Service Entrapment

Don't fall for some common tricks of the trade when you review your maintenance and service cover of weighing equipment; you could end up paying far more than you realise advises Maureen Bott, service product manager for Avery Weigh-Tronix.

Weighing equipment is often critical equipment for an organisation. If a weighbridge goes down then a whole site is affected due to the inconvenience and delays, your customers may decide to go elsewhere and they may not return.

Taking shortcuts with maintenance and service is a risk too far for many businesses. Preventative maintenance should be just that, it prevents more serious and untimely problems at a later date.

In the current climate we are seeing some service organisations promising the earth for a ridiculously tiny price. The old adage if it is too good to be true it probably is, is applicable to many such agreements. Make sure that you read the small print very carefully and understand what commitment for service you will receive.

Worryingly such agreements often don't even have small print to check. You should not rely on someone's verbal assurance that they will not charge for labour or parts, or that they will commit to regular service visits.

One favourite trick is to make the headline price very low for a service agreement and then make up the difference through a series of smaller invoices for labour and parts as you progress through the year. These invoices are often small enough to pass under the radar, but get to the end of the year and you will find that you have actually increased your service costs.

There is nothing wrong with an agreement that only includes service visits, with travel, labour and parts for repairs charged extra, as long as you know what you are buying.

If you have such an agreement then make sure that you know what the price of labour and parts is and that you have got it written down in the agreement. Then check any subsequent invoices that come in relating to maintenance.

A service agreement should reflect your needs, not those of the service organisation. Consider the age of your equipment, how regularly it is used, how critical it is to your operation and what conditions it operates in. A weighbridge operating many hours a day in adverse conditions will require regular attention and would benefit from a fully comprehensive cover, while a checkweigher that is used infrequently could be on a basic package.

Approach a reputable service provider; often a manufacturing organisation will understand the product life cycle and will be able to give you the best possible advice. Once you have come to an agreement this should be formalised in a written agreement so that both parties fully understand their commitment.

At Avery Weigh-Tronix for instance we offer several different levels of service agreements. Some include service visits, travel and discounted parts, others include emergency calls, labour for repairs and some are fully inclusive.

Of course service is about attitude and going that extra step, but equally you need to safeguard what you should receive. If an organisation cannot put together a suitable agreement, do you really think that they have the resource to cope with your needs?

There are several one man independent providers and there is nothing wrong with entrepreneurship, but you need to make sure that they are professional, with up to date training and can meet your needs. What happens if your equipment goes down and they are sick, on holiday or even on another job? Where is the back up?

We are in difficult times at the moment. It may be tempting to drop preventative maintenance or seek cheaper options. It may appear to be more cost effective to simply calibrate regularly, leaving maintenance until equipment breaks. Other weighing companies may encourage such tactics, as the initial costs look low.

Check the small print, you will find that the cost of emergency visits and other non-scheduled repairs can make the total bill significantly higher. In the medium and long term it can cost you up to 80 percent more over a year.

In the current climate you are probably trying to make your equipment last longer. Capex may not be an option with stretched budgets and a tight cash flow. Common sense tells us that as equipment gets older it needs more regular servicing if it is to stay operational. For equipment that is critical to your operations, you really should not take the risk of no or poor maintenance.

Associated Businesses

  • Smethwick, B66 2LP