additionally Planting and Seeding Platform Engineering Manager for CNH Global until May 2003. Prior to joining CaseIH in 1996, Patrick was an automation engineer for Hutchinson Technology. 

Patrick continues to spend time with his family farm near Bismarck, ND to ensure his two sons learn and appreciate good work ethics. Mr. Fisher has a Bachelors in Industrial Engineering from NDSU and an MBA from the University of Mary in Fargo, North Dakota. He was a member of the Case Construction Dealer Advisory Board (6+ years), the American Rental Association, and the Association of Equipment Dealers. Patrick has a proven track record of business growth execution. Patrick’s hobbies include hunting, fishing, and flying.

THE 5th ELEMENT OF AN EQUIPMENT DEALERSHIP: PREDICTIVE MACHINE DATA ANALYTICS

 Equipment dealerships have evolved through the years to not only include equipment sales.   Parts, Service, and Rental sales have proven to be critical success factors increasing expense absorption to ensure profitability especially during these days of supplier equipment shortages.  The next evolution of equipment dealerships is the 5th element: predictive machine failure analytics.

Today’s customers have access to more information about their operations and equipment than ever, yet most dealers wait for the phone to ring to help solve a customer issue. All machines are the same, if not they will be the same within the next design cycle of that manufacturer. The equipment is designed and built by engineers and production employees that went to the same schools using the same steel, plastic, and electrical components. All equipment is the same, the only differentiation is customer support. As a dealer you can no longer survive with a reactive customer support culture. How do you shift your customer support culture to the 5th element using the technology that is readily available to the industry?

The average dealer installs 40% of the parts they sell. I do not foresee a time in which all parts sold by a branded dealership will be installed by trained technicians. However, I do think by changing the culture of the dealership service support from reactionary to predictive machine failure you should be installing 60%+ of the parts sold by trained technicians. Increasing parts sales installed by technicians by 5% would increase the typical dealerships pretax net income by 20%. A 10% increase in parts installed would increase pretax income by nearly 40% for the typical dealership. How do you convince customers to buy your labor experience when buying parts? This is something that we all have struggled with through the years. The simple answer is you don’t, unless you provide predictive failure analysis support. When a customer is standing at the parts counter or on the phone talking with a parts counter associate asking about the pricing and availability of parts, they have made the decision to install the parts themselves. This decision could have been based on prior experience, timeframe to repair, pricing or many other reasons. Machines are breaking down, your dealership is selling the parts to repair the machines, however over 50% of the parts are not being installed by your dealership. How do you change this?

Today’s technology is impressive and underutilized by the typical equipment dealership. Most manufacturers offer telematics on new equipment that is tied into the CAN bus of the machine that reports alarms, usage, and position through either cellular or GPS transmissions. These can be monitored remotely to help support the customer, however after the free trial period supplied by the manufacturer, most customers do not renew their subscription because of the lack of perceived value. Most dealerships do not have processes or people in place to support remote monitoring. The primary issue with today’s telemetric systems is that they are priority to the manufacturer not the customer. Customers are looking for a one stop solution for machine uptime. The current telemetric solutions can help provide limited predictive machine failure by monitoring changes in reporting of the machine alarms.

The missing piece of the puzzle for a true machine telematics predictive failure analysis is real time oil condition and fuel condition reporting. There are solutions available today that can be added to machines that provide real time reporting of oil and fuel condition. These solutions are relatively inexpensive and can provide timely reporting of changes in oil and fuel. These systems coupled with the manufactures CAN bus telemetric solutions have the ability to provide your dealership with a predictive failure analysis solution for your customers. Customers understand that machines breakdown, however they tend to breakdown at the most inconvenient time, when they need it to work. If you are able to remotely monitor CAN bus alarms as well as real-time oil and fuel condition changes your dealership could provide predictive machine failure analysis to your customer. This would allow the customer to schedule repairs with your dealership. Scheduled repairs can be planned and are more likely to be scheduled with the dealership for repairs.

Most customers currently do not renew their telemetric subscription after the manufacture supplied free trial period because of last of perceived value. This is a function of your dealership to bring perceived value to the customer. Technology is evolving every day and will continue be a critical part of machine sales/service cycle going forward. All equipment manufactures spent excessive engineering resources to ensure engine emissions compliance over the past 10 plus years. Now the focus is technology development. This 5th element of a dealership: Predictive Machine Data Analytics will be the primary equipment distribution game changer in the next 10 years. Will your dealership embrace this technology as an integral part of service culture?

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The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Operations, Part 3

The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Operations, Part 3

Guest writer Mets Kramer continues to explore all aspects of your audience in the digital dealership with Operations. This is Part 3 of his series.

In the last blogs about The Digital Dealership, we looked at the concept of your “audience”, and how an information driven dealership applies information to addressing your intended audience.  The term, Audience, has become more popular in modern digital marketing platforms, but the concept is not new.  Even with old style billboards which line the side of highways, the Audience has always been the people driving down the road.

A focus on your intended Audience makes a lot of sense when thinking about email campaigns, marketing or social media, but it’s equally valid when looking at day to day operations. Audience consists of the customers and the people who work for our customers. The Audience consists of owners, managers, site supers, maintenance people and even, accounting. Each one of these segments are part of an audience that largely consists of people already doing business with your dealership.

This Audience already knows who your dealership is, but also know more about this audience segment than your prospects and the unknown audience. Knowing your audience means you have information about the contacts. It means you can connect with and forward them more detailed information to enhance your connection and grow in engagement.

Let’s look at an example, related to something we’ve looked at before: your website.

The first thing you should consider is, “If I know the customers who visit my website, why are they there?” Each one of your customer contacts have a purpose of why they visit your website.  If they are in service or maintenance, they likely need service help or parts; if they are supervisors or managers, they likely need equipment; if they are in accounting, they need ecommerce.

Just like we often have multiple entrances to our physical dealership, we should also provide our Audience with the same accessibility to the online dealership. Either use specific URLs, for example, “parts.mysuccessfuldealership.com”, or alternatively, and more effectively, recognize returning site visitors and automatically take them to the last place they went, or where they most frequently go. This uses the information you know about the customer and improves the ease of doing business.

Considering your audience and applying information happens in the dealership operations side too. Many dealers already do this when merchandizing. You place products in the parts department targeting a known audience segment, typically technicians. Since this assumption is generally correct, items they need are likely to sell. The Digital Dealership is about collecting and using information, enabling a customized or granular interaction.

For example, imagine a customer or a technician comes in to buy parts. Do you collect their contact information and confirm their role? Do you provide information based on the provided machine serial number on maintenance requirements, parts needed for maintenance on indicators from telematics about potential issues? If not, do you email the customer’s service manager that a technician came in and additional items might be required. If the pickup is by a small contractor and the owner comes in, providing this information creates numerous additional opportunities. Collecting small pieces of information about each transaction creates the opportunity for a customized and more valuable experience. And who doesn’t want that!

In the early 2000s, when most manufacturers were bringing their online parts systems to market, it was immediately recognized that parts sales through online systems were around 10% higher than instore sales. Users went in to find the new pump they needed, but because a diagram was shown of related parts or a list of seals and fasteners was provided, the users also selected and purchased those items. If you have purchased on Amazon, you’ve no doubt seen the “Customers also Bought” section. This is an example of using information learned from past activities to help customers and increase sales.

Collecting information on known contacts, can also provide other opportunities to target messages to your Audience. Most dealers know if their customers are large or small and who are the recipients of invoices. Knowing this should change the additional items on the invoice. If invoices go to your Accounting or AP@mycustomer.com, then include messaging on finance related items like ecommerce options, financial payment integration or similar options. For small customers, when invoices go to the owner, include information on equipment replacement, service needs on their fleet and the like.

In each of these cases, the Digital Dealership collects information on the who they are interacting with to grow the knowledge base and develop actionable information. It applies this information to each transaction or interaction with their customer, throughout the operation. The Digital Dealership places information at the right place and at the right time for team members to make decisions and provide value to the customer.

In 2018, I did my first presentation at AED. It was called “A Granular, Data Driven Approach to Strategic Sales”. We looked at how placing customer equipment data, plus live market pricing data or operating cost information, in the hands of the sales rep which changed the relationship of Sales Rep to Trusted Advisor, giving the Dealership a permanent seat at the table. Arriving at a customer site with valuable and actionable information opened access to the customer much faster than hats and lunches. The presentation also provided a model for using customer transaction and fleet data to predict replacement equipment sales. More importantly, this data provided a much more accurate sales opportunity forecast and inventory model.

The common phase, “You do 80% of your sales with 20% of your customers”, means 80% of your customers likely don’t hear from you enough or experience enough value to keep them from going elsewhere with each purchase. Applying valuable information about your Audience throughout your dealership operation can change that.

This year, I’ll be presenting at AED again on the whole Digital Dealership concept. If you are interested in the idea of “A granular data driven approach to strategic sales”, I’m available to present this idea or other Digital Dealership aspects at your next sales meeting to help your team think like a Digital Dealer.

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Caroline Slee-Poulos shares the importance of planning in “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going.”

 

I promise you I’m not trying to make a reference to “Alice in Wonderland.” Although the title of this post is part of a quote from the story by Lewis Carroll, Yogi Berra had his own ending to the quote: “If you don’t know where you’re going you might end up someplace else.”

I think that most of us like to be able to see the path ahead of us: personally and professionally. When it comes to the professional aspects, I have found that quite a few people overlook education.

Of course, for several years, the only focus on education was a large push for every child to attend a 4 year university program after secondary school. I like to think that we know a bit better now – education is never “one size fits all” – but only time will tell. When the 4 year program was the focus, career training, employee development, and trades were pushed to the side. This was a short-sighted approach, at best.

Those of you who have already taken a class or assessment with us know that we are focused on functional education: giving you rich content in bite-sized pieces, leaving you room for the full schedule each of you live everyday.

In my last post I wrote about learning objectives, as it helps to know what you will get from a particular class or program of study. For this post, I have some thoughts on goals.

Ron has mentioned more than once that many high school graduates think of their graduation as the opportunity to put school behind them. That should never mean that we have left learning behind, though.

In that vein, I would encourage you all to make a list of your professional goals:

  • where do you see yourself in 1 year? 5? 10?
  • do you have a pathway to reach those 1, 5, and 10 year goals?
  • does your employer have goals for you or your role within the company?
  • do you know what those goals are?
  • what is your area of greatest strength?
  • what is your area of greatest struggle?

Write down your answers to these questions. Take some time to consider where it is that you are going. Education, training, and mentorship are all tools that can help you get there.

With a new year ahead of us, I would urge you to start executing plans towards those goals. Ron always says that “the time is now.” He is absolutely right. Now is the time to shift from ideas to reality.

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Quality of Communication Channel – Specification Sheets

Quality of Communication Channel – Specification Sheets

In tonight’s post, our guest writer Ryszard Chciuk shares with readers all of the ins and outs of the quality of the the communication channel, especially as pertains to the availability of the machine specification sheets. Please read on to learn more about how these deeply impact your service quality.

When writing about the quality of the communication channel, I mean the definition of service quality worked out by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry in 1985:

Service quality is the degree and direction of a discrepancy between customers’ service perceptions and expectations

It is depressing that this relatively straightforward definition has not been widespread in our industry for almost forty years. And we would better not excuse ourselves that customers’ expectations are more and more demanding.

To improve the quality, we have to close gaps causing the discrepancy between customer expectation and his perception of service. The most important is the main gap:

Not Knowing What the Customer Expects

I assume you are on the way to becoming a digital dealership. If you do not know it, please search for “digital dealership” on the blog. I am afraid that most of you think you know what to publish on your website. However, if you want to provide excellent service to your customers, you have to diminish the gaps; you have to listen attentively to your customers about what information they would like to find there.

Surveys, focus groups, and research reports have many shortcomings. For example, they are expensive and rarely give you a complete picture of what your customers think of your services. It is because we usually do not ask interviewers about what we do not know. There is a newer approach called social listening — analyzing what customers say on social media. This perhaps will be cheaper and provide more reliable information. However, intelligent analysis of natural language content is still a difficult task for artificial intelligence. So, are you sure you know what your customers expect?

In this article, I am showing my point of view on the availability of machine specification sheets on a dealer website. This is a very straightforward piece of information. You can think it is about not-so-important nuts and bolts but be careful. I am sure it is not. I know it from my experience and a “social listening” using my own, not artificial intelligence.

Manufacturers’ decisions often cause problems with providing machine users with a decent level of communication channel quality. That is an obstacle to having engaged customers. For example, manufacturers decide about canceling information on technical specifications and the performance of older models of their machines. Almost on the day of the presentation of a new model, the previous model spec sheet is hidden or deleted from the website. It concerns both a manufacturer and a dealer website.

That behavior is astonishing. After all, this is against our customers using previous models and also against a dealer. I mean, a positive and trustful change in the specifications could prompt a clever customer to replace an older model with a new one, right now, not next year. Thus, he would get better performance, and a dealer would sell a machine. However, buyers must believe what a manufacturer wrote in a new model’s brochure because an old specification sheet is not available for comparison. Let’s see what a top manufacturer says about the significant differences to the previous model:

  1. up to 25% less fuel consumption
  2. up to 20% lower maintenance cost
  3. up to 45% more operating efficiency

Imagine that I am a potential buyer of a new or a used machine. I know that “up to” means the difference starting from 0%. During my over twenty years of work for a construction company, I used to be very impolite to many salespeople using that trick in face-to-face communication. Here, I will not comment on this kind of marketing information. However, I would ask very politely:

  1. What was the previous model fuel consumption? Please, do not answer that it was up to 33% higher than the new one. From the marketing point of view, the higher figure sounds even more attractive, but the value of information is the same. In practice, it is null.
  2. What was the maintenance cost of the previous model? I cannot believe they managed to reduce it by 20%. That is such an outstanding achievement, they should explain it in detail! Did they get rid of any filters or service tasks? Did they reduce the capacity of oil tanks? Did they increase intervals of service jobs?
  3. What was the previous machine model operating efficiency? 45% more is fantastic! Competitors knocked down! But how was it measured?

I am making fun of the information contained in a new machine model specification sheet, but the usability of the previous specification sheet was almost the same. And we have no chance to find it on a dealer website.

As a potential buyer of a used machine, I have more questions for a dealer. Why are you showing me the door? You have some older equipment in your yard. Do you want to sell any? Are you not interested in selling spare parts and service labor for the previous models?

Let’s discuss an example. When I was very young and worked for a construction company, I looked for a crawler excavator for our new pipeline project. It had to be a used machine. Critical parameters were:

  1. digging depth not less than X1
  2. loading height of bucket with teeth not less than X2
  3. lifting capacity at ground level at maximum reach not less than X3
  4. operating weight divided by ground contact area must be lower than X4 (due to soft ground).

And of course, in case we decided to buy, I wanted to know the shipping dimensions.

Today, to make exercising a bit easier, I would look only for used machines made by Caterpillar, Komatsu, or Volvo. That is because only these manufacturers have decent service abilities in the vicinity of my project.

The market for second-hand machines is vast. How to choose the most appropriate model from a long list? I need access to information comprising the mentioned four parameters (plus shipping dimensions). Surprise! I could not find essential information concerning previous models on any website, including the biggest portals for used machines.

I could find them in Caterpillar Performance Handbook or Komatsu Specifications and Application Handbook but are they available online? That is just a rhetorical question. And I have never seen that kind of publication for the rest of the market.

What annoyed me the most during my research? I found the website “The World’s Leading Source of Technical Specifications.” They say they collected spec sheets of thousands of machine models made by over 1000 manufacturers. Paid access to that information is only for manufacturers and their dealers. O, oops!

That is a pure example of billboard-type marketing, or even worse. How can a dealership entirely shift to engagement marketing?

I do not criticize manufacturers or dealers. They are allowed to behave that way by their meek and mild customers. In the world of the Digital Dealership all of the information has to be current and relevant.

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The Hidden Revolution in the Equipment Industry

The Hidden Revolution in the Equipment Industry

With 20+ years of business system design and business intelligence experience, Dale Hanna founded Foresight Intelligence in 2009 to help leading equipment dealers achieve operational excellence and a sustainable competitive advantage through effective use of real time KPI’s throughout the organization. Recently, Dale has added telematics to his passion and is enjoying the challenge of making oceans of disparate data useful to manufactures, dealers, rental companies, and end customers.  Dale obtained a BSEE degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and has been engaged in many associations serving the equipment industry. In his first guest blog for Learning Without Scars, Dale writes about the hidden revolution taking place in the equipment industry.

Technology is driving a revolution in the equipment industry that we can easily see: grade control, idle tracking, fault codes, autonomous equipment, electrification, etc. While the advancements are amazing and will continue to be, dealers are noticing brand differentiation becoming more and more of a challenge. In this margin-conscious market, we see the battle of the future being fought on customer experience and we see technology is quietly but rapidly driving that revolution.

This hidden revolution is happening in all areas of dealership operations.  Today we focus on how technology is increasing efficiency and enhancing customer experience in the service area, especially during this time of unprecedented labor and parts shortage.

Below are strategies that are giving some equipment dealers a leg up:

 Increasing Trust from Your Customers

We all know trust is a vital ingredient in delivering a great customer experience.  If you are like me, I used to think building trust was an elusive and subjective endeavor.  Chris Voss, a lead FBI hostage negotiator, gave us a formula to build trust quickly and predictably:

Trust = Predictability.

A system that can be configured to your workflow to automatically notify customers at key milestones creates a predictable service experience every time without adding more work for your people.  Yes, UPS and FedEx have perfected this.  You know exactly where your packages are all the time and the moment they are delivered.  It is hard to imagine any shipping company being able to survive without it.  Our expectations for the service experience are quickly reaching the same level.

Doing Business at the Speed of Text

When we do not get an email response from someone, what do we do? We text. According to a research report, on average, people respond to a text in 90 seconds and an email in about 90 minutes.  Adding an integrated SMS (text) platform is like adding nitrous to your service engine.  A fully integrated text platform notifies your customers of progress, provides new quotes, gets instant sign off for additional work, shares inspection results and obtains satisfaction survey results at lightning speed. All the communication history is saved for future reference. With the busy schedule your customers have, who would not appreciate a faster ride?

Self Service Makes Happier Customers

The pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already happening – we want to do more things online, by ourselves, at whatever hours we want, without having to wait on anyone.  Providing information your customers need, in the forms they need, always accessible makes them feel informed and in control, both are important elements for happiness.  A robust dashboard, easy to use interface, searchable/sortable/exportable data and schedulable reports keep your customers smiling while your people sleep.

Have Your Process Your Way

A lot of service systems were built based on someone else’s ideas, usually from the first few customers the system makers had. Your workflow is what makes your people efficient, and your organization stand out. Today’s technology allows an effective system to adapt to you rather than the other way around. Dynamic dashboards by user and role, quick and easy work order assignment and tracking, Apps for field technicians to easily add comments, pictures/videos, inspections can be required and enforced as a part of your workorder process are all examples of how today’s systems serve you the way you do business.

We Are More Powerful When We Are Connected

So are data and systems. At dealerships, we still use multiple systems to get things done. The last thing we want to add is another siloed system. Any service system today should connect with your OEM system for fault codes, warranty information and even submission, your telematics system for real time dispatching, customer’s telematics system for asset location and hours, maintenance management system to organize all the maintenance plans you sold and your business system for cost and PO information. The more your systems are connected, the more efficient you become.

The current pandemic will end for sure, but our world has changed forever. If we look at carefully, there is an undeniable trend – tech rich companies have done better in general, some has done exceptionally well and taken sizeable market share from competitors during COVID 19. This trend is definitely here to stay. Technology is not only changing things we can see and buy, but it is also changing the way we perform and experience service. Customers will certainly buy more equipment, especially with the new infrastructure bill, and whoever delivers the best customer experience will have the bigger share.

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Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Learning Without Scars is pleased to introduce our new guest writer, Danny Slusarchuk. His first post for our blog is on Cyber Security Incident Response Planning. Danny Slusarchuk enjoys spending time with his family and being a productive member of the community. He serves on the Oklahoma Venture Forum (immediate past Chairman) and Oklahoma Innovative Technology Alliance boards. He leads the Oklahoma National Guard Defensive Cyberspace Operations Element. Danny founded Standards IT in 2012 and continues to be a managing partner at the headquarters in downtown Edmond. He has been recognized as 20 Edmond Business Leaders under 40 and was a recent Edmond’s Young Professional of the Year award recipient. Danny spoke most recently at the FBI’s Information Warfare Summit and has for 4 years running. This year he spoke at SECCON as well. He was a guest speaker for the Youth Leadership Edmond conference, 45th Field Artillery Brigade Honorable Order of Saint Barbara Dining Out. He was the keynote for Oklahoma Officer Candidate School Class 63.

Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Let’s understand the why.

Your business is shut down for the foreseeable future and you don’t have the slightest idea how you are going to get back to the way you were operating yesterday. Your customers, employees, and even competitors know you have been hacked.  Someone in another country is extorting you for ten Bitcoin to maybe restore your precious data on their good word. To top it all off, your customers have brought a class action lawsuit against your negligent handling of their data.

Do not let that scenario play out solely on the bad actors’ terms.  It is possible to do everything right and still get hacked.  A living incident response policy and procedure accompanied by routine tabletop exercises and vulnerability assessments can be the difference between surviving and shutting your business down.

The Sans institution provided great cyber security training.  The incident response considerations in this post draw from their Global Certified Incident Handler curriculum.

Your plan should have input from all departments that require systems and data to operate.  I recommend you nest it with your cyber liability insurance policy and have it legally approved.

Now, if you were to pull out as much of the lingo as possible and boil it down to bullets here is how I would state it:

  • Identify the event (Intrusion Detection Software, Security Operations Center Notification, Individual Report, Litigation Notice) (each an “Event”)
  • Execute initial alert roster of Event and establish event timeline using “Event” document for record
  • Determine exposure (add additional resources if necessary and conclude as an IT Governance Council that the Event is contained and did not elevate to an “Incident”)
  • If Breach, exfiltration of data, or other harm is suspected to be probable elevate the Event to an Incident
  • Contact “Incident Response Legal Team” and “Cyber Forensics Team” (both appointed by the IT Governance Council)
  • Use IT Governance Council, Legal Team, and Cyber Forensics Team as Incident Response Council and establish Cyber Forensics Team as Incident Response Manager of the Council
  • Add additional technical resources, if needed, to manage the technical aspect of the Cyber Forensics effort and cyber defense
  • Track all time, keep running estimates of time and hardware required to maintain operations during the Incident Response
  • Add Crisis Public Relations Firm to the Council for internal and external talking points and press releases, if needed
  • Use cyber forensic evidence in court or to settle lawsuit and to submit claims to the insurance carrier
  • Notify customers and any injured parties, if necessary, pursuant to regulatory requirements
  • File incident with the FBI Cyber Crimes Complaint center, if appropriate
  • Complete “Incident Response” document(s) for record
  • Add technical controls to Cyber Security Risk Mitigation Matrix
  • Conduct an after-incident review with key personnel and distribute the IR for Record documentation

That was high level steps, and each has significance.  Overall, the concept is to prepare, identify, contain, eradicate, recover, and realized lessons learned.  The steps also include adding one-time resources like forensics and crisis public relations.

In future posts I will explore specific sections covered in greater detail that will help educate the reasoning behind the order and specific terminology.  Cyber liability insurance is only good if it pays out when you need it for example.  Yes, there are some gotchas in choosing your protection.

References: https://www.sans.org/cyber-security-courses/hacker-techniques-incident-handling/

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Why Lean Manufacturing Doesn’t Work Today

Why “Lean Manufacturing Doesn’t Work Today”

Guest writer Bruce Baker shares with us the reasons why lean manufacturing doesn’t work today: the reasons are not exactly what you might think…

Whether you own a bookkeeping business, cabinet-making business or legal practice, all businesses are made up of routines, which rely on consistent, one-at-a-time processes. Everything we do that keeps society “together” relies on repeatable activities. Whether it’s brushing our teeth, getting dressed or eating breakfast, all rely on repeatable processes.

For those who are not aware of the practice of Lean, allow me to provide you with a brief history and definition. Lean is the concept of efficient manufacturing/operations that grew out of the Toyota Production System in the middle of the 20th century. It is based on the philosophy of defining value from the customer’s viewpoint and continually improving how value is delivered by eliminating every use of wasteful resources, or that does not contribute to the value goal. In short, taking things one step at a time is the make or break of business and general success in life.

Many have heard before… “take it down a notch…one thing at a time”. Several months ago, I wrote a short article called “Your Interpretation of Time,” where I stressed the importance of how reactive we have become as a society, including business. Our interpretation of time today is drastically shorter, and the general consequences of failure, impressively higher and more extreme than before. This inevitably leads to reactive, narrow, and short-term decision-making. Albert Einstein once said, “When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

My bold statement of “…Lean doesn’t work today” is not that the practice and methodology are ineffective; on the contrary. Lean is applicable in every industry and every business and mentioned in the beginning of this article, in your personal life. The practice and adoption of Lean are fantastic when a business and its people adopt this “way of business life.”

A challenge we are all presented with is that if we adopt Lean as a practice, we need to accept that our reactional, short-term, and high-crisis manner of thinking will always stop us from adopting practices like Lean.

Building and growing a business is never easy emotionally, but requires a strict set of routines and processes, and each process must be executed effectively. This can only happen if each process performs effectively in an individual manner parallel to its fellow processes. This requirement is not limited to the business world but the very nature of our world, yet we insist on a short-term, high-crisis manner of thinking.

As I write this article, I sit in a Lean manufacturing training session with Quantum Lean. Lynn (the Lean instructor) mentioned that adopting Lean “takes time” and that “people do not like to change”. Although I completely agree with Lynn, people resist change primarily because they fear the unknown. Statements like “I don’t see the reason to change,” “I don’t have time to wait for them”, “I have so many problems to deal with, I don’t know where to start” or finally, “Oh, I’ll add this to my list of problems I have to solve…I don’t have time to deal with little issues like this now!”

In conclusion, if you have or are anticipating implementing Lean in your business, remember this. It all starts with the leader of the business. If the leader does not make this mind shift, the rest of the team will not make the shift either. Lean is not another tool or method. It is a change in the state of mind and subsequently changing the business’s culture from fighting fires to experiencing the inherent joy of work and life in general.

As a wise mentor of mine once said, “one step at a time, grasshopper….”

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Building a New Skilled Talent Decade

Building a New Skilled Talent Decade

Edward E. Gordon, the founder and president of Imperial Consulting Corporation in Chicago, has consulted with leaders in business, education, government, and non-profits for over 50 years. As a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant he has helped shape policy and programs that advance talent development and regional economic growth. This week, he shares with us the history and the present needs involved in building a new skilled talent decade.

Gordon is the author or co-author of 20 books. His book, Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis, is the culmination of his work as a visionary who applies a multi-disciplinary approach to today’s complex workforce needs and economic development issues. It won a 2015 Independent Publishers Award. An updated paperback edition was published in 2018.

Recently I spoke at a forum on my White Paper, “Job Shock: Moving Beyond the COVID-19 Employment Meltdown to a New Skilled Talent Decade,” at the Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago. My presentation and responses to it can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/gnLBrOiMSYA. In my remarks, I pointed out that history was now repeating itself as workplace technology change is again shifting education and skills requirements.

PAST LABOR HISTORY

During the first decades of the 20th century, a titanic shift in the U.S. economy destabilized society. An industrial revolution triggered by spread of electricity and the growth of factories and offices required workers with at least a basic education in reading and mathematics. Many violently opposed the expansion of public education. Who needs a universal school system? Why educate children, women, and immigrants? You will only cause anarchy by giving them dangerous ideas! Anyway, these people are not trainable. We need them for cheap labor in our factories or on our farms!

As this debate raged across America, more people were persuaded that the expansion of education would benefit society. Starting at the regional and state levels, enlightened community leaders spearheaded the expansion of compulsory tax-supported primary and secondary education. By 1918, all of the then 48 states mandated this standard of public schooling backed by tough truancy laws. The United States was the first nation to attempt to provide a general education to all its citizens. It was a major contributor to the rise of the United States as a world power.

A NEW SKILLED JOB ERA

Another major industrial revolution began in the 1970s as computers and information technology began to be adopted in workplaces. By the beginning of the 21st century, personal computers, smartphones and the internet were everywhere. Automaton has eliminated many low-skill jobs and increased the demand for workers with higher math and reading skills and specialized career training. The seminal 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk,” raised the first red flag that the U.S. education-to-employment system had become obsolete and warned that America needed to provide more students and workers with enhanced education and training for higher-skilled/higher-wage jobs.

However, continuing national testing by the U.S. Department of Education commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card reports low levels of proficiency in math and reading particularly at the 12th-grade-level. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused learning loses of up to a year particularly among lower-income students.

These deficiencies in our education-to employment system plus the 130 million American adults who the Barbara Bush foundation reported read at the 8th-grade level or less is building into a severe shortage of skilled labor. Surveys of employers are consistently reporting difficulties in finding qualified people to fill open positions. A September National Federation of Independent Business survey found that 51 percent of owners had job openings they could not fill, the third consecutive month in which record highs for unfilled jobs had been reached. Moreover, 62 percent of small employers seeking to hire had few or no qualified applicants. In July and August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 10 million job openings. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta projected that the high number of unfilled jobs is costing U.S. businesses to lose $738 billion in revenue annually.

CAN WE DO IT AGAIN?

As the COVID-19 epidemic has severely disrupted schooling at all levels and caused labor market turmoil, there is the potential for forming broad coalitions to reform our nation’s education-to-employment pipeline. Parents and students are more aware of the importance of good educational preparation for the future, and many businesses are fighting for their very survival.

At present although the number of vacant jobs is high, there are millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed who do not precisely match the skills or experience companies are seeking for their open jobs and who therefore are excluded for consideration for them. A September Harvard/Accenture report estimates that there are over 27 million Americans whom they term “hidden workers.”

Our “Job Shock” research clearly shows that Regional Talent Innovation Networks (RETAINs) as public-private partnership hubs can effectively prepare more people for the higher-skilled/higher-wage jobs that are vacant across the United States. Their success hinges upon mobilizing a diversity of partners to engage in meaningful collaboration to close skills-jobs gaps. Cross sector coordination is key. The current barriers between businesses and educational institutions need to be broken down to allow the development of up-to-date career preparation options.

America has a long history of community civic engagement. Enlightened local leaders have periodically stepped forward to bolster our republic during times of crisis. Community engagement is again essential to move the United States forward into a new skilled talent decade.

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