A journey through the sophisticated world of after-sales service at CGT Caterpillar. A complex, organised machine based on prevention and shaped to meet the needs of individual owners. What is its goal? To resolve any problem, immediately and without anybody even realising
by Luca Sordelli, photo by Andrea Muscatello
We are in Vercelli, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It certainly doesn’t have a maritime feel to it, but more of an agricultural flavour: it is the rice-growing capital. But we are here to talk about large marine engines, and that is not coincidence, but rather a history that goes back as far as 1934.
The company, then called OLMIA, which produced machines to grow rice, decided to import and market Caterpillar machines in northern Italy, machines that were then revolutionising the world of work. In over eighty years of history, things have changed a lot and CGT is now one of the four largest Caterpillar dealers in the world.
Its energy division works in the following segments: Sports Yachting, Commercial Marine, Industrial Engines, Energy Generation and Oil&Gas. Here in Vercelli, which is the point of reference in terms of technical assistance and after-sales in Italy, we met Michele Galli, the Technical Director of the Energy Division, and Michele Pastorello, who is Head of Sales and Marketing for Parts and Service.
What exactly do you do here, from a technical point of view?
We basically work in four areas: first of all comes fitting out new engines. They come here and are customised according to the specifications asked for by the shipyard. Second is the workshop, which specialises in checking engines. When they reach their life expectancy, they are taken apart, inspected and taken back to a “zero hours” state, before being put back on the boat. Then there is the Technical Centre, which deals both with everything involving training technicians, and also with liaising with the mother company for the development of the product, to handle any technical problems that may emerge and to support our technicians in the field. Specialisation courses are also organised at the Technical Centre for boat captains on how the engines work and preliminary engine maintenance.
And from the marketing point of view?
Our first goal is to put together solutions according to what clients want. We have some specialist employees and Product Support Sales Representative, who have a direct relationship with owners or the yard that is following the vessel’s extraordinary maintenance work. We put together maintenance and repair budgets. In particular we can offer guarantee extension packages which are valid worldwide. That is a protection that is managed by CGT if the boat is in Italy, or by the Caterpillar world network, which can draw on 140 dealers. In the sports yachting sector, clients have very high expectations. Even though the yacht is only used for limited periods during the year, the engines must always be efficient and must never create problems.
What tools do you have to provide this tailor-made service?
From the technical point of view we carry out detailed analysis on engines to precisely understand the condition they are in. We check out everything that has happened, to see if there have been any anomalies, for example high temperatures or falls in pressure. We thus have a very detailed engine history at our disposal. Then we take samples of all the fluids: oil, coolants and diesel. The oil in particular means we can get to know exactly what the condition of the engine is, and we can – for example – see iron or copper parts, or other things that tell us of the state it is in, highlighting any wear of the components. We can work out if a component is likely to break, and we can thus take action without interrupting the engine’s normal functioning, and also prevent greater damage. Our aim is to have completely calm owners.
What are the figures and data of the CGT energy division?
We have been here since 2003, before that we were housed at the earth moving branch, which is two kilometres away. Eighty people work here, of whom forty are technicians, including fifteen of them in the marine sector, on the coast, where intervention work is needed. We have three instructors at the School Centre, four of whom are product specialists in the marine area, and there are three PSSR people. Then we have a structure of forty autorized workshops around Italy, (AMD- Authorized Marine Dealer) and there are two inspectors here who supervise them and provide technical and sales support.
How many engines pass through here?
Every year we have about 250 new engines. The engines, which come here for servicing are around forty a year. That is in part because when the time comes for servicing an additional option for our customer is the repowering, which allows you to have an engine of the same size, but more modern and efficient.
What kind of power outputs are we talking about?
We are talking about engines for boats that are 10 to 12 metres long, and up, so from twin 400 hp engines and above.
Who do you deal with?
During the guarantee period it is essentially shipyards. Then there are charter companies that manage fleets and also refitting yards. That latter sector has definitely grown over the past few years.
Talking about service and after sales service, you are definitely growing…
Yes, most definitely so. You just have to consider that the turnover of the Marine Product Support is 13 million euros out of a total of 41 million in the Energy Division. The development plan expects growth up to 18 million, with an increase in the number of technicians working exclusively on the marine area at CGT from 17 to 25. Three years ago the turnover was 7 to 8 million, and there were seven technicians. That is a development which has been dictated by the increasing power of the engines involved, and in part because of some very large revision work that we have carried out, and then because we are increasingly marketing preventive maintenance and high-level service. For example, we have launched the Concierge programme, a global assistance system by which owners no longer have to ask themselves which local dealer they have to call if they are in need. There are three toll-free numbers: one for Europe/Africa, one for the Americas and one for Asia. It is not call centres that answer, but Caterpillar technicians who identify the problem and then the closest dealer and tell them about the kind of problem.
The world of yachting has changed a lot over the past few years, but is that also what you see from your viewpoint?
Absolutely, until ten years ago, boats were smaller, owners were involved in a more direct way, and they often called us because the boat was doing a knot or even half a knot less than normal. What they are mainly calling for now is low noise levels, comfort and above all reliability.
(CGT Caterpillar, the invisible friends – Barchemagazine.com – Dicembre 2018)