Regularly scheduled scale and balance service: what should it cost and what should I get for my money?
Most of us tend to agree that electrical and mechanical equipment will require service over its lifetime. When an important piece of equipment in your plant isn’t working you want it repaired quickly and put back into service to perform the job it was intended to.
In order to minimize sudden equipment failure and to keep equipment performing to its utmost efficiency and tolerances a regularly scheduled maintenance and inspection program is often put into effect. Generally, for specialized equipment such as scales and balances, this program is set up with an outside contractor.
How do you evaluate a scale and balance company and what should this service cost? Of course you are willing to pay a reasonable amount for a quality company that performs quality work. Most companies will claim they are quality companies and can perform the task to your satisfaction. But how do you evaluate these companies? Should you be leery of the lowest bidder? Can they perform the tasks they say they can or are they sacrificing quality for low price?
Service on scales and balances can seem to be somewhat of an intangible item. How can you predict the quality of something that can’t be seen or touched? But a quality service company is, after all, only an accumulation of the people, features and characteristics that make up the company.
We at Atlantic Scale Company would like to point out some of the many features you should look for in a quality service company.
How long has the service company been in business? What is their customer base and are those customers satisfied with their work? We would suggest asking for a list of current customers with the names of persons to contact. A quality company would be happy to comply with this request and should have many satisfied customers.
How many technicians does the service company have servicing your area? How many are fully qualified to work on the equipment you currently have? A quality company should have many technicians who can service your equipment. If the technician who regularly services your equipment is unavailable when you have a break down, are there other technicians available who can service your equipment?
Are the service technicians well versed and trained on the equipment they are servicing? Does the service company have a formal training program? A quality company will have documentation showing the level of training given to their service technicians. Having your equipment serviced by well trained technicians will assure you are receiving the best value for the time spent servicing your equipment.
Is the service company equipped with late model well running service vehicles sized and equipped to perform the task of transporting proper test weights, test equipment and parts? Are the trucks clearly visible with proper lettering so that you can easily identify the service vehicle when it is on your property? Having the right equipment to do the job is one sign of a quality company.
If you have had past experience with a service company how would you consider their performance? Does it pay to switch from a company you are satisfied with to a company you do not know just to save a few dollars? The old adage “you get what you pay for” does have some basis in truth.
Beyond being a well-trained technician capable of servicing your equipment, the technician should also be a person capable of communicating and getting along with your employees. The technician should respect and work within your company rules and policies when on your premises. The technician should report to your supervisor personnel when he arrives and when he leaves giving a full detail of his activities.
Standard Operating Procedure:
Quality is based on standards and your service company should have a detailed set of written standard operating procedures. These procedures should not only cover the service and repair of your equipment but should outline how the service company conducts its business. Following standard operating procedures is necessary to achieve quality workmanship.
You should be receiving a complete written report on the condition of the scales and balances being serviced or repaired. Stickers should be placed on the scales or balances to indicate when they were last serviced. It would be wise to review samples of a prospective service company’s standard paper work to see if it satisfies your requirements.
The service company you elect to deal with should have a formal quality control system in effect. If a company is monitoring itself on quality performance and quality is a goal, the technician performing your work, will be motivated to perform likewise. A review of a prospective service company’s quality standards is a must.
Today safety is of utmost importance in all plants. Your plant strives to keep a good safety record and so should your service vendors. A quality service company should have a formal safety program. Ask to have a copy of and review their safety manual. A good service company with personnel working in your plant should have a strong safety policy and adhere to your safety rules and regulations. Accidents by your personnel or a vendor’s personnel can cause down time and loss of production, not to mention the time and money spent answering government inquiries.
In today’s litigious environment any service company working at your plant should have an insurance policy with a reputable insurance company in effect. You should be able to receive a certificate of insurance from your service company with a substantial umbrella coverage of $2,000,000 or more.
The most important tool used with repairing or testing a scale or balance is test weight. If a scale or balance is tested or repaired and inaccurate out of tolerance test weights were used, the work performed and the job done was useless. In fact the technicians may have caused more harm than good, despite the appearance of a job well done.
A quality scale service company should have a formal program set up to guarantee accurate test weights that are in tolerance, are used on the job. All test weights should have a serial number. A technician should have a certificate of conformance for all the test weights he is carrying. Ask the prospective service company about their test weight program.
Your service company should have a full inventory of spare parts on hand so that your equipment can be repaired quickly and efficiently. Service vehicles should also be well stocked.
Any company performing service should have the proper tools to do the job. This would include safety equipment. Anyone in the service business will state, “that they have all the tools they need to do the job.” Ask to see the maintenance and test records. Are voltmeters regularly checked and certified? Have cutting torches and tanks been regularly checked? How about safety equipment such as fire extinguisher, gas sniffers, safety harnesses, etc.
When an important scale or balance does not work, you want someone there quickly to fix it. What type of response time can you expect from the prospective service company? Do they have service technicians that are readily available? Do they stay in touch with their technicians in the field? Can they assure you of a quick response time to an emergency service call?
Who answers the Phone:
When you call the service company with a problem, will the phone be answered by a person or by a machine asking you to leave a message? If you have technical questions, is there someone there to answer the questions or must you ask your question to a machine with the hopes that “someone will get back to you.” We have found at Atlantic Scale Company that 10 to 15% of the time a problem with a scale can be resolved over the phone by one of our technical people. That service is free. No need to send out a technician and charge for a service call. An answering machine will not give you that type of service.
As previously stated, quality is an accumulation of features. When evaluating a service company you should consider all of the previously stated points. If a company cannot satisfy all of the above points they are lacking something in quality. If you are thinking about hiring a service company that is offering a lower price but lacking in quality, you may not be saving the money you think you will save. You should consider that you might be paying for items like:
Additional time spent on the job because of:
Lack of experience and training
Parts not readily available
Lack of communication with your personnel
Proper tools not available
Or your business may be losing production time because of:
Poor response time
Incorrect test weight
Improper paper work
Poor safety procedures
As the old adage goes…”You get what you pay for!”