Turning Trash Into Treasure

I have been in the industrial repair business now for quite a few years. I know now that anytime I visit a manufacturing plant there is always at least one unit or piece of equipment there in need of repair.  I also know that it is very common for a plant manager or maintenance supervisor to not even realize that a lot of equipment they always replace can be repaired.  Changing this thought process is my job, I educate manufacturers on the benefits of repair, what can be repaired and the overall repair process.

When I was learning the ropes many years ago, I visited many manufacturing customer’s plants and toured their facilities. Most of these customers had invited me to come or let me visit because they had equipment in need of repair that I was picking up to bring back to our repair facility.  But this story is about my first visit to a facility that did most of their own repair work and thought that they had nothing that was in need of my services.  I had spoken to this particular maintenance supervisor quite a few times and finally convinced him to let me come for a visit.  When I arrived he toured me around the facility, it was clear that he had a great handle on the plant as all was well organized and things seemed to run very smoothly.  As we toured I found nothing that was lying around or on shelf that was in need of repair.  He was proud to tell me that they handled most every repair in themselves.  I couldn’t believe that this large manufacturer really had nothing in need of repair. I was feeling a little down on myself as we sat in his office discussing all the benefits and cost savings in repair and how he had a good maintenance crew that could fix anything when I noticed a small circuit board about the size of a business card sitting on his desk.  I casually brought up the board and asked what it was for, he explained this was one of those boards that can’t be repaired and has to be replaced.  That’s when the sales person in me fired back up.  I realized that no matter how much I explained to him about the benefits of repair, he wasn’t making the connection that I was actually talking about the units and pieces of equipment that he and his maintenance crew consider unrepairable trash.  He has been told for years by OEM’s that certain units are simply not repairable, therefor that was ingrained in his thought process.  As I went on explaining how we could in fact repair that little circuit board and for much less than what the new one cost and that we could do it in a day’s turnaround time, I realized we needed to go take a look at what he was throwing away, not what he knew was repairable!

This maintenance supervisor was intrigued that we could repair this little board; he said it was an item they replaced many of every month. He took me to the back of the facility where they trashed their “unrepairable” units, and there literally in the garbage were 2 small servo motors, a pump and a valve.  All four of these units are items that we commonly repair, for manufacturing facilities all over.  I ended up bringing back all five items we found in his garbage and got them repaired for him which saved him over 70% of what he would have paid for new replacements.  He is still a loyal customer of mine after all these years!

The sales person inside of me was thrilled that day  we found all those units in the garbage, but more importantly I learned the most valuable lesson. It changed the way I communicate to my customers and potential customers.  We are here to help manufacturers save money and time and most every maintenance supervisor knows what they have that CAN be repaired whether they do it themselves or send it out.  But when I come out to visit and tour facilities, I’m there to educate them not only on the benefits of repair, but on what they DON’T know can be repaired, their “trash”.  I show them how to turn their trash into treasures!