Location: Maryland, USA
Service Area: Maryland, Washington DC, Northern Virginia, Delaware, and West Virginia
Industry: Sales and service of pumps, control panels and related products for commercial fire, industrial, and municipal markets
Services: Sales, maintenance, and repair service of fire pumps, domestic water boosters, sump and sewage systems, related controls, and pre-engineered wastewater and rainwater harvesting systems
Inside Sales & Support Staff: 35+
Field Staff: 12 startup and service technicians
About STH, Inc.
STH, a third-generation manufacturers’ representative, was originally established in 1932 and operated under the name of Lyle F. Howe Company. The company was purchased by John Shafer and Ken Troxell in 1973 and incorporated as STH Inc. (Shafer, Troxell, Howe). The new owners expanded product lines beyond the original Peerless fire pump representation to include a variety of plumbing pumps and controls.
Gareth Koogle, Shafer’s nephew, began working for the family business while in college, gaining experience in every position the company offered. Shafer introduced his nephew to Jeff Russell, and Koogle and Russell purchased STH in 2001. This marked the second successful ownership transition and led to the company becoming a prominent market leader.
Today, STH continues to grow from within by grooming experienced employees as leaders and future owners, carrying on the tradition of handing down hundreds of years of cumulative experience from one generation to the next.
STH is known for its application expertise, quality engineered products, and unparalleled field service. Twelve technicians, backed by more than 25 customer service, scheduling, and other administrative personnel in the Fredrick office, work with their customers to design, select, install, and test pump systems for any commercial or municipal application. In 2018, STH sought a cloud-based business system capable of substantially improving field and internal productivity. Evaluators chose NetSuite + NextService as the best product in the market for STH’s needs.
Thanks in large part to improved efficiencies resulting from the NextService implementation, STH has been able to increase their sales force and support the resulting customer growth without adding more technicians.
Since 2001, STH has grown rapidly to become a leading provider of pump equipment and services for commercial and municipal markets. STH now seeks to expand its market beyond the mid-Atlantic area it serves today.
Two obstacles stood in the way of achieving this goal: an industry-wide shortage of skilled personnel specializing in pumps and a medley of disjointed legacy systems.
In our industry, it’s extremely difficult to find qualified technicians. NextService enables the technicians we already have to be much more productive.”
~ JD Slough, CFO
Inefficient processes. STH’s industry faces a severe shortage of technicians specializing in application evaluation, selection, installation, and repair of commercial pumps and control panels. To prevent the shortage from smothering future growth, management looked for ways to make the entire company—especially field technicians and their support staff—more efficient.
Disjointed systems. STH had automated support for key processes, including scheduling, field service, billing, inventory, and reporting. However, the fragmentation of its legacy systems was a root cause of many problems throughout the company. These included:
- Time-wasting, error-prone data capture practices
- Unwieldy spreadsheet reporting
- Cumbersome access to information silos, causing errors, delays, and inadequate analytics
- Poor visibility into inventory, especially truck inventory
- Billing delays
- Unreliable offline access to crucial data in the field
- Little visibility into information needed for prioritizing service calls, training technicians, or compliance
- Poor linkage of customer, location, and asset information
- On-premises systems unusable remotely
Why STH Chose NextService
STH committed to moving away from legacy systems and transforming its operations with Oracle’s NetSuite, the world’s leading cloud platform. Through their relationship with NetSuite, STH executives learned of NextService field management software.
NextService integrates natively with NetSuite—a major advantage over competitive systems — thus making the integration of NextService an easy choice.
STH’s evaluation team cited these additional NextService advantages:
- NextService enables creation of customized forms that drastically reduce data entry for field technicians.
- Working in remote places with no WiFi connectivity, field technicians can still use the mobile app offline to complete service calls.
- Robust reporting enables STH to easily give stakeholders the information they request.
- If a disaster shut down the home office, staff would still be able to perform their scheduling, billing, and inventory tasks remotely via the cloud platform.
NextService has eliminated many headaches. Before, inventory and service applications were separate systems, so there was no hope of inventory being accurate. We had no visibility into what was on the trucks and what needed to be ordered. It took us several days to do a quarterly inventory. We now have highly accurate inventories, fast and flexible billing, and much better data for analytical and reporting needs.”
~ Avery Trent, IT and NetSuite Administrator
Business Impact of Implementing NextService
NextService for NetSuite provides a single, integrated cloud platform delivering full transparency into the profitability of field service operations. NextService not only makes techs more productive and speeds up cash flow, but also delivers valuable insights for management.
For example, STH can now analyze service ticket data to help determine technicians’ experience levels and training needs. A shortage of skilled workers makes it critical for STH to be able to track field experiences and provide adequate training to ensure the right technician is assigned to each job and the company is adequately prepared to handle all customer needs.
NextService enables technicians to focus on equipment performance rather than data entry. Before, PDF forms completed by techs required tracking down files between multiple systems.
With the NextService mobile app, STH has slashed the time technicians spend on job prep by 50%. For example, customized online forms have replaced PDF forms, substantially reducing the data entry required by field technicians on their service calls.
The mobile app enables technicians to easily complete job checklists, make notes, take pictures, and get customer sign-off that work has been completed. This means technicians can focus their time on maximizing equipment performance instead of completing paperwork.
The mobile app also makes it easy for technicians to search for information, such as equipment history. Previously, accessing information required frustrating searches across multiple software systems. There was no single source of truth.
When WiFi signals are lost in rural areas, sewers, small spaces, or building basements, techs can still use the NextService mobile app to capture data.
Other time-savers technicians appreciate are parking lot directions with any gate codes needed, contactless invoicing at job completion, and signature capture.
Our technicians are very excited about NextService. It lets them do what they do best: working on machines, not filling out forms. Now we’re actually giving time back to them, and that’s a big win with technicians.”
-JD Slough, CFO
NextService gives STH complete visibility into warehouse and truck inventories. Every morning, the warehouse manager can see what technicians used the day before and what needs to be ordered.
With STH’s legacy systems, managing truck inventory required tedious, error-prone extra steps, which delayed giving the customer an invoice at job completion. Now, when a job is done, parts and materials used are automatically included in the invoice.
The NextService Scheduler provides dispatchers with a cohesive view of all technician jobs and locations, while also enabling quick and easy focus on specific job data. Scheduler users can even emulate the same job and location data visible to a technician on their mobile device. NextService also helps STH prioritize jobs so that the right skills and equipment are scheduled for each job. This is crucial in emergency situations where life safety is threatened, such as a malfunctioning fire pump.
Prioritization also helps STH reassign technicians when cancellations occur so that they can work enough hours.
With full visibility into scheduling, technicians can see who will be working with them on an upcoming job, so they can coordinate plans in advance and possibly travel together to the job site.
Since implementing NextService, STH has seen huge time savings in its billing and reporting processes. Four key members of the administrative staff have freed up 20% of their working hours. With other staff members added in, the CFO estimates, internal time savings from NextService are the equivalent of one full-time accounting person.
Much of the savings comes from vastly improved reporting processes. Formerly, the staff had to compile information from several systems into spreadsheets to meet requests from investors, creditors, customers, or management. With NextService, STH can quickly produce the desired report in summary or detailed formats, as requested.
Before NextService, we spent Fridays on reporting only—nothing else. One spreadsheet after another. NextService has literally given us our Fridays back.”
With the time NextService saves us in billing, inventory, and reporting, we have actually turned accounting and IT into profit centers. Matt, Avery, and I are generating revenue from several small manufacturer representatives by working as their fractional accountant, CTO, and CFO.”
After replacing QuickBooks and other stand-alone applications with NextService, STH has made substantial improvements to its billing practices.
Several changes directly impact cash flow. For example, if service tickets and invoices are submitted separately, some property management companies delay payments until they can be matched. NextService makes it easy for the technician to provide both documents at job completion, speeding up payments significantly.
Many of the property management companies STH serves add even greater complexity to their invoicing requirements. They want one invoice combining service tickets for all job sites. NextService makes it easy to meet this requirement.
STH will soon implement another NextService feature: the ability to embed before-and-after photos with the service ticket. This enhances the technician’s credibility and convinces customers to authorize system upgrades or needed services.
We reduced payment collection time by 3-5 days. Often, we must pay for expensive equipment upfront, so cutting days outstanding by a week is huge, especially when interest ratesare not as low as they are now. That’s helped us a lot.”
By replacing multiple applications with NextService, STH gains the ability to quickly access information needed in a wide range of situations.
For example, NextService enables fast action on equipment recalls and technical alerts. Equipment at a property can last a decade or more, while a property’s ownership or management can change tomorrow. NextService can tie equipment to an address rather than a customer name, so it’s easy to determine where each asset is located, as well as its maintenance and performance history.
Another example: Salespeople can see if there is a maintenance agreement in place for each piece of equipment at the location they are calling on.
Thanks to NextService, we detected a serious equipment defect and immediately gave the manufacturer a full report of units we installed. All were under warranty, so 23 of our customers got their pumps replaced promptly.”
Key Business Outcomes for STH
To continue growing its business, STH faced many difficult challenges. Here are some of the results STH achieved by implementing NextService.
|Challenge||Outcome with NextService|
|Separate scheduling, service, billing, and inventory systems caused many inefficiencies, errors, and delays.||By implementing NextService with Oracle’s NetSuite, STH gained ease of navigation, efficient data management, data consistency, and robust reporting and analytics across multiple applications.|
|Shortage of qualified technicians put a ceiling on STH’s growth.||STH alleviates the shortage by: |
|Technicians were burdened with extensive data entry on service calls.||Technicians can quickly and easily complete STH’s new customized forms, so they are now more productive at the job site.|
|Poor visibility into warehouse and truck inventories prevented timely billing.||Stock drawn from warehouse or trucks now automatically flows into invoices produced by field technicians when they finish a job.|
|When scheduling technicians, legacy systems couldn’t account for skills or equipment needed for a job.||NextService prioritizes jobs based on repair urgency and schedules technicians with the right skills and equipment, workloads, and proximity to the job site.|
|Four staff people spent every Friday on spreadsheet reporting.||NextService makes it easy to produce all requested reports. The four staffers regained 20% of their work hours, which are now focused on making STH more profitable.|
|Customer-centric data delayed recalls, applying manufacturer updates and detecting design defects.||NextService can centralize data on the equipment asset at its installed location. This facilitates early detection of design issues and fast response to recalls and equipment updates.|
|QuickBooks lacked the flexibility STH needed for timely, accurate billing.||NextService eliminates manual steps and provides all the flexibility STH needs for billing. Result: Cash flow has improved by 3 to 5 days.|
|The on-premises legacy systems would be inaccessible if disaster closed STH’s office.||NextService and NetSuite are cloud-based, so staff members have complete access to their full capabilities from any location.|