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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Parts Inventory Management: Elusive and Evolving

Today we reprint an article, with permission, that was featured in the January 2015 USA Newsletter. It is by USA's Executive Director Paul Mac Donald and covers an important issue facing the appliance service industry. Thanks to Paul for allowing us to share it with you.

As I wrote last month, the best way to facilitate first call completes is to pre-diagnose every service call before rolling a truck. But the second biggest contributing factor is also worth investigating. It’s all about having the right parts to complete repairs in a single trip. Having the right part will not only make you more profitable, it leads to happy customers who are impressed with your efficiency and speed, and inclined to make recommendations to family and friends across their social network. 

Typically, replacement parts inventories are not managed well. This can be a major problem for service providers, as consumers unleash their displeasure on Yelp, Facebook and Angie’s List. Technology in modern appliances is unique to each brand and model, and repair parts are costly, making it impossible for service providers to stock their trucks with fast-moving common parts. 

Service providers are being forced to take a new approach to managing parts inventories. Gone are the days of universal parts with elements that fit in eight different models. New appliance models are released every six months as consumers crave the latest gadgets and gear. Have you seen the Dacor wall oven with Wi-Fi connectivity enabling users to surf the net from the control panel? Imagine Martha Stewart walking you through stuffing a turkey via YouTube on your oven control. I’ve seen it in action. It’s impressive, but there’s not one part in that oven that can be used on a Wolf or GE oven. 

Evolving technology in appliances presents a real repair challenge.  How do service providers ensure they have the right part at the right time to achieve a first call complete? To make money in the service business a service provider has to pre-diagnose every call. Based on a customer’s complaint and the machine’s ability to self-diagnose using fault codes and internet connectivity, the servicer must order every conceivable part before running a call to the customer’s home. This is no joking matter since you may order three parts and only need one.  The other two go back to the supplier for credit. Parts distributors are taking the brunt of this new inventory return phenomenon. Sooner or later this condition is going to come to a head and the industry will be forced to resolve it and level the playing field so that no one party takes the hit. 

It is time to raise the retail price of appliances to cover the warranty and service obligations after the sale. So far we have not seen much motivation or movement from the manufacturers, however, in my opinion, they have to address the cost of this new phenomenon. Ultimately the consumer will bear the brunt of the cost to repair appliances of the future. One manufacturer has already stepped up to the plate. When you repair a Dacor appliance under warranty the manufacturer speaks to the consumer to validate the failure and pre-diagnose the repair. Then they ship all conceivable parts to the authorized servicer at no charge so that they have every chance of completing the repair in the first trip without the burden of cost of acquisition or returning of parts. Such costs have to be accounted for in the selling price of the appliance. You can’t ask for better than that. Or can you? 

I predict the appliances of the not-too-distant future will not only self-diagnose, but also self-repair, via internet commands. It won’t cost much more to build appliances with dual components during manufacturing so that when one fails the central controller will simply switch to the back-up component without the help of humans.  

Attend the United Servicers Annual Service Training Institute the 2015 ASTI February 9-12 in New Orleans to see all the latest technology in appliances and what’s coming next. Registration and details at asti.us

Paul Mac Donald

United Servicers Association

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kelly's Korner - Small Appliances

Hey, All,

We all have small appliances in our homes - toasters, coffee makers, blenders, mixers, etc.  What happens when one of them quits working?

From the movie The Brave Little Toaster - my kids drove me nuts watching this!

We get a lot of calls here for parts for small appliances and with the exception of Kitchenaid products, we don't carry any parts.

So what do you do?  Your best bet is to contact the manufacturer of the product.  Your small appliance should have the name of the manufacturer and the same model/serial tag that your large appliances have and sometimes even a phone number to contact the company.

If you have no contact info on the machine, jump on the internet and search for the company.  Contact them; they can either direct you to someone in your area that repairs small appliances or they may be able to help you right then and send you the part you need.

But, as with all repairs, look at the cost of the repair vs replacing it.  Why buy a replacement coffee carafe for $15 when you can replace the whole thing for $9.99?  (and if you can't function in the morning without coffee then you are stopping at the store to replace it anyway, right?)  And let's face it - we are in a throw away society and many of the small appliances are not meant to be repaired or replaced.  I've seen microwaves and small refrigerators that way.

Also, please be conscience of the environmental impact of the appliance you are discarding and contact your waste management company for the best way to dispose of it.

And as with anything, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for operations and cleaning to have your appliances, whether large or small, keep working correctly.  Now I'm going to get another cup of coffee and you all....

Have a wonderful week!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Motivation

The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces. - Will Rogers

For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Morning Videos: Refrigerator Shopping With Brian Regan

Here is a pretty funny clip from Brian Regan. He is talking about refrigerator shopping and how hard it would be generate interest in the product. He pokes some fun at his refrigerator salesman, but he sort of makes a point. If you sell appliances, how do you generate excitement for features on those appliances? Let us know in the comments!


For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: News Recap January 22, 2015

NewspaperIf you have been reading the W.L. May Blog but haven't checked us out on FacebookTwitter or Google+, you may not be getting the whole story. We use all of those social media outlets to share news stories that relate to our industry as well as appliance tips we have found from other sources. Here is a recap of some of the top stories we have seen lately. It's been kind of a busy few week for news, due to CES International in Las Vegas. So without further ado:

We start with some consumer friendly articles we feel would be great for sharing:
  • An article that generated a little bit of controversy suggested that a "garage refrigerator" was a bad idea. LINK
  • Mother Nature Network made a list of 25 items that you might not have realized could be stored in the freezer. LINK
  • WSB Radio considered some of the practical considerations of having a second refrigerator in the garage. LINK
  • Houzz gave us a look at some kitchen designs predicted to trend in 2015. LINK
  • Wiki How gave some good directions for cleaning a washer and dryer. LINK
  • Parade explained why some washing machines turn clothes inside out. LINK
Next, we look at the manufacturers and how they have been in the news recently:
  • Whirlpool showed off a Range with integrated chat functions. LINK
  • Whirlpool also showed of some new washing machine features. LINK
  • Samsung offered their washer with a built in sink. LINK
  • Talking about their smart phone app, Whirlpool pointed out it can take a donation for Habitat for Humanity with every wash load. LINK
  • A war between LG and Samsung continued, and the Wall Street Journal gave us a good recap of events so far. LINK
  • The Louisville Business News considered what regulators will be looking at to approve the Electrolux/GE merge. LINK
  • GE introduced a new variety of color options in their Artistry line. LINK
  • GE will be including Kuerig coffee maker (you know, the type with those little cups) in some of their new models. LINK
We found an article that might be of interest to those of you who love all thing appliances:
  • A Flickr user named Joe Clark posted a collection of dishwasher loading instructions gathered from a variety of owners manuals. LINK 
  • The Newton Citizen took the stand that we are living in the "good old days" for appliances. LINK
  • Reviewed.Com gave us a fun look at ten classic appliances-some large, some small. We still regularly get calls for most of the major appliances listed. LINK
  • A Korean Pop star will give appliances to North Korean defectors if his series, "Spy", gets over 10% viewership. LINK
  • We saw a washing machine converted to an aquarium. Neat project. LINK
Sometimes, the links we post are related to technology, business or happenings on the internet:
  • A refrigerator was introduced by a startup company at CES International. It has 8 USB ports and WiFi connectivity. LINK 
  • Induction cooking has been promoted for a while now with limited success. In case you were wondering, here's how it works. LINK
  • Wall Street Journal talked about some of the feature manufacturers are adding to refrigerators. LINK
We close with a bit of history:
  • If you think you do a lot of laundry. Consider the laundresses of the Civil War. LINK
    For more education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015

    Thursday Tweets: Laundry Room Edition

    While looking through our Twitter feed we found these laundry room tweets to share with you.

    When you are waiting for the laundry to finish washing...

    Waiting for your clothes to wash can bring strange thought to mind...

    Maybe the missing socks are part of a larger conspiracy...

    As nutty as those thought can be,  your life took a turn for the better.

    Still, laundry does have its frustrations sometimes...

    It makes a person think about other options than their laundry room...

    Luckily, there is a solution...

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015

    Kelly's Korner - Buying Used Appliances -Caveat Emptor!

    Hey, All,

    While I think all of us would like to buy everything brand new, sometimes it is either not in our personal budgets or you just don't want to spend the cash or have the payments for new.

    Buying used appliances is much like buying new - do your research!  If you have the time to shop a bit, find out what is the most dependable, easy to maintain, older appliances out there.  Check your usual sources; online, friends and relatives, and your friendly appliance repair tech.  If you have to get a used appliance in a hurry (personal experience:  power outage killed the compressor in my refrigerator and it was too old to fix and on a weekend to boot - luckily I know people!) I would steer clear of want ads.

    Why?  Sometimes, and I've heard horror stories here at work, people lie.  I know, hard to believe, but that little whine in that front load washer you just picked up for $100 is actually the rear bearing going out and it's going to cost you about 10 times that to fix - that's why the previous owner was getting rid of it.  Yeah, it works great now but not for much longer!  It is a definite buyer beware situation!

    I would contact either your appliance tech and see if they sell reconditioned appliances, or find out a company that does.  A lot of times people upgrade their appliances or remodel, and their old appliances are fine but don't fit into the new spaces or decor, so they have to get rid of them.  Sometimes they will sell them in the want ads, but also they may call someone to haul them away.  Oft times, the company selling them the new appliances will install the new and haul away the old.  They then will either refurbish and resell themselves or auction/sell them to others who do the refurbishing.

    These companies will go over these used appliances and determine whether they are worth refurbishing or destined to the scrap yard.  They will clean them inside and out and replace parts (belts, rollers, seals, refrigerator door bars and end caps, drawers, hoses, etc.) and make sure the appliance is in good working condition before they let it out the door.  They will even often some sort of warranty on it.

    So, if you are looking for a second refrigerator for the garage, or on a tight budget, be as careful at buying a used appliance as you would buying a used car.

    Have a great week!

    Friday, January 16, 2015

    Friday Morning Videos; The Real Whirled

    Whirlpool believes in having a well trained sales staff. This video talks about The Real Whirled, Whirlpool's 10 week training program.

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Thursday, January 15, 2015

    Thursday Trivia Challenge

    Do you think you know all about appliances? Here is a short set of trivia questions to test your knowledge.

    1. How much revenue is generated annually by the appliance repair industry as of October 2013?
    2. Kitchenaid's first product was a dishwasher T or F?
    3. What disease was instrumental in developing the first practical system for refrigeration?
    4. What appliance maker is headquartered in East Tamaki, New Zealand?
    5. What decade saw the introduction of Freon as a refrigerant?
    6. What is the average load capacity for a clothes dryer in the United States?
    7. What year was the first practical refrigeration system debuted?
    8. What kitchen appliance is often recommended for use when tie dyeing?

    1. 4 Billion dollars (Source: IBIS World http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=1710)
    2. False-their first product was the tabletop mixer. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KitchenAid)
    3. Yellow Fever. The system was designed to create ice to ease  patients suffering. (Source: http://www.partselect.com/JustForFun/Major-History-The-Refrigerator-And-Freezer.aspx)
    4. Fisher Paykel (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher_%26_Paykel)
    5. The 1920's (Source: http://www.partselect.com/JustForFun/Major-History-The-Refrigerator-And-Freezer.aspx)
    6. 11 lbs. (Source: http://www.homeguide411.com/blog/ten-interesting-facts-about-home-appliances-87.htm)
    7. 1844 (See question 3)(Source: http://www.partselect.com/JustForFun/Major-History-The-Refrigerator-And-Freezer.aspx)
    8. Microwave Oven (Source: http://listverse.com/2013/01/16/10-household-appliances-with-surprising-alternative-uses/)

    O-2 correct: You know a bit about appliances, but still have a lot to learn.
    2-4 correct: You know a fair amount about appliances.
    4-6 correct: You know a lot about appliances. Pass some of that knowledge on to someone.
    6-8 correct You are an appliance star! Great job!

    This is a monthly feature. To submit your appliance trivia questions (and answers) email: rob.m@wlmay.com with the subject line "trivia".

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    Three Types of Repair Companies

    (Flickr user 401K 2012/CC)
    How is your business doing? Are you happy with your current level of success? Would you like to to be more profitable?

    We want you to succeed. In fact, your success is vital to our own. From this side of the counter we often see businesses in one of three stages: growing, holding on, or falling behind. We also see a lot of the same factors helping determine where a company might fall in that spectrum. Lets looks a little closer.

    Growing. Even during the height of the economic downturn. some appliance repair companies managed to grow and expand. While each of those companies have their own style and approach to service, they also have a lot in common. Most of them are aware of how the Internet has changed marketing and have adjusted accordingly. They did not do this without help. Many of them also utilized training offered by the United Servicer Association. These companies also make time to keep up with new products and attend product training whenever it is available.

    Holding On. The companies that we see holding on are not expanding their businesses. Occasionally they will take advantage of training opportunities if they are convenient enough to attend. These companies may need more training in Internet marketing. Sometimes they are learning new products on the job, wasting valuable time in the process.  They might also be losing time by not keeping a big enough inventory of parts on hand, resulting in return trips that cost both time and vehicle expenses. Not everyone that is just holding on is lacking in skills, though. Sometimes retirement is close by and they have no exit plan. They are willing to go out of business when they retire, leaving them with no desire or need to grow their business.

    Falling behind. Sadly, we see some companies falling a little farther behind each year. These are the toughest cases to watch. Often these companies declined opportunities for further skills, either mechanically or digitally. They tend to blame the economy. Many times there is an avoidance of anything resembling a computer. By avoiding jobs involving computer boards, and pinning their hopes on the phone book ads that used to work so well, they find themselves with fewer and fewer jobs. These are the people that need to hear what the successful companies are doing. Unfortunately, they are the same people who will probably never even see this post.

    If you want to be one of those "growing" companies, it is up to you to keep your skills up to date. To help you achieve that goal, W.L. May will be sponsoring and attending the ASTI (Appliance Service Training Institute). The event will be held in New Orleans, LA from Feb. 8-12th. Classes will be offered not only on product training, but also on business and Internet marketing. We hope we see you there!

    USA ASTI Promo

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    Kelly's Korner - Kitchen Fires

    Hey, All,

    I was cruising the web for ideas for this blog and came across this tidbit that I'd thought I'd pass along.

    Did you know that unattended cooking is the number one contributor to home fires in the US?  Wow.  I mean, how could that happen?  You are always there in the kitchen, right?  Whoops, the doorbell rings and no one else is available to answer it.  Gotta go answer a call of nature - only going to take a sec, right?  Kids get into a major tussle and you're the only referee available.  Great grandma decides she's going to make some soup and then forgets what's she's doing and leaves the kitchen.  Kids decide they're going to "help" Mom and cook they're own dinner.

    All recipes for disaster, right?  The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) announced in October that they have a plan to help reduce the potential for unattended cooking fires. This will encompass all cooktops and ranges - not only conventional coil tops, but gas, glass and induction.

    There are several things you can do to reduce the chances of a cooking fire.  First of all would be to KEEP AN EYE ON WHAT YOU'RE DOING!  Do not ever leave things on the stovetop without turning off the burner and removing whatever you have off the cooktop.  You don't really need to turn the burners onto HIGH - it may take a bit longer, but lower settings will cook just as well.  Teach your children kitchen safety.  Make sure there is a fire extinguisher handy and in good working condition and everyone knows how to use it.  Many times just putting a lid on the pan that's flared up will kill the flames.  Dumping baking soda on flames works also.  DON'T EVER PUT WATER ON A KITCHEN FIRE!!!  If the fire is grease-based water will only spread the flames and you never put water on anything electric.  Call 911 immediately and get everyone out of the house if you have a fire.  Even if you get it put out, there may be other factors involved and your heroic firefighters will check everything out.

    Now if you have a conventional coil range or cooktop, WL May has a solution for you now.  We have a product call Safe T Elements that can be installed on most stoves.  What this kit is are cast iron plates attached to the elements that are hooked up to a computer board that regulates the temperature of the burners.  You can actually put a piece of paper between the burner and your pan and turn it on and the paper will not burn but your water will still be boiling.  These are great in any kitchen - especially if you have children or elderly people who are a bit forgetful.  I know that many multi-family complexes are installing these.  They do need to be installed by a qualified technician and we can help you with that.  Cost of this kit is approximately $190 suggested retail, not including installation, and come in either 2 and 2 or 3 and 1 configurations (2 large and 2 small burners or 3 small and 1 large).  Isn't this a small cost to pay for the peace of mind of not having your home and loved ones endangered by a house fire?

    The first of the year is a great time to check all fire extinguishers and batteries on your smoke detectors.  Get yours checked now!

    Have a great (and safe!) week!

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Friday, January 9, 2015

    Friday Morning Videos: Fridge Slip Solved

    Today we feature a short video. The solutions seems somewhat obvious. Then again, sometime obvious is in the eye of the beholder. A simple solution to a common problem.

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    Throwback Thursday: News Recap January 8, 2015

    If you have been reading the W.L. May Blog but haven't checked us out on FacebookTwitter or Google+, you may not be getting the whole story. We use all of those social media outlets to share news stories that relate to our industry as well as appliance tips we have found from other sources. Here is a recap of some of the top stories we have seen lately. It's been kind of a slow week for news, probably due to the holidays, but there was a little bit. So without further ado:

    We start with some consumer friendly articles we feel would be great for sharing:
    • How to install a dishwasher. This might explain why that is often not a "free" service. LIKE
    • Yahoo offered their spin on laundry tips. LINK
    • You always hear about cleaning out the inside of a refrigerator. Maybe the outside needs a cleaning out as well. Here's how. LINK
    Next, we look at the manufacturers and how they have been in the news recently:
    • Whirlpool opened a new Tech Center in Benton Harbor, MI LINK
    • First we heard a bit more on the story from earlier this year where LG executives were accused of vandalizing Samsung appliances while attending a trade show in Germany. LINK
    • Then we heard that an LG executive was banned from travel to CES show pending litigation in the case. LINK
    • Then things got even more odd as the saga between LG and Samsung continued with a raid on LG's offices and upper management. LINK
    • Whirlpool was showing off Nest connected appliances at the CES show in Las Vegas. LINK
    • Whirlpool got a little touchy-feely at the CES in Las Vegas with their "Every day, care" campaign. LINK
    • Want to control appliances with a smartphone app? GE's new product line promises to allow that. LINK
    • Whirlpool won several awards at the CES show in Las Vegas. LINK
    For more education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Wednesday, January 7, 2015

    Technician Training and Hiring

    Finding Repair People IS A Challenge (Flickr User JD Hancock/CC)
    The roundtable discussion at a United Servicers Association meeting is always interesting and enlightening.The Portland roundtable in November touched upon an issue that is currently challenging our industry.

    New technicians are not entering the trade at the same rate as old servicers are retiring. Many companies report great difficulties in finding skilled repair people. The conversation discussed the pro's and con's involved with training your own techs vs. hiring already knowledgeable techs.

    In house training lets techs learn in an environment that matches how their company does business, but it is a time consuming process. Hiring an experienced technician can sometimes mean that they have learned to do things differently than your company might do them. In other words, you might be taking on "additional baggage".

    There is a third way that was discussed to adress the need for techs. That would be to utilize one of the appliance training programs that are offered around the country. You might recruit a recent graduate or send a promising rookie to school.

    Without our specific endorsement, there were three such programs discussed favorably at the roundtable meeting that I attended,

    Freds Appliance Academy offers a three week immersion type of program that features classroom and hands on training. They even have a student dorm available for students.

    Internet appliance repair celebrity, the Appliance Samurai, uses his irreverent (but quite knowledgable) approach to appliance repair. His online training program shows budding "appliantologists" how to repair and service appliances at his Samurai Tech Academy.

    The last training program mentioned has been used by several Northwest technicians that I know of. Renton Technical College in Renton, WA has programs teaching appliance repair in a traditional collegiate training program.

    If you are struggling to fill the gaps in your repair staff, graduates from one of these programs can step in already trained. Likewise, if you know of someone who would make a good technician, one of these programs could give that person the skills needed for success in appliance repair.

    I know that there are other programs that exist around the country, if you know of a good appliance repair training program that I have not mentioned, please share it with us in the comments.

    POST SCRIPT: This comment came in via Twitter:

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    Kelly's Korner - Resolutions

    Hey, All,

    The holidays are over and a new year faces us.  I know many people who make resolutions to do something different or better in the coming year but few do.

    If one of your resolutions involves home improvements, I have several hints that might make it a bit easier.

    First of all, get all your ducks in a row.  Have every step of the project planned.  This may include a project book with samples, pictures of all the stuff you want (light fixtures, window treatments, door handles, light and electric plates, countertops, cabinets, flooring, etc.) pictures of what you want your end project to look like, costs, contractors bids, timetables and research.

    Research?  If your project includes new appliances, research is a must.  Don't just go with how an appliance looks, ask yourself these questions:

    1.  Do I need all the bells and whistles (features) that this appliance offers?
    2.  What is the dependability of the brand I'm looking at?
    3.  Do servicers in my area even work on this brand?
    4.  What about the outside surfaces?  Are they easy to keep nice and shiny or is every fingerprint going to show?
    5.  Is the appliance going to fit in the spot you have for it?

    The last one is something that many people run into - yes, the refrigerator may fit into the space but can you open the doors?  If needed, can the door swing be reversed?  It is annoying to have all your working space on the right side of the fridge, but if the door swings the other way you almost have to walk around it to get what you need out of it.

    Talk to people - call your favorite repair tech and get their opinions.  Don't let some slick talking salesperson talk you into something you don't need or want - they mostly are just concerned with their commissions.  Go online and peruse Consumer Reports and other research companies.  Talk to friends and family.  It's like buying a car - that little sports job sure would make you look cool but is it what you really need?

    I really need to redo my kitchen and have been slowly building my project book - combing through websites and magazines to find the perfect look.  I'm going to have to live with my decisions for a long time so I need to make the right choices.  Make sure you can live with yours!

    Have a great week!

    Monday, January 5, 2015

    Monday Motivation

    I have no way of knowing how people really feel, but the vast majority of those I meet couldn't be nicer. Every once in a while someone barks at me. My New Year's resolution is not to bark back. - Tucker Carlson

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE

    Friday, January 2, 2015

    Friday Morning Videos: Appliances Only the Maytag Repairman Would Love

    This is not a fresh news story, but still it has some great shots. The woman in this video was given a new model of washer and dryer in exchange for a classic, still operating pink model. The old machines are going to the Maytag Museum in Benton Harbor, MI. Who do you think got the better half of this deal?

    For more from education and entertainment from W.L. May Company click...HERE