Industry debate: Service with a first-time fix

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In the last issue of FEJ, we explored the issue of first-time fix rates and asked leading kitchen maintenance firms how much attention operators should pay to this criterion. This time around, we thought we’d put the question to manufacturers from across the industry to find out what they think.

Do you feel that the industry agrees on a common definition of a ‘first-time fix’ rate?

Michelle Frost, financial operations director, Dawson FSE: We have our own internal goals when it comes to first-time fix rates rather than looking at what our competitors our striving to achieve. While we are aware of a general rate that other service companies are reaching, it’s important to focus on our engineers, the support team and keeping our clients happy.

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Graham Kille, managing director, Frima: Yes. First-time fix is being on site with the parts available to leave the unit working. It is not turning up and looking at the unit and ordering a spare to be delivered next week. The goal should always be to hand the unit back in full working order.

Simon Wood, technical manager, Monika: By its very definition, we would say that a first-time fix means just that: the underlying issue with an appliance is fixed on the first engineer visit to site without the need to return at a later date, either with the correct part or with the knowledge and expertise on how to fix a particular problem. Having said that, we don’t believe the industry has agreed on a common definition of the term, with different manufacturers and service providers having their own take on the definition of ‘first-time fix’.

How much emphasis do you place on your first-time fix rate?

Dave Kemp, technical services director, Meiko: Meiko UK is tasked against penalty to achieve what we claim and you can’t get more transparent than that. The key demand from customers is cost control combined with reliability and the key to choosing to use Meiko is quality of manufacture and reliability combined with industry-leading after-sales support provided by Meiko Technical Services. A first-time fix rate is indicative of how a supplier regards its customers and is regarded especially by catering equipment distributors as a true barometer of ‘customer care’.

Graham Kille: It is vital to Frima and its customers as the equipment is essential to the kitchen operation. Top quality equipment is nothing without excellent back-up and the availability of spare parts.

Michelle Frost: A first-time fix is extremely important to us and a focus of the service team, however we give equal weight to the time to close the call down. Good communications, support network, punctuality and expertise are as important when you look at the whole spectrum of what service is to a customer.

eng 22 2250There is nothing to stop companies from exaggerating their first-time fix rates in an effort to enhance their abilities. How much of a concern is this?

Simon Wood: A service provider exaggerating their first-time fix results is a concern for the industry but is something that is always likely to be difficult to legislate against. A company can fabricate their figures as and how they wish. Where inflated figures become frustrating from the view of another service provider is when it comes to competition. When an end-user is comparing providers, it can often be difficult to compete against a provider who has inflated their results. This does, however, lead to an opportunity when the expectations of the consumer are not met or when the service provider, who has inflated their first-time fix rate, receives the negative publicity from not being able to substantiate their claims in the longer term. Ultimately, we believe that the industry as a whole should make a collective effort to legislate the first-time fix result, making it an even playing field for all providers to compete.

We believe the industry as a whole should make a collective effort to legislate the first-time fix result, making it an even playing field for all providers to compete”

Michelle Frost: Statistics in all areas of business, and indeed life, can be open to manipulation and interpretation, and of course that is a concern to anyone relying on the data. At Dawson we focus on delivering what we promise and in order to do this there has to be integrity in the numbers

Dave Kemp: Caterers are best advised to check with their peers as to which company provides the best level of support in terms of first-time fix of their warewashing equipment. Operators know from experience who offers the best response and highest first-time fix rate.

How much emphasis should operators put on first-time fix rates when choosing a service provider to work with?

Graham Kille: It will not always be possible to secure a first-time fix but it is important that the customer gets honest feedback on the timeframe and information as to when it will be fixed.

Dave Kemp: A high first-time fix rate indicates the quality of service and support that an operator can expect from their equipment supplier. Operators want ideally to fix their budgets and eliminate the risk of unforeseen expenses due to breakdowns. Another key issue for many is reliability across their entire estate where they may have warewashing machines from several different suppliers in use. Meiko customers appreciate that Meiko can tailor maintenance solutions to meet their requirements on a mix of Meiko and non-Meiko machines. The emphasis must be placed on the supplier to maintain efficiency and keep dishwashing systems running.

Simon Wood: The emphasis placed on first-time fix results should very much depend on the appliance in question — ask yourself ‘is it business critical?’ For example, a large hotel and wedding venue would be seriously affected if their combi-oven was to fail on a Friday before a busy weekend, however if a microwave in a pub kitchen was to fail on a Monday morning, the engineer visit could be seen as less urgent. Ultimately, an operator should be looking for a service provider that is reliable, knowledgeable, provides exceptional levels of care and is able to understand the needs of the business as a whole.

meiko eng 40What are the biggest factors that contribute to achieving high first-time fix rates?

Michelle Frost: Van-held stock, experienced and fully qualified Gas Safe engineers and an expertise in our supplier manufacturers’ equipment is highly important when analysing first-time fix rates. Servicing only five brands of equipment means our engineers are specialists in the Dawson brands and have an unrivalled knowledge when compared to other service providers in the industry.

Graham Kille: Engineers should carry basic spares on their vehicles. They should be fully trained for the equipment they are working on and have access to manuals and also a technical support line from the manufacturer. Manufacturers should run training courses and have websites where up-to-date information can be readily accessed. Specialist trained engineers should look after essential equipment.

The ability to download data and send to the factory in difficult situations helps bring a quick result”

Dave Kemp: Achieving the highest first-time fix rate in the industry is a combination of dedication, investment and training. To guarantee our first-time fix objectives, all Meiko Technical Service vehicles carry considerable spare parts stock. As a minimum, they carry the top 200 parts for front-loading and hood machines and the top 50 parts for the larger rack and flight machines.

Simon Wood: One of the biggest factors when choosing a service provider is to look at how they provide their service. If it is direct from a manufacturer, do they have their own engineers or do they outsource to another provider? If they are outsourcing, an operator should consider that engineers are unlikely to be specialists in one company’s portfolio and therefore the level of knowledge and expertise could be less. Alternatively, those companies who use their own engineers have demonstrated a commitment to investing in van stock and spare parts as well as training and experience. If specific spare parts are not carried, as is often the case with outsourced providers, a first-time fix is virtually impossible.

Monika Case Study - Worcester College (40) - MidCatering equipment is arguably becoming more complex due to the use of things like software-based control panels. Does this threaten first-time fix rates?

Graham Kille: No. If in the correct hands it aids the fix. Identifying the error code and saving time on analysis, the ability to download data and send to the factory in difficult situations helps bring a quick result. As long as the engineers are well-trained and supported, it is more economical and means there’s less downtime.

Dave Kemp: The latest generation of premium quality dishwashers, for example, feature integral heat exchangers and integral reverse osmosis — sophisticated elements that require maintenance by someone who is experienced and qualified. Meiko as a manufacturer has worked extremely hard and intelligently to provide technical solutions that actually speed up and assist the process of achieving a first-time fix. These solutions include self-diagnostic control panels, which can be accessed remotely and on site, to provide the engineer with a complete picture of the machine’s operating status including any faults. The provision of handheld devices also assists with downloading and electronically diagnosing machines on site.

Simon Wood: We see automation having a positive impact. Systems are now able to self-diagnose an issue and engineers can remotely access systems to identify a problem before arriving on site. This in turn allows them to either fix a problem without attending or arrive on site with all the necessary parts to ensure a first-time fix. The technology and automation has led to engineers needing a greater technical training and a change in skillset in recent years, however an investment in facilities and ongoing development has led to a highly capable engineering base.

Michelle Frost: We have a number of electronic- and software-based products in our portfolio from brands such as Comenda, Lainox and Mareno. The key to first-time fix rates being maintained is quite simply extensive and thorough training of engineers. We see more equipment taking on software and digital controls, it’s the nature of product development and we need to keep on top of the trends. Of course, having direct access into the technical support of our manufacturer partners supports us completely as the technology advances.

Tags : Dawsonfirst-time fixFrimakitchensmaintenancemanufacturersMeikoMonikaservice
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

1 Comment

  1. During the tender process for a major group I was interviewed by a team of 8 of their staff and one of them insisted on a first time fix rate of 95% and a reduction in costs. I explained that we would not achieve those figures for what they understood to be “First Time Fix”. However we would achieve a operational repair of 95% and return with additional parts to re-establish the machine to manufacturers specification. Knowing who had previously serviced the equipment I advised that they would actually see an increase in costs for the first 3 months and then they would reduce significantly. We did win the contract and the customers figures have shown a major reduction in cost and more importantly a 23% reduction in the number of reactive calls and the equipment is lasting longer. When we follow some service providers with high first time fix rate we often find the equipment in a poor state of repair.

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