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Meet The Service Manager

In countries outside of Europe, economy is growing fast and Dutch producers of machines acquire ever bigger and more complex assignments. Usually, this happens in areas where means are scarce and working conditions are far from ideal. This does not make the Site Managers’ and Field Service Management’s tasks any easier. TMC has organized a talk at the international pump manufacturer Weir Mineral’s in Venlo (The Netherlands). It turned out an interesting meet-and-greet of experts on international service management.

A cross section of internationally successful Dutch companies took part, varying from bakery installations to extreme high-tech, and from international roller coaster constructors to the leading producer of luggage handling systems.

Flex Pools

“How to deal with a minimum of local manpower?” This question by itself was enough to release a stream of case histories and strategic contemplations. It turned out that there were many similarities in the ways in which the participating companies manage the crew for a project on a far off location: by means of a flex pool of engineers, who are recruited in the organization and are willing to work in foreign countries every now and then. More than one company found it difficult to cater to the need, especially with regard to countries outside of Europe – which are just the places where the largest expansion is manifesting itself. Ruud Reinders explained that Weir Minerals employs foreign experts on a regular basis, especially from the Philippines. Often, these people are the only qualified engineers who wish to commit themselves to a remote outpost for a long period.

Rules and Regulations

Recurrent concerns are the different laws, rules and regulations one has to deal with when operating in foreign countries. Russia and Australia, but other countries like Venezuela and Turkey as well, turned out to cause problems. In Australia it is the powerful unions that restrain the use of specialist technicians in order to protect their own workers, whilst the Russian government mainly aims for the payment of social security premiums. A final, but expensive solution is, of course, to found one’s own business in the country concerned. Even then, special provisions are often applied to the employment of foreigners.

Safety First

Safety in developing countries is and remains an issue. In many places, such as India, hardly any safety culture exists and PMB's like safety gloves and helmets simply are not used. Many companies adhere to the statement that Ruud Reinders expressed: “Either you do it in safe way, or you don’t do it at all.” Frank Horsten of Vanderlande told about the way his company simply bought safety in countries like China: “The employees, very poor people indeed, were promised a bonus of a full month’s wages if only they kept themselves to the safety regulations. That really helped.”

To Be Continued

The enthusiast discussions that went on for hours, made it crystal clear that there was a great need for this Meet the Service Manager. By exchanging experiences, advices and strategies all participants felt like having spent an extraordinarily productive afternoon – even though some points had hardly been discussed. This made the organizer, Bart Hermsen of TMC, announce, on the spot, that it was to be continued in a next one.

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