Tales from the Trenches: Fred’s Appliance

Alex HServiceLeave a Comment

Tales from the Trenches: Fred’s Appliance

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Virtual working is only for professions with digital deliverables, right? Designers, coders and writers may be the first people who come to mind, but if you imagine companies that deal in the physical can’t benefit from going virtual, you haven’t talked to Fred’s Appliance.

Virtual working is only for professions with digital deliverables, right? Designers, coders, writers and customer service reps that spend all day on the phone may be the first types of people you think of when you ponder virtual working, but if you think nuts and bolts companies that deal in the physical as well as the digital can’t benefit from new ways of working then you haven’t talked to Fred’s Appliance.

Forget preconceptions of triple copy service tickets and greasy parts rolling around the back of disorganized vans, the Madison, Ohio-based appliance repair company is setting an example in a relatively old-fashioned industry, modeling how more sectors than you might imagine can take advantage of fast connections, cloud computing and a little ingenuity to streamline their businesses.

Talent

Back in 2008, Fred’s Appliance was in trouble. “By January of 2009, we experienced our first layoffs ever,” Adam Butcher, the owner of Fred’s explained in an interview. “The first quarter of that year, we really got ourselves in gear to get paperless.”

The company made some big changes. Rather than have technicians report into the office once a day to pick up their assignments, Fred’s instituted a totally virtual system that has techs skipping the office and heading straight out to customers. “It saves a ton of time, offers better customer service and, of course, it’s a huge cost savings to the company not having the technicians report to a base location each day,” says Butcher, who also notes that the switch saves in fuel costs and wear and tear on vehicles.

Not only did the technicians work more efficiently but so did the small remaining back office staff. “I don’t necessarily want to promote technology to axe jobs, but it kind of worked that way for us. We’re running just about the same amount of service calls that we were prior to 2008 and we have about three less office people,” says Butcher. “We have ten technicians and not including me there are three office people. You’ll find across our industry, it’s usually about a one-to-two ratio. I think we could add two more techs without adding more office staff.”

Tools

So how does Butcher’s team pull this off? A handful of tech tools are key. “We use Google Apps for email, chat and calendar. We also use Vocalocity, which is our phone system. It’s cloud-hosted, which allows us to take our handsets anywhere. OfficeDrop was one of our last legs in becoming truly paperless. Anybody that we’re doing business with, we’re paperless with them if possible, but not all companies are at that level yet, so they are mailing us items that are important. Instead of sticking them in a file cabinet, we scan them and upload them right to OfficeDrop’s cloud,” Butcher says.

Techs in the field all carry stripped down netbooks with touch screen capabilities. Industry specific proprietary software sends their assignments straight to these laptops. “It’s a little piece of software. It’s got a custom drawn map and a job roster list, and we literally drag and drop the service calls. Once the day of the route comes, the technician turns on his laptop and he’s running a little utility that automatically pulls those service calls right in,” Butcher explains. “Through that utility they can capture all the information they need – what they did, model, serial number and they also can bring up a ticket image on the screen. The customer can sign right on the screen. It’s very nifty.”

Dropbox is the final piece of the puzzle. “The technician in the field can document certain things using pictures — a portrait of the unit to show its condition and maybe any pre-existing damage in the house. It also helps with field support. Say you have a newer guy out on the road and he’s looking at a unit he’s not familiar with. He’s able to snap a picture of that and then any supervisor can look at that picture and assist him,” Butcher says.

Tips

The tech know-how needed to patch this system of tools together isn’t vast, but it’s more than many family-owned service companies have on hand, according to Butcher, who is passionate about getting more firms in his industry to work virtually. “When it comes to the technology, for the actual employees themselves, it’s really not that difficult,” Butcher says. “But when it comes to getting a business to this level, you need to have one person that’s tech savvy enough to get the company moving in that direction.”

“I attend a trade show called United Servicers Association each year and put on a class. I push servicers all across the country to get themselves geared up to work in this fashion. There’s a lot of mom and pop. It’s passed down from grandpa and they’re stuck in a lot of the old ways, but they’re realizing that they need to go this direction,” Butcher says, adding, “it’s been a gradual process, but I’d say over the past two to three years, it’s really starting to gain momentum.”

So what tips does Butcher have for small businesses in more traditional industries who are looking to go paperless and virtual like Fred’s? In short, minimize hardware. “Initially we made a very large investment in server space. We actually purchased a rack and servers – very costly. Now we lease cloud space, so we work 100 percent off the cloud-based server and that is one of the best moves that we have ever made,” Butcher says. “Granted the drawback is if you’re having internet interruptions then you’re going to be down, but I feel we have less exposure because all we have to do is drive home and we can work from home.”

And Butcher’s aversion to investing in expensive hardware extends to appliance parts as well. “We have what you could basically call a virtual warehouse. We used to have a ton of parts and it was overtaking our building. That’s another thing we got rid of. We do not have any inventory at our base location at all. The technicians have a small inventory on their trucks for fast-moving parts and then as technicians need parts, they place a parts request with us through the software. We key the order and we ship it directly to the customer’s home.” Usually the part arrives the following day and the repair is completed in two days. The system is quick and also saves in floor space, costly inventory and time spent organizing stock.

“We’re not experts at inventory. We’re experts at service, so why not outsource that expertise to a parts distributor? That’s what they sleep and breathe,” concludes Butcher.

LG Electronics Recalls Electric Ranges Due to Burn and Fire Hazards

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NEWS from CPSC

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Office of Communications Washington, D.C.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 8, 2012
Release #13-031
Firm’s Recall Hotline: (855) 400-4638
CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908

LG Electronics Recalls Electric Ranges Due to Burn and Fire Hazards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Name of Product: LG Electric Ranges

Units: About 161,000

Manufacturer: LG Electronics Inc., of South Korea

Hazard: Burners on the electric ranges can fail to turn off after being switched off and the temperature setting can increase unexpectedly during use, posing burn and fire hazards to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: LG has received 80 reports of incidents involving burners failing to turn off or the temperature setting increasing unexpectedly during use. No fires or injuries have been reported.

Description: The recalled ranges involve models LRE30451, LRE30453, LRE30755, LRE30757, and LRE30955ST. They were sold in black, white and stainless steel and with a smooth black ceramic glass top cooking surface. The recalled ranges have serial numbers starting with 512, 601, 602, 603, 604, 605, 606, 607, 608, 609, 610, 611, 612, 701, 702, 703, 704, 705, 706, 707, 708, 709, 710, 711, 712, 801, 802, 803, 804, 805, 806, 807, 808, 809, 810, 901, 902, 903, 904, 905, and 906. The model and serial numbers can be found on a label that can be seen by opening the storage drawer at the base of the unit. The electric ranges are about 47 1/2 inches tall to the top of the backguard, 29 inches wide and 28 inches deep.

Sold at: Best Buy, Home Depot, Sears, and regional appliance retailers nationwide from January 2006 to June 2010 for between $800 and $1999.

Manufactured in: South Korea and Mexico

Remedy: Consumers should immediately contact LG to schedule a free in-home repair. Consumers whose burner heat setting cannot be regulated by using the controls or who experience problems with a cooktop burner remaining on, should immediately stop using the recalled electric range until it is repaired.

Consumer Contact: LG; toll-free at (855) 400-4638, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, or www.LG.com/us and click on Public Notices in the Customer Services section for more information.

Picture of recalled LRE30451 electric range

Diagram of recalled electric range, showing location of model and serial numbers

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is still interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are either directly related to this product recall or involve a different hazard with the same product. Please tell us about your experience with the product on SaferProducts.gov

CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the thousands of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $900 billion annually. CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.

Under federal law, it is illegal to attempt to sell or resell this or any other recalled product.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go online to: SaferProducts.gov, call CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054 for the hearing and speech impaired. Consumers can obtain this news release and product safety information at www.cpsc.gov. To join a free e-mail subscription list, please go to www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx.

Frigidaire Gas Ranges Recalled Due to Fire Hazard, Sold Exclusively at Lowe’s Stores

Alex HProduct RecallsLeave a Comment

Recall Alert

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Office of Communications Washington, D.C.

June 20, 2012
Alert #12-737

Frigidaire Gas Range Recalled Due to Fire Hazard, Sold Exclusively at Lowe’s Stores

The following product safety recall was voluntarily conducted by the firm in cooperation with the CPSC. Consumers should stop using the product immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Name of Product: Frigidaire Self-Clean Gas Range

Units: About 185

Manufacturer: Frigidaire, of Charlotte, N.C.

Hazard: There can be a delayed ignition on the bake/broil features of the oven, posing a fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: One incident was reported. No injuries or damage have been reported.

Description: This recall for inspection and/or repair involves Frigidaire Gas Ranges Model # LGGF3043KFM with serial numbers within the following range: VF20457216 to VF20457555. The model and serial numbers are located near the base of the range just below the bottom right portion of the oven door. This gas range has five burners, stainless steel exterior and Frigidaire nameplate centered on the lower part of the oven door.

Sold Exclusively at: Lowe’s stores from February 2012 through March 2012 for between $800 and $1,000.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: Consumers with the recalled model and serial numbers should stop using the bake and broil functions immediately and contact Frigidaire. Frigidaire will provide information about an inspection and arrange for a free in-home service and repair if necessary.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Frigidaire toll free at (888) 360-8556 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at www.selfcleangasrangerecall.com

Picture of recalled Gas Range

Picture of recalled Gas Range showing location of model and serial number
Model and Serial Number

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is still interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are either directly related to this product recall or involve a different hazard with the same product. Please tell us about your experience with the product on SaferProducts.gov

CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the thousands of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $900 billion annually. CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.

Under federal law, it is illegal to attempt to sell or resell this or any other recalled product.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go online to: SaferProducts.gov, call CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054 for the hearing and speech impaired. Consumers can obtain this news release and product safety information at www.cpsc.gov. To join a free e-mail subscription list, please go to www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx.

GE Recalls Dishwashers Due to Fire Hazard

Alex HProduct RecallsLeave a Comment

NEWS from CPSC

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Office of Communications Washington, D.C.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 9, 2012
Release #12-244
Firm’s Recall Hotline: (866) 918-8760
CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908
Firm’s Media Contact: (888) 240-2749

GE Recalls Dishwashers Due to Fire Hazard

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Name of product: GE, GE Adora™, GE Eterna™, GE Profile™ and Hotpoint®, Dishwashers

Units: About 1.3 million in the United States

Manufacturer: GE Appliances, of Louisville, Ky.

Hazard: An electrical failure in the dishwasher’s heating element can pose a fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: GE has received 15 reports of dishwasher heating element failures, including seven reports of fires, three of which caused extensive property damage. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves GE, GE Adora, GE Eterna, GE Profile and Hotpoint brand dishwashers. They were sold in black, white, bisque, stainless steel and CleanSteel™ exterior colors and finishes. The model and serial numbers can be found on a metallic plate located on the left tub wall visible when the door is opened. Model and serial numbers will start with one of the following sequences:

Brand Model Number Begins With: Serial Number Begins With:
GE
GE Adora
GE Eterna
GE Profile
GLC4, GLD4, GLD5, GLD6, GSD61,
GSD62,GSD63, GSD66, GSD67,
GSD69, GLDL,PDW7, PDWF7,
EDW4, EDW5, EDW6,GHD4,
GHD5, GHD6, GHDA4, GHDA6
FL, GL, HL, LL, ML, VL, ZL,
AM, DM, FM, GM, HM, LM,
MM, RM, SM, TM, VM, ZM,
AR, DR, FR, GR
Hotpoint HLD4

Sold at: Appliance dealers, authorized builder distributors and other stores nationwide from March 2006 through August 2009 for between $350 and $850.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dishwashers, disconnect the electric supply by shutting off the fuse or circuit breaker controlling it and inform all users of the dishwasher about the risk of fire. For all dishwashers, contact GE for a free in-home repair or to receive a GE rebate of $75 towards the purchase of a new GE front-control plastic tub dishwasher, or a rebate of $100 towards the purchase of a new GE front-control stainless tub dishwasher or GE Profile top control dishwasher. Consumers should not return the recalled dishwashers to the retailer where they purchased as retailers are not prepared to take the units back.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact GE toll-free at (866) 918-8760 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at www.geappliances.com/recall

Recalled dishwasher - Picture showing location of model and serial numbers
Location of model and serial numbers

Picture of Recalled GE Dishwasher
GE Dishwasher

Picture of Recalled GE Profile Dishwasher
GE Profile Dishwasher

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is still interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are either directly related to this product recall or involve a different hazard with the same product. Please tell us about your experience with the product on SaferProducts.gov

CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the thousands of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $900 billion annually. CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.

Under federal law, it is illegal to attempt to sell or resell this or any other recalled product.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go online to: SaferProducts.gov, call CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054 for the hearing and speech impaired. Consumers can obtain this news release and product safety information at www.cpsc.gov. To join a free e-mail subscription list, please go to www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx.