Given the global distribution of its growing customer base and the size of its workforce, providing efficient field maintenance for Kurtz Ersa’ production machinery is a constant challenge. Adding to the complexity is the fact that the density of equipment per site is relatively low, and most systems are customized to a customer’s specific needs. Thus, it is very difficult to staff regional field service teams with the specific knowledge necessary to maintain equipment for all customers in a given region.
Kurtz GmbH employs small teams of field service engineers (FSEs), each of which covers a large geographic area. The knowledge and skill sets of Kurtz’ FSEs vary from team to team, which include both experienced FSEs as well as apprentices. This fact, combined with the customized nature of the equipment, makes it impossible for every FSE to possess a high level of proficiency in every product line.
Three years ago, when a customer experienced a problem with its machine, they called Kurtz for support. Kurtz’s technicians would try to help the customer resolve the problem over the phone. However, for a variety of reasons (e.g. aging workforce, shortages of skilled workers, plant downsizing, etc.), many of Kurtz’s customers no longer employed highly trained, skilled maintenance personnel. This led to low remote resolution rates and frequent callbacks from customers to resolve the same problem. Often, the only way to be certain that the problem had been resolved satisfactorily was for Kurtz’s technician to travel to the customer site.
While functioning as an effective contingency plan for the customer, onsite visits were a major burden for Kurtz. First, Kurtz’s service department became even more stretched on human resources. If an FSE had to travel to fix a problem, then nobody else was available to handle new installations or other technical calls that arose in the meantime.
In addition, the small volume of service requests that Kurtz received didn’t justify keeping FSEs “on standby” for the rare instances when a new service request would come in. Onsite visits could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days or weeks, depending on the customer’s location and the complexity of the problem. This created more pressure from the standpoint of FSE availability and added more costs to Kurtz’s service operations. Lastly, Kurtz was concerned that its younger generation of FSEs would find excessive travel to be stressful and potentially cause them to leave the company.