Downtime is the killer of productivity in the asphalt industry. If any component of the plant goes down, hot mix is left to cool and that's literally money being wasted. Construction business owners know that having a reliable partner they can contact in the event things go wrong is paramount to getting back up and running.
This is why Astec has chosen to place such a high importance on making their parts department second to none in the industry.
"We value our customer and we want to always support our customer," Larry Johnston Group Director Parts – Integrated Process Solutions at Astec Industries says. "It's critical that they have access to the inventory and the parts they need because of the nature of their business. We understand that it is costly to be down with paving crews waiting on the road for asphalt, especially with penalty jobs. Here at Astec, we want to make sure that we have the right product available to ship when they need it."
Astec currently stocks over $20 million in parts to support the industry and has the ability to fabricate parts when needed. There are 38 employees who fulfill the picking, shipping and customer support process when an order is needed with every action focused on getting their customers back to work as fast as possible.
Customer Needs a Priority
Since their customers can't afford to not be working, Astec, Inc. staffs their parts department 24 hours a day, seven days a week...even on Christmas.
"Everything we do, every meeting we have, is centered on our customer and their needs. We value the relationships we have built with our customers and our daily goal is to meet every need and want they have" Johnston says. "A lot of our customers work at night. Therefore we make sure that we're available for them around the clock at no additional charge. We treat them like we would like to be treated.”
Customers who need parts contact customer service to receive support and parts are shipped out immediately once the issue is resolved. If the part isn't in stock, Astec will use all the resources they have available to help the customer return to normal operation.
"We recently had a customer who called on a Saturday at 2:30 in the afternoon. They needed a part that was not a stock product, it had to be engineered and then fabricated," Johnston says. "At the time no one was working in the machine shop where the product had to be machined, so we called in a machinist and they came in to make the product. We had a hotshot courier pick it up on Sunday and deliver it and the customer was up and running by Monday."
Astec will even send replacement parts for equipment made by other manufacturers just to make sure every producer is taken care of.
"We want to show people, who are not currently customers, what we can do for them, how we appreciate our customers, and how we work with our customers. We want to start building those relationships," Johnston says. "If they learn how Astec treats customers, and how we value them, then the hope is that they become part of our family. That's just who we are. Going above and beyond for a customer when they need us is what has made our company what we are today. We feel like our sales team can make the first sale, but service and parts will make the second, third and fourth sale."
People First and Always
Astec knows that keeping customer relationships and being best in class starts with their people.
"The quality of our employees directly impacts the quality of our company," Johnston says. "We hire people with character and we value our employees above all else. We can train people on our product but what we most value in our employees is alignment with our core values, of honesty and integrity in all aspects of business, a continuous devotion to meeting the needs of our customers and respect for all individuals."
Astec knows as early as the interview process if someone does not align with those qualities and won't pursue even the most qualified candidates if they don't meet their values.
Once hired, each parts employee undergoes training in order to serve customers’ needs.
"We're constantly improving our training processes and one consistent element is that all new hires start out by working in the stocking facilities before they ever get on the phones," Johnston says. "They start by learning the last process first and work forward until they progress to taking customer calls. They start working in shipping, shipping the product and learning how the orders print out. Then they'll go to parts picking, where they get their hands on the product and learn about the parts they might not be familiar with."
Employees will then spend a few weeks learning the internal computer system and training on process and procedures. Next, they begin sitting on calls with Senior Parts Technicians to listen and learn how Astec wants customers to be treated on each call. Once they begin taking their own calls, they are still overseen by senior technicians until everyone feels ready to let the new hire take their own calls.
"All employees work in teams and are always overseen by an experienced technician so all problems are solved with the highest degree of expertise possible," Johnston says.
At the end of the day, Astec Parts strives to be exactly what their customers need. In the unfortunate event that a customer needs help quickly, Astec Parts provide certainty in those most uncertain of times.
"We want to be best in class. For this reason the parts department has grown significantly year over year to make sure we are meeting customer needs," Johnston concludes. "Our goal is to get better daily. We are by no means perfect and when we mess up, we make sure that we make it right. We go above and beyond to make sure we help all of our customers, standing behind them when they buy an Astec plant, and working to earn their business even if they don't have an Astec plant."