When did it become the technician's job to research every part?
There used to be a time when your parts supplier used to do all the parts research for you. So how and when did this change to become the job of the technician? It can become very laborious and time-consuming to find the right part for a unit you are working on. It wasn't that long ago a tech would call the parts house, provide the information of what they needed and then BOOM! your part # is xyz, it costs this much, and we can ship it to you by this date. However at some point it became the responsibility of the tech, when calling in, to provide the part # of what they are looking for to their supply house, to the point that it felt like the tech was being bothersome if they didn't provide the part #. Why and what caused this?
There was more than one thing that caused this paradigm shift. The first we are going to look at is the trust the tech has in their supply house. When a tech calls in and relies on the supply house to get them the right part based on the information they provide, this is a leap of faith that the supplier will get them EXACTLY what is needed. It becomes very costly and troublesome to get the wrong part. First, the tech goes to the job to install the part received. If it is incorrect, the tech has now spent the time driving there, dismantling the unit only to realize what is in their hand does not match what is in the unit. The tech now must call the supplier back (or drive down if local), go through the look up process again, get the correct item ordered, reassemble the unit, and then start the whole process over once the replacement comes in. To top it off, you now have an incorrect item that you must either decide to keep or find time to get it back to the supplier and wait for the elusive reimbursement (topic for another day). It is no wonder if this occurs to a technician on more than a handful of occurrences, they begin to take the upfront time to do their own research to save the time, embarrassment, and cost on the back end. Once this begins, it becomes an expectation that said tech calls in with the part # and that expectation becomes hard to break on both sides.
The next has a lot to do with the changes on the supplier side. The amount of suppliers in our industry has drastically reduced and seems to be only shrinking. The amount of companies that are purchased and merged on a regular basis has had a massive impact on the ability of your supplier to research parts for you. First, you have attrition of that rep you have dealt with for years and knows what you need. That sales rep, service rep, tech support, or any other title you want to give to them, did not make it through the transition of family business to corporation. There are many reasons for this, but it happens often in these buyouts and mergers. Now the new ownership often leaves those spaces open, opting to save $, which in turn reduces the time the rest of the staff have to help on each call. This causes them to rush, or say they will look into it and call back (how often does that call ever come?), or the dreaded "Call the factory and call us back with the part number". As the hold times go up, legacy staff is lost, those new ownership groups now have to invest in bringing on more people to answer the phones. We all know there is an abundance of of experienced personnel in the commercial kitchen parts industry just waiting to fill those positions, right? Yea, not so much. So then they hire more people with a call center mindset of let's get these calls answered and take these orders. Rarely is the side of research, technical or industry knowledge ever reviewed or looked at. So now you have people on the phone, and this is not a knock on those people, their skills or service, but they have no idea what these parts are, their function or even what type of equipment they go into. They are never trained in the skill set of researching parts for a technician, to the contrary the more calls and shorter time they are on each call they are rewarded for. So now a difficult research call that may take 20 minutes to only result in a quote, that employee is looked at as taking too long and not converting orders enough. Not only does that employee have no incentive to learn to research parts, in most environments they are penalized for helping customers in such manner.
Last, the additions of research tools readily available to anyone with a phone has completely changed the expectation of who does what in these circumstances. It was not that long ago that research materials and manuals were not readily accessible to everyone. Factory manuals were rare and were hoarded, your best option was to ask for a faxed copy, but many times they were hundreds of pages and poor quality. Other than calling your supply house or the factory directly, there was no other way to get the information on the part you needed in the first place. Now with that information being publicly available, free and the same info your supplier (and many cases the factory themselves) have available to them, a certain attitude began to creep into our industry. Can't you look on the breakdown for yourself? This is the modern day equivalent to "Call the factory, get the part number and call us back". However, regardless of what side you are on, supplier or the person putting that part in, the breakdown does not always provide the specific answer or information needed.
So where does that leave us now? There should be more of a partnership between the parts supplier and the technician. A parts house should offer the expertise and assistance to the tech to help them get the job done and move on to the next one. The more jobs a tech does, the more parts they need, pretty mutually beneficial. As Commercial Appliance Supply House, we strive to help techs get what they need as quick, affordable, and painless as possible. However, i will reiterate that does take a partnership on both sides. Saying that i need a valve for a Brand XYZ fryer is a good starting point, but cannot be looked at as sufficient information. Is that valve 24V, 120V or millivolt? What is the thread size? Pilot Size? is it a bleed style valve? Also, asking for a universal thermostat is akin to asking for a universal car tire. Sure there are some common ones, but also some very important details that have to be specified if you want it to fit and function properly. In today's world of information available to everyone, we are more poised than ever to partner between suppliers and techs. Provide us with as much info as possible so we can look into and find what you need. In those instances where there is minimal info, or it is unclear what is required, pictures and documents can be sent via email or even text to provide clarity and collaboration that seems to have been lost in our industry.
Give us a call, text, email or even click chat on the bottom right so we can help you research the part you need today.