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On the right track Featured

6:39am EDT November 29, 2005
As president of the Northern Ohio group of MH Equipment, Fred Metzger saw the value in looking for ways to build on the company’s mission of customer service.

The company is one of the fastest-growing material handling distributors in the country, and in the past three years, has become the third-largest dealer of Hyster brand forklift trucks and products.

The people at MH Equipment are well aware that their success comes not only from their ability to sell products, but more important, from their ability to service them after the sale. To facilitate that, Metzger embarked on a mission to find a program or technology that would create more efficiency, and thus better customer service, in his fleet of 275 service trucks serving customers in seven states.

“I think we entered this with the prospect of being more efficient,” Metzger says. “We are always discussing ways that we can become more efficient for our customers.”

Metzger and his team began researching the Internet and trade magazines looking for a way to create better efficiency but found their answer in Beachwood-based SageQuest, less than half an hour away from their Twinsburg complex.

SageQuest specializes in Global Positioning System-based vehicle tracking, routing and reporting.

“A little black box gets mounted on our vehicle, and then the black box — and thus the vehicle — is tracked via satellite,” Metzger says. “We have a computer-monitoring program that monitors the vehicle. We can tell at any point in time where one of our vehicles is, where they are, how fast they’re going.

“This is a pilot project that we rolled out in Cleveland and Columbus. But we know that we’ve gained efficiencies in our dispatch, both in our routing efficiencies and the number of vehicles a person can handle for routing.”

Since MH Equipment’s dispatchers can see in real-time where every vehicle in their fleet is located, they can route the nearest vehicle to a service call instead of calling around to track down a vehicle. Metzger says customer response times have decreased tremendously — not only are dispatchers able to find the closest vehicle to a service call, they can also find the shortest route to get drivers there and provide them with directions.

The system also documents arrival and departure times and which services were rendered. Better time estimates allow the company to increase the number of clients scheduled per day.

Metzger considers the investment in SageQuest’s technology an example of spending money to make money. It also has saved the company on fuel usage and mileage.

“I think it’s a significant investment, but we believe the investment is paying off and look forward to it continuing to pay off,” Metzger says. “You have a handle on your service vehicle at any time.”

The database also allows Metzger to keep track of scheduled and preventive maintenance on the vehicles, and the system prevents unauthorized use of company vehicles, speeding and excessive overtime.

MH Equipment has been so happy with the results that it is considering expanding the technology to the rest of its mobile work force.

HOW TO REACH: MH Equipment, (330) 425-2476 or www.mhequipment.com; SageQuest, (888) 837-7243, ext. 243 or www.sage-quest.com