Central State Thermo King (CSTK) is based out of Kansas City with seven other operations across the Midwest, including Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and up the Northeast in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Allen Lane is the Chief Operating Officer of CSTK and General Manager of the St. Louis operation. He joined CSTK in 1986 and has been using DIS since it was implemented at their dealership in 1988. At the time, his dealership used DIS to get away from manual general ledgers and to be able to share parts inventory.
More recently, they’ve been using Service Scheduling, a key service productivity tool offered as part of the DIS Service 360 suite, to streamline their service workflow. They’ve also been relying on it to run their total operations using dashboards and analytics. We spoke with Allen to find out how DIS has helped with their expansion, improved their service efficiency, and kept them organized throughout the years.
Allen: “Our operation has grown and diversified. Central State Thermo King is the founding company and Thermo King is the primary business that we do. Each of our branch locations has diversified over the years into other product lines, whether it’s selling horse trailers or off-highway machinery, skid steers, things like that. As we started to diversify our product lines and take on additional products, we needed a system that could do more, especially around service scheduling.”
What were some of the things that you were looking to solve with DIS Service Scheduling?
Allen: “When you have multiple different departments operating within a shop – especially as our St. Louis facility has grown to 57,000 square feet – it’s easy for people to lose efficiencies and lose time by just wandering. Someone might be wandering around looking for someone to assign them their next job or whatever task it might be. By being able to stage the job in advance, we’re able to improve our productivity by applying a technician to a job quickly so that they can become more efficient too.”
How does DIS help you do your job?
Allen: “For the cash flow side, I look at the total sales, and then I’ll drill down by department to see where they are against last year. I’m also looking at the accounts receivable to understand how our receivables are going, which is important because that’s also cash flow. Then I’m looking at the work in progress to understand what the back-order log is like because that’s also tied up cash.”
Allen’s Favorite Features:
- One central view of all existing and planned work orders
- Assign work orders to technicians using priority level tags
- View service schedules across multiple dealership locations
How has your service scheduling process changed with DIS?
Allen: “We were using the system primarily for inventory control and financial statements. We utilized time clock for applying a time to the work order but as far as managing or scheduling our work, it was a combination of clipboards, chalkboards, magnetic boards, and people’s memory banks.
The challenge there is we ended up having to do daily lot checks. When you have a 17-acre facility and almost 300 parking spots, that’s time-consuming. By using Service Scheduling, and the notes within the service scheduler, we were able to become more efficient with managing what’s on the yard waiting for repairs and what’s on the yard that’s finished repairs and waiting for pickup.
Even though we have our parking lot divided into 1) completed, ready for pick-up and 2) waiting for repairs, the equipment tends to blend and get mixed into the wrong spots, so you can’t rely on the parking lot completely.”
How has DIS helped you manage service across multiple locations?
Allen: “Each of our operations is different. For example, our Vice President oversees the New Jersey and Pennsylvania operations. He wants one look at the Service Scheduling system so they can actually balance their workload by shifting people between stores. As they’re doing their scheduling a week or two weeks out, they’re able to shift people or reassign people from one branch location to the other to balance out the manpower needs.”
What the future has in store for CSTK and DIS:
Allen: “The project that we’re most interested in getting completed right now is SMS messaging. And it’s not just text messaging, but also email messaging. Basically, being able to use the reason codes. We want to be able to use reason codes to reply to the customer to let them know when a work order’s been open, when the job is in the shop, waiting on parts, or when the job is completed.
Communicating with your customers and your internal employees is important. Having the system do that automatically is valuable. I’m hoping that we can improve our SMS messaging and email messaging to customers and bring on service logistics as the year goes on.”