Don't stint on service

Cutting back on service or maintenance contracts for weighing equipment would be counterproductive in today's economic climate, warns Dave Webb

Waste organisations rely on accurate data. With the price of recycled materials dropping, the industry is striving to become even more efficient. The principles of lean operating and supply chain efficiency are now more important than ever.

The temptation is to cut costs. While there is nothing wrong with examining your bottom line, be careful to cut costs in the right place. Now more than ever, you need accurate and reliable data to drive through both efficiency improvements and cost down programmes. It is a mistake to reduce the reliability and accuracy of this data.

Weight data is vital for any organisation involved in the waste industry. Both incoming waste streams and outgoing recycled materials need to be accurately recorded. Whether you use weighbridges, platform scales or forklift truck scales, you need to make sure that they are properly serviced. For the waste industry, you can compare this equipment to a cash register - imagine the affect on your local shop if the cash register was broken and there was no provision for emergency repair or cover.

Preventative maintenance is always more cost-effective than an emergency repair. If for example a weighbridge is not operational, then the whole site may close down.

The cost of downtime can run into thousands of pounds a day. If a part needs replacing, then this downtime may run into a second or third day. All of this is far more expensive than the cost of the repair itself.

In addition, if the equipment is used for invoicing, then you must ensure that it is regularly maintained and calibrated. Failure to do so will contravene trading standards and will be non-compliant with the requirements of ISO 9001. Finally, like anything else, regular servicing will make equipment last longer and be more reliable. It is less likely that you will need to make a significant capital investment.

I would argue that the case for having a service agreement in place for weighing equipment is clear. You may want to explore options from different service providers. Again, I would urge caution. Make sure that you know what level of cover you are buying and that you are comparing like with like. Mistakes could prove costly.

Unscrupulous providers
In some industries, we have come across some unscrupulous providers who are claiming that they can service, verify and calibrate equipment, when plainly under the terms of their contract it would be impossible to do so for all of the weighing equipment on a site. While you want your service provider to be efficient, you must also make sure that they spend enough time on site to do the job properly.

You need to ensure that any service package you opt for is appropriate for the needs of your organisation and the equipment that is installed. How many service visits and recalibrations per year are appropriate depends on several factors. How much weighing equipment do you have? How old is this equipment?

How aggressive is the environment in which this equipment operates? And if your equipment does breakdown, do you need an emergency response time of four hours, eight hours or what? Your best approach is to seek the advice of a professional service provider. They can help you decide on the best approach.

This brings us to how you decide which service provider to use. Your first port of call would be to ask the manufacturers of the equipment. To keep down the number of service providers, check that they can service, verify and calibrate both their own and other manufacturer's weighing equipment.

I would argue that for service, size really does matter. It means that the organisation has the flexibility and resource to meet your needs, both for preventative maintenance and for emergency call outs. Consider first that larger service organisations hold comprehensive spare parts in stock, for both their own equipment and for a wide range of other manufacturers. This means that you will not be left waiting for a third party to deliver parts and maintenance is more likely to be completed in one visit.

Make sure there's back up
Also, if a technician is delayed, then there should be someone else who can visit instead. Equally, you need the technician to complete all of the necessary maintenance that you need.

You do not want that person to leave your site because someone else has a more pressing need. Investment in technology helps an organisation achieve all of this. It means that the right technician receives the call in real time. It also means that, if they cannot take the call, then the call is rerouted quickly.

Next you need to ensure that the service technicians are fully trained and equipped so that they can handle any eventuality. The size and reputation of an organisation should help give you this peace of mind, but why not ask about the service providers training programme?

Remember there is a lack of skilled engineers in the UK. In conclusion, make sure that your weighing equipment is serviced properly. Do not stint on service, it is a false economy.

Dave Webb is service director of Avery Weigh-Tronix

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