If you had a Fuji service technician come to your lab to fix your minilab equipment before March 25, chances were about 50-50 that the tech was not an employee of Fujifilm USA, but could just as well have been an employee of a little known firm, Customer Engineering Services (CES), Winter Park, Colorado.
After that date, there is a high probability that the service tech will be a CES employee as the entire team of close to 200 field service techs that were on the Fuji payroll was transferred to the CES payroll which already had about 165 of its own Fuji techs.
Ron Santos, Fuji's vice president of technical services and support, emphasized the move will be a seamless one as far as the Fuji dealer is concerned as customers needing service will still call the same Fuji telephone number. Fuji will coordinate the dispatching of all service techs, as before.
Bing Liem, Fuji's senior VP of sales, considers the merger of the two tech staffs at CES as a "non event" for Fuji customers. "Nothing changes," he said.
Santos said Fuji will continue to be responsible for such functions as refurbishment, customer and technical education, parts support and logistics, billing, product support, and help desk support. Equipment service contracts will still be offered and fulfilled by Fuji.
He indicated that there will be cost efficiencies in combining the two service staffs into one. "Response time should be improved," he noted.
Santos said, "Fuji recognizes the importance of the service organization as a separate and growth oriented business opportunity and that Fuji is committed to focus on expanding the service business area for their customers. In the service area this means greater opportunity to expand our service expertise to other traditional and non-traditional equipment."
CES is a firm founded about four years ago by Jim Fox who previously spent 33 years with IBM where he focused on service. Santos came to Fuji four years ago, after 35 years with IBM, where his expertise was in the printer sector.
Fuji has taken a minority equity position in CES though the amount or percentage of the investment was not made known.
Fox describes the CES operation as an electronically operated company with no brick and mortar facility to support, but with an organization of about 165 field techs and 35 administrative personnel. It will have no direct relationship with the Fuji dealer structure though it will be responsible for an installed base of approximately 15,000 Fuji labs.
He said CES has made a long-term commitment to be Fuji's partner and feels that, "to grow the service business it's necessary to have a single organization devoted to service." He did not rule out that, in the future, CES might do service for other IT related firms, both in and out of the photo industry.
Santos acknowledged that there were still two other small independent service companies being dispatched by Fuji to cover field tech problems. He did not name them but indicated that the new CES arrangement would be handling as much as 95% of the total service load.
A spokesman for Noritsu said the firm has no plans to outsource service functions. All service is currently handled by a field staff of about 200 service technicians with no organizational changes being considered. "In fact, we are currently hiring to expand the field tech force," according to the spokesman.