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Richards Bates - Service Operations Manager

What is your name and job role; describe your everyday activities, what do you typically do in a day and how long have you been in the industry for?

My name is Richard Bates. I’m the Service Operations Manager and I’ve been in the industry for the majority of my working life, so I guess that’s about 28 years. I started off at Hägglunds, which we was bought by Rexroth back in 2010, before joining Rexroth, where I’ve been for 23 years.

A typical day for me can be quite unpredictable. That’s the nature of service, and that’s the exciting part; we never know what the customer is going to need from us. Primarily, my role involves leading the hydraulics service teams across two sites and working with them on a day-to-day basis. Alongside this I work on a variety of activities relating to our strategy. So, whilst trying to limit the number of formal meetings that we have, there’s lots of daily activities around communication and catch-ups, and these are really important for us. It is essential that we are aligned with each other because we operate across various sites and locations. We want to make sure we’re always progressing, developing positively and ensuring that we strive to improve our customer satisfaction in everything we do.

What is a project you are most proud of having worked on recently?

We’ve got so many great projects and initiatives that I’m proud to be involved with. However, if I had to choose one then it would have to be the business automation topics we’re currently working on. These align with our operational excellence objective, and I choose them for a variety of reasons, the main one being the satisfaction we take from the teamwork involved. What’s most satisfying is that, when we apply business automation tools, there’s a need for collaboration within the team to reach the best outcome. I always find that this very satisfying because there’s always something that surprises me positively when working as a team.

What were some key challenges that you faced recently, and how did you overcome them?

Challenges are the fun part of any project. For anything new, it’s the best way for us to learn. A good example of this was during the development of a business automation bot that we worked on in service. We had to come up with a solution to digitalise paperwork and integrate it into our process on the shop floor. It was challenging and we could have given up, but we didn’t; we persevered and we found a really good solution to overcome this task, rather than changing the plan. That was quite satisfying.

What do you think could have been done better and what are some lessons you learned during this process?

II’m very happy with the result, but there are certainly some functions we could have included at the time. I think by spending more time up-front we could think further ahead about what we may need as a whole rather than focussing on just the task ahead and try to include that. In this example, it relates to the processing steps and checks that we now want the bot to handle but were initially overlooked. So, yes, I think the lesson learned is to think longer about the content in advance and make sure that we don’t miss anything.

What were some of your personal highlights of the project?

For me, the teamwork that led to the outcome. It’s just great to see the passion and the depth of knowledge that the team provides, and also the experience that comes through from everybody involved.

How has Rexroth service improved since you first joined and what are some of your personal milestones?

For me, the biggest improvement is in our organisation and alignment, using performance measurements that feed back into the improvements that we make. As a department, we’re very much on board with the customer’s requirements and needs, in addition to our internal performance awareness. In terms of personal milestones, I think dealing with a variety of teams on different sites is something that challenges me, and that’s something I can take away personally that I’ve achieved.

How has hydraulics changed/evolved over the years, and what do you think is new?

The biggest change in hydraulics, I believe, is how sophisticated the controls have become and how digital solutions have merged with hydraulics. A good example of this is Cytro concepts - it’s not just the technology but it’s also what surrounds it in the digital form, like digital maintenance or digitisation of maintenance.

What sets Rexroth service apart from competitors?

Firstly, Rexroth is spread across a lot of different technologies and what’s impressive about us globally, is that we harness a variety of products that can be placed back into different parts of the organisation. For example, automotive equipment being migrated across into mobile hydraulic technology. That for us is a big strength from a service perspective, because the products and support we can offer is extremely comprehensive.

What advice would you give to young people interested in working in hydraulics today?

Firstly, get a well-rounded knowledge and experience with hydraulics principles, certainly the theoretical side and don’t just limit yourself to the hydraulic formulas and the mathematics. Also get familiar with the equipment and the different applications that we’re involved with. You must get hands on experience, not just the classroom stuff. Make sure you get out there and feel the hydraulics. Just keep learning day-to-day and stay up to date with all the different advances in technology. Another important thing to consider is that hydraulics can be very dangerous, so develop a strong safety habit right from the start. If you want to work in the field of hydraulics and you follow all of this, it will be the best decision you will ever make.

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