Mr. John Dykstra, Chief Service Officer at Ipsen, USA-The Interview
Furnace builder Ipsen of Rockford, Illinois recently created a brand new position, that of Chief Service Officer (CSO), an executive-level addition to the manufacturer’s U.S. Leadership Team. The man chosen for that position is Mr. John Dykstra, and we are pleased to be speaking with him today. John, before I ask you about your background, our readers and I would very much like to know, what is a Chief Service Officer (CSO) and why did Ipsen decide on adding this position?
Why was it created? One of the areas that Ipsen prides itself on and separates itself from others in the heat-treating industry is our capability to service our customers. The reason for the creation of this position is that Ipsen believed, and rightfully so, that parts and service is an area that delivers tremendous value and is of a high importance to our customers. It was determined that having strategic leadership to develop new offerings and capabilities to our customers was imperative.
What is the CSO Position? The CSO position is an executive-level position inside of Ipsen that is designed to strategically lead the teams inside of Ipsen Customer Service. As the CSO, I am looking at how we can expand our capabilities through strategic personnel additions and implementation of new technology solutions. These include remote support capabilities, a new online customer portal and enhanced data sharing from service visits. My goal is for Ipsen Customer Service to deliver world-class capabilities for precise and timely repairs, supported by an industry–leading parts organization, to ensure that we exceed our customers’ expectations during each and every interaction.
I have to say, I did read the press release that Ipsen issued when you were first hired and hung on to every word. You have had an interesting career, which I would like to know more about, in particular how you became part of the Ipsen team.
First and foremost, I am the type of guy that enjoys changing oil and doing repair work on my vehicles and other things around my house; it is just who I am. Over a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to wind up working in the warranty group at a defense contractor in Wisconsin. Ever since entering the aftermarket world as a service administrator, I have been fortunate enough to be entrusted with increasing levels of responsibility that gave me the ability to lead all facets of OEM aftermarket groups.
I was actually leading an aftermarket group in Washington State in the food sorting industry when I became aware of the opportunity at Ipsen. As I learned more about the position, the people inside of the organization, and the vision for the Ipsen Customer Service Team, I knew it was a challenge that I wanted to take on. This is truly a great company with many people that live and breathe vacuum furnaces, and I am excited to be here and to continue to add value to our already great offering.
Your interests, I have to say, very much caught my attention. As an avid outdoorsman and world traveller, you and I have an enormous amount in common. Do you see travel as being a large part of your new job as CSO?
Early on in my career, I became highly aware of how important it was to make customers the driving force behind anything a company does. In my mind, I call it a customer centric philosophy. In reality, it means I will be frequently visiting our customers, learning more about what they would like to see, and then developing a strategy that supports their long-term ambitions.
On a day-to-day basis what fills your time?
Presently, I have been spending a good amount of time talking with many of the team members inside of Ipsen to learn more about how Ipsen operates. Also, just before the holidays, I was able to fly out and meet with some of our customers and Ipsen personnel in the Northeast region, which was a truly informative experience. Now I am developing a strategy that will focus on evolving an already successful organization into an even better and more capable organization.
Now that you have had three months in the heat treatment industry, what is your first impression? Let me elaborate a bit – your background shows you have had a great deal of experience with aftermarket teams – Is this industry any different from others in which you have been involved?
In a short answer, no. My career has largely had me working with tactical or emergency vehicles or large commercial power generators. If those go down, they must be fixed immediately. Similarly, the requirements of Ipsen’s customers require us to get their furnaces fixed so they can continue to produce the products essential to their company.
My opinion is that one should look at aftermarket from the perspective of people, processes and products. An effective aftermarket team needs the best people, with streamlined processes, who quickly deliver superior products. Regardless of the industry you are in, if you get those three things correct, the organization should be set up for success in the long run.
With all the supply chain issues these days it must be an enormous challenge for Ipsen to keep parts in stock – how are you coping with this issue? Have prices and deliveries increased substantially?
We do maintain a robust inventory of parts to support our customers; however, depending on what is ordered, we have been witnessing extended lead times to get parts into stock. Subsequently, this has caused us to increase inventory on some hard to get parts to help ensure they are on the shelves when needed.
Additionally, we have a strong supply base, and we are able to buy in volume to help keep any price increases to a minimum. Of course, it would always be prudent for customers to ensure they are stocking common wear components at their facilities. We have had great success supporting customers in this aspect by developing and selling critical spare parts kits.
As if supply chain issues weren’t enough of a problem these days, labor shortages are also a real challenge. Since Ipsen maintains a substantial service department, I am assuming that this also requires your constant attention. My question is – are labor shortages something that keep you awake at night?
First and foremost, our service team is truly an amazing bunch of individuals who work diligently to ensure our customers’ needs are met. The level of tenure, expertise and commitment that our team members have at Ipsen is truly impressive.
It would be naive for me to say that a labor shortage does not worry me. However, we are being proactive about hiring and look forward to 2022 as a year our team continues to grow. If any technician reading this is considering a career change, I ask you to call me. 15 minutes is all I ask for. We are hiring!
With new technologies enabling remote diagnostics, like Ipsen’s PdMetrics platform, how will this effect field service engineers? I certainly can’t see a time when they will become obsolete; however, do you see them having to spend less time in the field because more information is available online?
Undoubtedly, we will need to maintain a robust Field Service Engineer (FSE) staff to complete repairs and maintain furnaces in the field. That being said, I feel as time goes on you will see a shift from reactive repairs to proactive maintenance. I can also envision a time where we do have a centralized team of service engineers watching for faults, monitoring run times, and generally being more informed and able to react to customer needs faster.
Are you personally going to be spending a lot of time visiting current customers? What I am asking is whether you see yourself in a role overseeing the service department, or will you be splitting your time between management and hands on visits?
I would say I will be in the field as much as time allows me to do so. As I have alluded to, I am a hands-on kind of guy and like to be in the field learning and understanding how we can service our customers even better than we do now. However, this is also a strategic leadership role, guiding an important part of Ipsen, which does require being in the office regularly. In short, yes, I will frequently be in the field.
And now, for the hardest question of all – what are your fearless predictions for the future when it comes to service? I am sure that, like every other aspect of manufacturing, changes are in store, changes ranging from fairly insignificant to substantial. You are the expert in this field – any thoughts on what we might see in ten years?
The one thing that is certain is furnaces wear over time and will need to be serviced. It was true 100 years ago and it will be true 100 years into the future. However, I think the evolution of how and when things are serviced will evolve. I feel the internet of things will bring in much stronger predictive analytics and repair cycles, leading to more proactive maintenance work and less reactive/emergency fixes. We will see an uptick in remote services and customer support capabilities and we will see a deeper push into technology as the primary go-to for service, support and training.
We are just seeing the beginnings of what I believe are exciting technologies with hands free wearable devices for remote support. There are really neat augmented and merged reality offerings on the market, and it seems more and more predictive and remote support capabilities hit the market daily. This is where I am seeing the market go now and I am excited about the possibilities these products bring. A simple view of the future can be found in this equation: first to know + first to act = excellence. Digital tools will enable earliest possible detection while our Ipsen Customer Service team will ensure quick action.
John I appreciate your thoughts and your time today. Thank you, Gord
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