When approaching the challenge of technician efficiency, it is a best practice to start with the root cause. For Tallis Amos Group (TAG), the issue was not with the technicians themselves, but with an inefficient process.
Tallis Amos Group (TAG) was formed in 2012, as a merger between Chris Tallis Farm Machinery and Alexander & Duncan, which was owned by the Amos family. Today, TAG is one of the largest John Deere dealerships in the UK, with five locations in Evesham, Bibury, Leominster, and Narberth.
TAG recently said goodbye to paper timesheets and extraneous manual labour, and helped their technicians work smarter whilst managing a larger workload. We sat down with Richard Allard, the Group Service Manager for the dealership, to learn more.
How did you get involved in the dealership?
Richard: “After doing my apprenticeship, I’ve worked for another John Deere dealer for 13 years. I came here afterwards, in 2007, for an opportunity to grow with the dealership.”
How you set yourself apart from your competitors as a dealership?
Richard: “We have always been a family business so our customers can expect care, response, and friendly help. We are fairly strong in the technology side of things as well. We have had our own John Deere Ag Management Solutions consultants for a number of years, long before any other dealership in the area.
“We’re also quite a diverse business. We work with vegetable growers, solid crop growers, and biogas businesses in the area. As you move across our trading area, we also help agricultural businesses ranging from potatoes to dairy and livestock.”
Could you talk a little bit about your role and key responsibilities?
Richard: “I am the Group Service Manager, so my responsibilities cover everything that happens after the machine is sold, other than parts. That includes maintenance and repair of the machines. There is a service manager at every depot who reports to me. I set the strategy for the service department of the company and make sure that we are all going in the right direction. On top of that, I am involved in installations and handovers and manage health and safety for the company.”
When did you implement the Ibcos Gold dealership management system, and what was the initial reason for it?
Richard: “It has been in place since the mid-to-late nineties. If you are in the agricultural machinery business in the UK, Ibcos is the only quality provider.”
When did you implement Gold Service?
Richard: “We were the second dealer in the UK to do it. We went live in early 2018. We had been looking for a solution for a long time; we wanted something that was mobile phone-based and had the ability to record hours.
“The link to Gold was what stood out. Gold Service will put the hours straight onto the job card. If we had gone with any of the other systems, we would need an employee to get that information into Gold. That repetition of effort was not much further forward than running paper timesheets.
“That is where we’ve managed to see a massive improvement in terms of efficiency, and we experienced a reduction in administration staff as a result.”
What would you say is the biggest benefit of Gold Service?
Richard: “Accurate time reporting has been a tremendous benefit. We are very forward-thinking with monitoring utilisation, so accurate time reporting is a big thing for us. The fact that we could invoice earlier has made a significant difference. Now we invoice on a weekly instead of monthly basis. We can’t really see any advantage in invoicing sooner than that.
“We’ve also seen an improvement in work in progress. Historically, it was the technicians who were the biggest hold-up, getting their job sheets written up and their time charts in. That created a bottleneck because we were invoicing monthly, and we ended up with a big workload towards month end.
“Now we have a much bigger workload and the technicians are no longer the bottleneck. As soon as they finish their job, they are prompted to complete the job in the system.”
What was your workshop like before the implementation?
Richard: “All of our depots other than one were on paper. That means timesheets and paper scanners. Then we would have to switch that over and input it into an electronic system. The technicians like this streamlined way of doing things; at this point, there’s hardly a technician here that would go back.”
What was the adoption like of Gold Service?
Richard: “There is a methodology behind it. Getting people used to just logging on and off jobs is similar to processes that they are accustomed to. We are in a reasonable routine because we are familiar with processing timesheets daily and checking them.
“Probably the biggest challenge was with the technicians. The service managers were a bit more used to adapting, so they changed quickly. We have come a long way since then.”
How would you describe Ibcos’ support and training?
Richard: “We are an early adopter, so we got quite good support off the bat for that. And that support got considerably better in the last few years. For onboarding, there were some good training videos put together. We sat the engineers down for a time and went through them together. I got them to bring their phones along and set up the app on the spot.”
How has Gold Service changed your service department overall?
Richard: “I’d say that it made us much more efficient, especially when it comes to administrative tasks. As a result, we have been able to reduce our administration staff. With the change of invoices to weekly, we have a smoother workflow.
“Before, I had administrators who were not terribly busy in the middle of the month, but I needed them there to get all of the invoices done at that busy time at month end. Now, with all of our depots, we are running with just two administrators, and their tasks include warranties and service work.”