“Without service, you have nothing.”
That’s the philosophy of Michael L. Liptak, president of the ALL Family of Companies based out of Cleveland, OH. And a good one it is. The ALL Family, which includes Central, Dawes and Jeffers Crane among others, is operating one of the largest crane rental businesses in the United States. Liptak made it clear that customers want a lot more than just a rental, though.
“We can rent equipment anywhere in the country, but if we can’t service it, the customer will be unsatisfied,” he said. “Unfortunately, a crane is like any other vehicle – it can and will break down. It’s the nature of the business and it’s a guarantee. But I can also guarantee that when it breaks down, ALL is able to service it. We know that perfectly maintained equipment is necessary to support a customer’s expectation of uptime and productivity.”
That’s why Liptak doesn’t refer to ALL as a rental company but rather a “fleet maintenance” company. Service is the reason why ALL buys factory direct from manufacturers and why their technicians are trained directly by manufacturers. It’s all so that the moment something happens, they can provide immediate assistance.
ALL was founded 50 years ago with the prevailing notion that the more they controlled – spare parts, technician training, trucking – the better and faster the service and the happier the customer. They essentially shifted the headache of repairs and maintenance away from the customer to their own equipment experts.
ALL provides solutions from a network of 37 branches that are strategically located across the country. From logistical issues to routine maintenance as simple as an oil change, whether it’s in the field or in the service center, ALL will make sure it doesn’t affect a customer’s up time or productivity.
“All is as close to a turnkey operation as you can get,” said Liptak. “We’ve built our own service departments with an engine shop, hydraulic department, paint, welding and fabrication shops.”
Liptak cites the Japanese philosophy of “Kaizen,” the idea of constant and never ending improvement, to explain the motivation behind his service-minded business model.
“In business, it simply means that if you’re not improving every day, you’re not going to succeed,” said Liptak. “Other companies that became part of the ALL Family were chosen because their locations, their people, their service were valuable additions to the company. And all of our branches will grow as necessary to improve and to successfully address the industry’s changing needs.”
ALL’s devotion to service goes beyond their customer’s needs. They mobilize cranes on weekends, holidays, or even just in the middle of the night that respond in the event of an emergency.
“Emergencies are about doing what needs to be done, whether it’s convenient or not,” said Liptak. “And unfortunately, it’s a sad reality that cranes are often called upon to respond to emergencies such as highway accidents, trail derailments and storm catastrophes. And in those cases, we do what needs to be done.”
Gone are the days of simple parts and maintenance support. We are now in the era of life-cycle support. From the time a crane is purchased until it has seen its last lift, crane companies are being asked to provide valuable services and expertise.
Manitowoc has embraced this new era by developing Manitowoc Crane Care service. Their goal is to provide total life-cycle support, maximum equipment utilization, optimal profitability and overall owner value.
Manitowoc’s CraneSTAR telematics program is an important aspect of their service. GPS, on-crane computers and cloud-based transfer systems allow Crane Care staff to monitor a crane’s performance and identify service and parts needs as they arise.
The need for such ever-ready, on-call support isn’t just about keeping a crane running – it’s about keeping projects running, on-time and on-budget. A down crane can hold up an entire project, especially when dealing with an infrastructure or energy project.
The first night Pennsylvania-based Greiner Industries worked with its new Grove GMK6400 on a highway project, a Crane Care expert, provided by dealer partner Stephenson Equipment, stayed on site with the crane overnight for 12 hours, just in case expertise or technical support was needed.
“There was a $20,000 charge for each hour if we went over the scheduled stop time,” said Ben Daugherty, crane division manager, Greiner. “So that kind of support is priceless.”
Partnerships with dealers such as Stephenson Equipment is one strategy Manitowoc uses to strengthen its Crane Care service. They employ a dealer network around the world that is fully trained and certified to work with its cranes so no matter where a customer is, they will have support in their region and their time zone.
In Latin America, Manitowoc Crane Care service has begun deploying Crane Care service trucks loaded with diagnostic and repair equipment that can quickly travel to remote job sites and provide maintenance support or other expertise.
“We are in a mining region and it is too time-consuming and expensive to transport cranes to a shop,” said Jose Miguel Figueroa, director of customer support for Manitowoc Crane Care service in Chile. “This is a great benefit, especially to those working in demanding mining conditions, because Manitowoc can arrive on site to help replace a part or solve a technical problem in a relatively quick time.”
The proactive approach
Emergencies are bound to happen, but what Chris Rutter of Milwaukee-based Rutter’s Automotive Service preaches is prevention.
An experienced mechanic, Rutter founded his company in September of 2001. He worked mostly on consumer automobiles among other things when he was approached by a friend who had a fleet of trucks doing sign work around town in need of some maintenance. The problem was the trucks in the fleet were built by five different manufacturers and varied by as many as 20 years in age. So Rutter did what anyone would do- took some classes, did some internet research and agreed to work on the trucks.
Rutter’s Automotive now services all sorts of mobile truck cranes, including Altec, Elliott and Manitex to the tune of about 50 invoices a month, not including his automotive service work. He travels 50-70 miles to service vehicles, but encourages his customers to come to him because it’s more cost-effective.
“If I have to go out and work on something and it’s 30 below outside, it’s going to cost a lot more than if you bring it into the comfort and security of my shop,” said Rutter.
Some of the most interesting repair stories come out of the cold weather. With reference guides like the Old Farmer’s Almanac claiming this winter could be as bad if not worse than the previous, especially in the Midwest, Rutter is all for staying out of the cold.
“I’m not an alarmist, but I’m shaking the tree this year,” said Rutter. “Make sure your maintenance is up to date so you don’t have to call me out for those expensive service calls. These companies paid me pretty well to come out last year so I’m trying to pay it forward a little bit.”
Rutter is being proactive by sending mailers, calling and emailing his clients now, before temperatures drop.
“On the backside is if I’m doing emergency repair work, I don’t think it’s fair to my customers to just do that,” he said. “Most of the time something precipitated that repair, mostly maintenance related. If I’m not following up making sure you’re getting your money’s worth from me than I’m not doing my job.”
To emphasize his point about cold weather and maintenance, Rutter quoted Ben Franklin’s famous words: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“Get your stuff maintained. If you’re not using me then get it done somewhere else otherwise it’s going to be a rough winter for everyone,” said Rutter.