A train wreck of a day

Many of the Franklin in the Field posts contain snippets of advice and insights on how to increase your business. However, here’s one that falls into the category of “what NOT to do”. It was submitted by one of Franklin Electric’s Field Service Engineers. He will remain anonymous to “protect the innocent” as a 1960s TV show used to say.

I’ve had very few jobs better than being a Field Service Engineer for Franklin Electric. Our industry is full of capable professionals who are easy to work with and very good at what they do. And along the way, I get to address some interesting water systems challenges. However, a couple of years ago, I had a day that was just bizarre and downright embarrassing.

I had two site visits scheduled that morning with the same contractor. Franklin Electric’s territory manager, along with the distributor and myself met at the first prearranged site, a very nice rural home, and waited. However, the contractor was a no-show. Moreover, the contractor had apparently been a no-show at this site for quite some time, since his cable-tool rig was still in the front yard. The homeowner had been mowing the grass around it, with the grass next to the rig a foot high. I certainly wouldn’t have had the patience of this homeowner.

In any case, we finally got of hold of the contractor and were instructed to meet him back at his place of business, where he eventually showed up wearing a Tommy Chong t-shirt. He and his assistant, along with the three of us, then proceeded to the next residence that was reportedly having issues with a MonoDrive. We pulled up to the home, squeezing two pickups and a service truck into the driveway. The five men in our party stood on the front porch and rang the doorbell. A young mother answered the door holding a very new baby in her arms and a toddler daughter by her side. She seemed bewildered to see five men standing on her doorstep, and we soon learned why. The contractor had never notified anyone in the household that we were coming.

Surprisingly, she let us inside to take a look at the installation. The MonoDrive was periodically shutting down due to overheat. The simple issue was that for some reason, the contractor had stuffed fiberglass insulation around the drive, very effectively blocking all cooling flow. As a remedy, the contractor had previously replaced the drive, along with the pump, motor, and drop cable. Of course, analysis of these all indicated No Fault Found.

After removing the insulation from around the drive and saying good-bye to a very gracious homeowner, we followed our contractor back to his shop to review two motors which had reportedly come from other recent failures. He had to dig through a bone pile in his garage before he pulled out the two motors in question, one of which was 18 years old and the other a competitor’s brand.

It was just one of those days where all you can do is shake your head in disbelief. I recently learned that this contractor is no longer in the water systems business, and while it’s never a happy ending when someone in our industry goes out of business, in this case, I don’t think that’s a bad outcome. In the end, the reputation of our industry depends on what our customers–the end users–think of us. We all pay for even one bad experience, and we can spend years trying to make up for it.

I am confident that the next contractor these homeowners call for their water needs will be very capable and professional.

One thought on “A train wreck of a day

  1. My father, Allen Johnson, Master Pump Installer TDLR 4165I, TGWA (Texas Ground Water Association) Board Member, TGWA Contractor of the Year in 2000 and TGWA Honorary Lifetime Award in 2009 took pride in the fact the we have not had a Warranty Issue on a Franklin Electric Motor since 1979. Contractors like what was described above make up 95% of our business, I get to fix what they leave undone, misapply or improperly install. For the first two years my dad was in business on his own, he didn’t even have a add in the phone book, our motto was “Ask Your Neighbor About Us.” Over the years, that motto changed to “Pride In Workmanship.”

    The last thing I ever want to do is pull any pump when I go on a service call. I was taught to start at the power disconnect and work my way to the pump. So many times, it’s usually something so simple to fix. In 1987, me and my dad wore out the box on a Dempster MBF-150 1-1/2 HP pump over a period of 3 months before we actually sold it. Why? That is how many times I loaded and unloaded that pump on and off the truck. I was taught to DIAGNOSE the CAUSE of the Problem and then CORRECT the Problem so it DOES NOT CAUSE ANOTHER FAILURE.

    The National Average Pump Life for ANY PUMP/MOTOR according to NGWA is 7 years. My installations, 7, 12, 14, 15, 18, 21, 28, 33 years. In many cases, they simply died of OLD AGE and BEING COMPLETELY WORN OUT. Another thing my dad also said, “I like REPEAT BUSINESS, NOT REPEAT JOBS.”

    My dad is no longer with us, he passed away after a long illness in December of 2010. However, I remember all those things he taught me in pump service work and I have his notes and extensive library reference books, 1st and 2nd Editions of “Ground Water and Wells” plus every Franklin Aid and AIM Manual since he started business in 1974.

    The only WARRANTY ISSUE I have had with a Franklin Product was a Franklin Sub Drive 75 NEMA 3R that screamed like a banshee out of the box and the customer complained about it in 2007. Then West Texas Field Service Tech Andy Grubbs and West Texas Territory Manager Randy Pfeifer took care of business and provided a NEMA 4 to replace the screaming NEMA 3R. Now after attending the SPECIAL ONE DAY DRIVES Class at Franklin Tech in Wilburton OK in May 2012, I can most likely replace the defective cooling fan and filters and repair this unit and make it usable again for an INDOOR INSTALLATION but not OUTDOOR. My Preference is the NEMA 4, especially here in Dusty West Texas.

    Charlie Johnson
    Modern Well Service & Supply
    Plainview, TX 79072
    Texas Pump Installer TDLR 58554KPT
    TCEQ Grade D Water Operator WO0017297
    Franklin Key Dealer
    Franklin Certified Contractor

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