Waste Management Forges Harmonious Partnerships

Nov. 6, 2012

Reprinted with the permission of Equipment Manager magazine, the magazine of AEMP.

Waste Management, Fleet Masters Award winner for the private sector, is a big player on a big team.

The company operates one of the largest fleets in North America and has dealer relationships that reach far beyond “professional” and deep into the realm of true “partnership.”

Reprinted with the permission of Equipment Manager magazine, the magazine of AEMP.

Waste Management, Fleet Masters Award winner for the private sector, is a big player on a big team.

The company operates one of the largest fleets in North America and has dealer relationships that reach far beyond “professional” and deep into the realm of true “partnership.”

The scope of Waste Management’s business, of course, is a factor that encourages harmony, but those who want a share of that business must meet strict, written standards established by the company.

John Meese, senior director of heavy equipment, best expresses the importance of the end-user/dealer bond.

“I am always frustrated when one of my managers tells me he doesn’t have a good working relationship with an OEM dealer,” Meese says. “The first things I ask are when was the last time he went in and checked parts or when was the last time he called a service dispatcher or supervisor and said, ‘Hey, I’m nearby and I have the donuts if you have the coffee.’ That face-to-face meeting can go a long way in resolving problems. Just sit down in a room, say what needs to be said, and then fix the problem. It’s really very simple.”

Nurturing that relationship is equally important. In areas where Waste Management has a big presence (a number of transfer stations, a couple of recycling stations and landfills), local employees must schedule—at minimum—a quarterly meeting. “Once you get the ball rolling,” Meese says, “it’s just a matter of getting along with people.”

Among the benefits derived from good relationships is response time, for one, and, also, obtaining dealer technical assistance and information.

“If one of our technicians is unsure about something, he can contact the dealer’s go-to guy,” Meese says. “If a dealer technician has to come out, he knows what parts we use in that particular application and can bring them with him. You don’t want some guy driving 60 miles out to the facility and say, ‘Yep, that’s what’s wrong with it. I’ll be out tomorrow with the parts.’”

The relationships sculpted by Waste Management have been key factors in creating master agreements with OEM manufacturers, including Caterpillar, Volvo and John Deere. These agreements provide “a certain level of discounting on a market basket of parts,” says Meese.

“With equipment, we typically negotiate a base price on machines equipped with a certain set of specifications. The agreements have escalators built in on an annual basis,” he says. “We don’t have labor agreements with manufacturers because that service is handled by the local dealer.”

Waste Management also has longer-term, more-inclusive warranties that differ from others. For instance, Waste Management labor is used for nonintrusive repairs that typically would be covered under warranty.

“We file a warranty claim that reimburses us for the cost of the parts and the labor at a pre-agreed upon rate,” Meese says. Such warranties are possible, he says, “because our volume differentiates us from the typical small fleet owner who has one or two dozen pieces of equipment.”

Rebuild programs

Another differentiating factor is the rebuild program the company has with Caterpillar and Volvo. Among Caterpillar’s various levels of rebuild programs is one called Caterpillar Certified Powertrain Plus Rebuilds. “When the rebuild is completed, the machine is given a near-new machine extended warranty,” Meese says.

The “plus” provides a separate package of equipment repairs that the customer wants done beyond those outlined in the Cat program.

“The OEM program does not entail hoses, harnesses or hydraulic work,” Meese says, “but, in our case, we are very specific about the ‘plus’ portion that we want included in every rebuild done for us and we include those items.”

He gave this example. Caterpillar Certified Rebuild program would rebuild the engine, driveline, differentials, transmission drop box and the electrical harness that is part of the powertrain. “We take the leniency out of the program,” Meese says. “We spell out how certain components are rebuilt. For instance, we go into detail on friction disk thickness on transmissions. We don’t want to have that kind of interpretation left up to the dealer.”

Such precise requirements also serve another purpose. If competing dealers submit bids for Waste Management rebuilds, the company wants to make certain that each dealer bids to the exact Waste Management interpretation of the Cat Rebuild Program.

To submit a bid, dealers must send a technician out to perform an in-depth inspection of the machine. “We supply all the maintenance history so they can see what’s been done up to that point,” Meese says. “Then, the dealer presents his interpretation of that inspection with a set of recommendations and a quotation based on what it will take to bring that machine from its current state to Waste Management’s finished product state.”

So far, nearly 350 rebuilds have been done with Caterpillar and “a much smaller amount with Volvo,” he says.

Waste Management also consulted with its dealers when it decided to revamp its oil analysis procedure. At one time, Meese says, the company had an oil sampling program, “but [despite] following a protocol base, it was a little broken.” Samples weren’t being labeled properly; others, after being pulled, were left on shelves too long and sometimes the type of oil wasn’t labeled properly.

Meese turned to Caterpillar and its Cat SOS (Scheduled Oil Sampling) program.

“Caterpillar is our primary, most expensive workplace tool and that tool must have the highest availability there is,” Meese says. “Who knows better what type of oil wear particles should be in a sample given our grade of oil and our grade of servicing than the manufacturer?”

A true test of relationships is the teamwork necessary to resolve serious problems. That situation occurred in 2008 when a rash of fires broke out throughout one of the company’s regions. After “a little investigation,” says Meese, they learned the region didn’t have an aggressive cleaning program and it also had a fire-suppression system prone to electrical shortages.

The electrical shorts, Meese says, happened to be underneath the fuel filter, which had a plastic bowl on the bottom. If a machine was operating and caught fire, the plastic bowl would melt. “That meant raw diesel was being pumped onto a fire,” Meese says.

To stop the problem, Waste Management worked with the fire-suppression system manufacturer and came up with a solid steel frame that encased the fuel filter. At the same time, Meese says, it worked on a thermo wrap material to encase the manifold turbocharger and exhaust.

As a result, fires declines from 16 major incidents in that region in 2008 to “not even 16 thermal events company-wide in 2011,” Meese says.

Another fundamental part of its dealer relationship is outsourcing. Major component repair, such as engines and transmissions, as well as standard PMs, are outsourced.

“With the number of locations that we have and the shortage of technicians, plus the complexity of the technology being built into equipment today, there is always going to be the need for us to turn to OEM-trained, certified, dealer technicians to support us,” Meese says.

John Meese says technology holds great promise for maintenance programs going forward.

“My vision is that, through telematics and properly trained people, we can create Waste Management PM Central, a system that would permit a single, well-qualified individual to monitor all fault codes, oil sample results and the health indicators of hundreds of machines in the company’s 700 remote locations.”

PM Central would be able to go into the company business system, create a work order and send it to a specific site, alerting a technician to respond to a signal coming from the system.

No exact date has been set for implementing the system, but there is a time frame, Meese says.

“I’d like to see all that happen before I retire.”