Earthmoving Machinery, Merlo, Telehandlers

From the inside out: Merlo Australia

EEM catches up with the team at Merlo Group Australia to find out how the business has committed to the growth of its after-sales support offering, built on a foundation of strong communication.

Merlo Group Australia is in the midst of a substantial overhaul of its operations – from strengthening brand recognition in the Australian construction sector to bolstering its network of trusted dealers.

According to General Manager Michael Lombardo, the next key piece of this puzzle is to take the business’ after-sales support to the next level.

“Our vision for Merlo Group Australia is pretty simple,” he says. “We believe the after-sales support side of the business is what sells the next machine.

“When I started here three years ago, we spent the first two of those years focusing on the commercial side of the business. Now that we have that up and running the way we want it, our next challenge is to make sure we are on top of our game from an after-sales perspective. That’s our focus for the next 18 months.”

Michael says the first step in this process was to engage with the business’ dealer network, and take their feedback into account.

“Part of the feedback was that our level of interaction with them was limited, and could be quite slow,” Michael says. “And that when we did get the opportunity to liaise with them, it was often very rushed.

“The other feedback that we were getting was that we didn’t carry a big enough stock of parts. This prompted us to relocate and upgrade our parts warehouse, and to bring it in line with modern day parts warehouses. Now, we have a facility that runs well, is managed effectively – and with a very accurate stocktake procedure.

“All of these factors add value to what we can offer our broader dealer network. Taking their feedback on board has helped us put operational processes in place to help us respond more quickly to dealers’ needs, and to accurately measure where we are as a business from month to month.”

Michael says that to do this, the business has been scaling up how it collects and reports data across various departments.

“We need to be analysing parts sales every month to ensure we’re carrying the right stock,” he says. “We haven’t had the ability to do that in the past, but we’re now starting to develop that reporting structure.

“We’re also measuring the types of warranty claims that are coming in and how often, which will help us provide feedback to the factory as to what parts might be more prone to failure in the Australian construction market – whether that’s due to harsher temperatures or working environments.

“In the past, spare parts stock coming to Australia was largely based on what was being carried by Merlo’s European dealerships, which often didn’t line up.”

Merlo Group Australia's John Pham working on a Merlo telehandler
John Pham hard at work.

The right people

Of course, this kind of company-wide procedural overhaul would not be possible without the passionate and committed people to make it happen.

One person helping lay the groundwork for the next stage of Merlo Group Australia’s evolution is John Pham, Aftermarket Technical Support, who joined the business seven years ago.

Starting off as Spare Parts Coordinator and working his way up, John has been hands-on with Merlo machinery for many years.

Drawing on that experience, one part of John’s role is to oversee a team of technicians that checks and prepares Merlo machinery coming in from the factory in Italy before it heads out to dealers.

“Whenever anything comes from the other side of the globe, it’s not uncommon to find the odd little niggly problems such as small oil leaks,” John says. “We take care of all of that here, so the machines get to the dealer in tip top shape.”

John also helps support Merlo Group Australia’s dealers with warranty claims, and with planning ahead to ensure parts availability. Michael says John has also played a key role in streamlining communication between all parties.

“One focus for John at the moment is to help improve our ability to respond to our dealers in a timelier manner, and to build stronger relationships at every level – from technicians to service managers to the dealer principals,” Michael says.

“Previously, I think we just went about our business very quietly, and mostly limited ourselves to dealing with service departments. Most of our dealers are multi franchise, and we were finding that the dealer principals didn’t really understand the level of interaction that we had with their service people. John has been a big part of changing that.”

Norm Atkinson, who has recently joined Merlo Group Australia as Dealer Support Manager NSW/QLD, says John’s depth of knowledge is a big asset, and has helped to streamline the business’ approach to problem solving.

“He has a great wealth of experience in the industry,” Norm says. “So, we’re finding that questions don’t need to go back to the factory in Italy nearly as often. If there’s a problem, John usually knows the answer.”

In instances where he doesn’t, John is also able to lean on his experience to help get a customer going in an emergency.

“I’ll usually have some things they can try in a breakdown situation,” John says. “Being out of action for a day is a long time in this industry. And because of the overnight gap with Italy, we want to try to get the customer going again if we need to wait for some more detailed information from the factory.

“You may not always have an answer straight away, but I’ve found that if you make the effort, make the phone call, the dealers are happy that you’ve reached out.”

John instructs Merlo Group Australia apprentice Cooper Wilson.

Growing expertise

Norm adds that Merlo Group Australia has also been training two apprentices – something he says is quite unique on the manufacturer’s side.

“An OEM typically won’t take on apprentices – that’s something you usually see on the dealer side,” he says. “So, it shows that we’re trying to train up our people properly.”

The business has even put some existing employees through apprenticeships to help reduce barriers to communication throughout the business. Michael says this willingness to invest in people also demonstrates Merlo Group Australia’s commitment to strengthening its after-sales offering.

“We’re in a fortunate position in that many of us are trade qualified,” he says. “We all have a good mechanical understanding, and have all been in service management roles in the past. That gives us the ability to communicate better at every level – from a tradesman level, through to service managers and dealer principals.

“And I think that also reflects a level of respect that runs through the whole business at Merlo Group Australia.”

 

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