It can be hard to tell which plant maintenance contractors are a good fit for your needs and are trustworthy to hire. Online reviews, websites and experience can be fabricated in a few quick keystrokes, so understanding who you are inviting into your facility can be tricky. Here are a few key actions you can take to make sure you know who you are hiring and that they know what they are doing:
Ask probing questions – Invite contractor representatives to your facility, and really probe them while they are there. Challenge any statements or claims the company makes. For example, question statements that reference the company’s strengths or competitive advantages. If they claim to have world-class equipment, ask what makes the equipment world class. Find out what they claim as a difference from other vendors? How do they normally structure their projects, timelines, customer service, etc.? Who would you be communicating with throughout the process?
Request testimonials, case studies and other information – You can glean a lot from these materials. For an established, experienced company it should be easy to provide good testimonials and case study examples. Use the materials to try to assess things like:
- Does the contractor demonstrate a consistent project management strategy?
- What is the contractor’s success rate? This is more than just completing the service but includes how often they met the quoted time frame.
- How often does the contractor achieve the manufacturer’s cleanliness criteria? Anyone involved in oil flushing understands missing a deadline means spending weeks on maintenance or a month on construction just to have an oil flush become the controlling factor.
Talk to past clients – Request a reference list or reach out to others who have used them before and go beyond “Would you use this contractor again?” Previous clients have a wealth of detailed information that you want to hear. What went right with the project? What did the contractor’s equipment look like? Did the equipment come in clean and in working order? How did the labor/technicians act during their service? Were they knowledgeable? What would you do differently?
Visit potential contractors and get to know them – With planned maintenance, you sometimes have up to a year’s advance notice to prepare. Use this time to visit your contractor or potential contractors and get to know them. What is their facility like? Their company culture, safety practices, etc.? How contractors execute safety, cleanliness and training at their facilities will be a direct reflection of how they will act at yours.
Use expert help – If you don’t have an internal expert in the specific services you are looking to hire a contractor for, find a third party expert or request references from your contractor. Put the third party expert in charge of the selection process, or at least heavily involve them in it. Having a neutral third party facilitate execution of the services will keep everyone honest. This should not bother potential contractors worth their salt. In fact, it should help them have someone who speaks the lingo in the room and helps set realistic expectations.
Do your due diligence when selecting contractors, but keep in mind that every turnaround has its unexpected challenges. A good contractor will be open and honest with you, working to solve problems and respond quickly. You and the contractor should have a good working relationship that you both value, which started during this research phase.
Source: Larry B. Jordan