BACK STORY: Compatibility Conundrum

Service agencies do their best to respond to equipment repair calls quickly, diagnose the problem, pull the correct part from the truck and make the repair to the customer’s satisfaction. But sometimes the process breaks down spectacularly. Just ask Christopher Moy, Manager for Interstate Food Equipment Service, Somerville, Mass., who fielded a call last summer from a downtown Boston hotel’s banquet kitchen. The facility’s 10-year-old combi oven was malfunctioning.

“After checking all electrical connections on the oven, we determined the failure was occurring in the main control board,” Moy says. “This particular oven was a high-performance model and not common in our local market. Because of this, we didn’t stock the part. Plus, the control board was expensive—more than $1,000.”

The hotel’s general manager approved purchase of the replacement board and the part was ordered by next-day air.

A day passed, then two days, and still no board. Moy called the supplier. “They told me the board would have to be manufactured, then programmed at the plant,” Moy says. “The order would take at least two weeks.”

“We all know how critical combi ovens are to hotel banquet kitchens,” Moy says. “Our customer was upset by the delay, especially after we had promised the part would be there the next day. The hotel chef told the hotel’s engineer that if our company couldn’t repair the unit, he should fi nd someone who could. They brought in a second service company, who confirmed our original diagnosis. We called all of our alternate suppliers, but the board was out of stock everywhere.”

Fast-forward two weeks plus a few days. The new board finally arrived. A tech was dispatched to do the installation. The replacement board looked identical to the original and fit perfectly. “However, upon startup, we received a critical error,” Moy says. “When we spoke to the factory’s engineers, we learned that the software on the new board was incompatible with the older oven!”

Finally, the replacement board arrived with the correct software, the repair was made and the oven was once again fully functional. “Although we were able to repair the combi oven and retain the customer, our relationship had been damaged,” Moy says. “What we thought would be a quick two-day fi x ended up being a three-week-long nightmare.”

In the aftermath of the lengthy repair for a key customer, Interstate has since added the circuit board to its warehouse inventory (along with a note about software compatibility). To prevent future such issues, Interstate also created a new staff position, Purchase Order Tracker, responsible for following up on every backorder and checking details.

“Every service company will be speedy about sending their techs,” Moy says. “But the bigger question operators should look at is, how fast can a service company get parts when the repair takes more than one call?”

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