After 25 years in the REME, Duncan Boulter decided it was time to try his hand at something different, and after discovering an advert for a Field Service Engineer for Briggs Equipment and doing a little research into the company background, decided to apply.
Duncan is now Field Service Engineer covering the South and West territories, and has taken some time to tell us about his experiences in transitioning from military to civilian life.
I was apprehensive at first, as although I had a substantial engineering background, I had little experience with forklift trucks.
I took a chance and submitted my CV in response to the advert. Within two days the company was in contact with me to set up an interview in my area. I attended the interview and the area manager was very open about what the job entailed, so I had a very clear understanding of what would be expected from me and in turn, what the company could do for me if my application was successful.
Happily Briggs offered me the job, and provided me with my induction plan; a two week long introduction to the company featuring all of the relevant training I needed. The company made this very easy as HR arranged for my accommodation and a vehicle for the duration of my induction.
In the forces you aren’t phased upon posting for a temporary assignment, as you understand the system and what is expected of you, as a civilian it was a very daunting prospect. Upon arrival everyone was very friendly and made every effort to make me feel welcome, I had an overview of the company and in the afternoon all Engineers sat a trade test. The test is nothing to worry about, it’s just to see what standard you are at and what you may need a refresher on so you can hit the ground running.
The remainder of the first week was spent learning about the theoretical side of maintaining a forklift truck, and the second week was based around the company inspection and servicing process, including three days of learning how to use your Toughbook. – A Toughbook is basically a JUD but works more efficiently, and does not need to be permanently connected to a network which makes updating it so much quicker.”
At the end of the induction the company issued me my uniform, a van and some specialist tools that I would need to do my job. I spent two weeks shadowing some other engineers in my area and then that was it, I was on my own!
I was given a list of customers and off I went. I was thankful for my time in the Army as it prepared me for dealing with customers. They all asked who I was as I was new to them, and it became apparent that Briggs has a very good reputation. Once they knew I was ex-forces, any barriers immediately disappeared as about 60% of my customers are either ex-military or have an affiliation of some kind to the green machine, so the link is still there!
Every Monday I am sent a spreadsheet detailing my jobs for the next eight weeks, and whether they are services or repairs. It was unusual in the Army to receive a week’s notice the majority of the time, so in comparison I had great visibility for the challenges ahead. It’s pretty flexible what you do and when you do it, you call your customers and arrange a date and time for you to arrive on site and conduct the repairs. You complete the task, fill out your job sheet and that’s you done. It is just six tabs to fill out so in comparison to going through 16 screens on JAMESLAND to receipt a part or close a job it is very simple. I can record any number of tasks and parts on this one job sheet. It’s a VM’s dream.
There are only three main things I need for my job; a diary, my Toughbook and my works mobile. Everything can be controlled through these three items. I have my own controller who will contact me if there’s a breakdown that needs an engineer, other than that I’m pretty much left to my own devices. I run a very basic Excel service/maintenance database that I record all my work onto. You don’t have to it’s just a personal preference thing that I can refer back to. It’s the same thing you would do as a decent full screw. It allows me to be proactive rather than reactive.
You get patched to an area and those customers are your responsibility. At the moment I look after 400+ bits of kit. That sounds daunting but with the Briggs support network it’s a piece of cake. If I need a spare part I can log on to TVH (spares provider – similar to AESP’s 711’s but a lot more user friendly!) on my Toughbook and either phone or email the parts department. I can get the part overnight (yes you read that correctly) and complete the job the next morning. We have an area waste disposal site where we can dispose of all our waste oils etc.
I get paid from the minute I leave my door to the minute I get home. The working hours are 07:30-16:30, with a 30 minute lunch break, Monday to Friday (no weekends, unless you volunteer to be an on-call Engineer). Every day is a school day and I can honestly say no two days are the same. Every area is different but there is almost always the chance of overtime if you want it.
The company also run a scheme called Be Rewarded. Basically if you can get new customers to sign up to the company you get a commission. If you’re anything like me you will have no problem driving into a random site, asking to speak to the manager or Yard Manager, sit down over a brew and tell them what we can do for them. It’s just like dropping into a unit at NAAFI break and having a chat.
The company will not ask you to repair anything you are uncomfortable on. There is always another engineer at the end of the phone or the Tech Department (equivalent of an IPT) at Cannock that can help you out. You can request training courses and the company will do their utmost to accommodate your needs.
Some of the courses I have attended since being with the company are as follows;
IPAF (man up equipment operator) license acquisition, Veracitor VX FLT course, JLG Scissor, Boom and Toucan (all man up equipment) Combilift side loader, Hyster 8-16T, chainsaw and brush cutter, ride on lawnmower, JCB 810 digger and 540 Telehandler, Hyster/Yale tracker (GPS maintenance course) McConnell Power Arm (agricultural hedge trimmer) and a five day coded welders course.
Although my area has seven other engineers, I spend 95% of my time on my own and the other 5% is working with the other engineers. It sounds lonely, especially as you are used to working as part of a team in the Army, but you get used to it very quickly and now I really enjoy it. My customers are all fantastic and always make me feel very welcome. Have I had to deal with difficult customers? Yes I have, but as long as you’re upfront and fully brief (as though you’re briefing an officer) on the situation then they are content. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a mushroom!
If you think Briggs Equipment is only about servicing and maintaining FLT’s think again. A typical day for me will be repairing a tractor, servicing a FLT, fixing a scissor lift and finishing off with repairing and test operating a chainsaw!
I can’t recommend the company enough. The transition from the military to civilian life is daunting, but it is achievable. Briggs Equipment has made the transition seamless and I hope you make the choice to attempt to come and join us.