Need a technician to fix your construction equipment or do preventive maintenance?
There’s now an app for that.
It’s called Heave, and its founder Alex Kraft is this week’s guest on The Dirt. He likens the app to “Uber for heavy equipment service.”
Just download the app, input your need, and available independent field technicians pop up, showing when they can arrive, along with the rates and fees they charge. You pick the one you want, and they show up on your jobsite.
After the job is done, the app bills you. “The customer has control,” Kraft says.
To find out more about how Heave works and if it’s right for you, check out the latest episode of The Dirt.
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In This Episode:
- 00:00 - Heave: On-Demand Equipment Repair
- 00:31 - What is Heave?
- 02:09 - How Fast Is Heave?
- 03:35 - How Much Does Heave Cost?
- 05:24 - Heave vs. Dealer Service
- 08:52 - Does Heave Offer Preventable Maintenance?
- 10:17 - How Much Can You Save by Using Heave?
- 11:31 - Using Heave as a Technician
- 12:38 - Can Heave Solve the Technician Shortage?
- 13:37 - Final Thoughts
Bryan Furnace (00:00):
Today we're here to talk about the diesel technician shortage problem and a new platform that's here to help us deal with this problem. The platform is called Heave, and Alex is going to talk to us about how exactly it works and how it's going to help ease some of the problems of finding a technician to work on your piece of equipment.
Your platform is really intriguing. So for the audience, can you just give us a high level overview of what Heave is?
Alex Kraft (00:39):
Yeah, so Heave is on demand heavy equipment field service. So one way to describe it is Uber for heavy equipment service. So customers who own and run excavators, loaders, dozers. As an alternative, when machines break in the field, to calling a dealer and waiting on a field tech, they can go to our app and book a technician to fix their heavy equipment right there.
Bryan Furnace (01:03):
What is the process to get started on Heave as a customer?
Alex Kraft (01:07):
To download the app. So ultimately customers have accounts with us. We don't really change any of the payment terms in the industry. So typical payment terms are net 30, but customers can download our app, put in a service request, get a service, and then we typically follow up with customers after that and set them up with an account, standard issue account creation.
Bryan Furnace (01:30):
So that's what I was going to say is your app really is... I would equate it to the Uber of field mechanic service because when I popped onto it yesterday, it was literally download the app and you're rolling within five to 10 minutes of setting your profile up. I mean, it's that quick.
Alex Kraft (01:45):
You had to call me because we had a guy on his way to fix your CAT and I 50 loader.
Bryan Furnace (01:51):
That's it. I mean, it was that quick. That was the shocking thing. I thought for sure it was going to take me some time to really get things set up and get things tuned in. And then there's probably some verification process on the backend and it's literally like Uber. You just download it and away you go.
Alex Kraft (02:07):
Yeah, it doesn't have to be complicated.
Bryan Furnace (02:09):
So here's the really big question. What is the average response time from me putting in a service ticket to having a tech on my job site?
Alex Kraft (02:18):
Yeah, so in the markets we operate, on average, once a customer submits a service request, they will have three to four available mechanics within 10 minutes. So you'll see, okay, So-and-so can be there tomorrow morning, So-and-so can be there this afternoon. So they'll have four choices within 10 minutes. And last month, 80% of service requests on our app were completed within 24 hours.
Bryan Furnace (02:48):
Wow. So you're responsive. It's not, "Okay, we got to wait two or three days for the local dealer to send out a tech." This is quick.
Alex Kraft (02:57):
This is on demand field service. So we have a large network of independent technicians. One of the things that makes this whole thing go is that a customer request goes immediately directly to the technicians. So in the way that field service is always run, I think one of the inefficiencies to it is everything goes through a dispatcher, everything goes through an office employee. Not with us. It's an app. It goes directly to the technicians and the technicians are answering right away. And so when you're dealing with the person that's going to be fixing it, it's a lot faster of a response and they don't over promise because they're the ones who have to show up.
Bryan Furnace (03:35):
So my next question is, as a customer, I don't want some guy showing up to my job site and then on the backside finding out his billing rate's $300 an hour. So how do I get a heads-up as a customer of what I'm getting into?
Alex Kraft (03:48):
Yeah, it's all stated in the app. So when a technician onboards on our app, they put in their hourly rate, and if they charge travel time and mileage, what that is. Some people charge $2.50 a mile. Some people don't charge mileages, charge their hourly rate. So we take all that information in and then we build a technician profile and then that's what a customer sees every time. So you can see on your end as a customer, all right, So-and-so will be there tomorrow morning. He's $145 an hour. So-and-so can be there tomorrow afternoon. He's $165 an hour. And so there's price optionality as well within the app, and ultimately it's always the customer's choice. No one ever gets assigned to the customer. They get to pick who they want every time.
Bryan Furnace (04:35):
And that's perfect. My next question after you were talking about being able to see those four technicians available to me is do I also get to see their rates? And you're saying on one screen, all of that information's available to you?
Alex Kraft (04:47):
Correct. And we also, I mean, we're a technology company. We do calculations, so So-and-so technician is 42 miles away from you. And so his travel time will be X in round trip. So-and-so is 80 miles away. His travel time will be X. So we show estimates for the other fees too. So you have a really good understanding. Now naturally, you're not going to know how many hours is the job going to take, but at least you know as a customer that hey, here's the hourly rate and then here is what the other fees will amount to. So you can piece together a really good idea of what an end invoice will be.
Bryan Furnace (05:22):
Interesting. So what are some of the other advantages of going through something like Heave versus calling up to the local dealer?
Alex Kraft (06:49):
Well, it's pretty simple. You see the hourly rates. They're typically 30 to 40% less than a dealer's rates. And that's because these are independent mechanics. And unfortunately, I think customers have had to tolerate a certain business environment for a long time. And the fact is, if you're in, pick a state, and there's only one Caterpillar dealer, that's the only person you've had to go to for service. And so in businesses where there's a monopoly, customers pay dearly for that.
And so that is a huge advantage is the cost savings, but then the soft cost, like downtime. How much do customers lose a day when a machine is down? And so if a dealer can't get to you for one to two weeks and you can find a tech who used to work at a dealer through the Heave app and can be there within 24 hours, how much do you save in that circumstance? I'd love to know.
Bryan Furnace (07:44):
Yeah, absolutely. One of the things you mentioned the other day in our call that I hadn't even thought about is you have that technician out there and especially in today's work environment where we're struggling to find technicians and they're bouncing all over the place, chances are that technician has not only worked at the CAT dealer, he's also worked at the Komatsu dealer or the CASE dealer. And so you had mentioned that one of the other advantages is the fact that they might be able to hit two or three pieces of equipment on one service call.
Alex Kraft (08:10):
We see it all the time, and because these guys are independent, they've had to be able to work on a diverse range of machines. And so we see time and time again where a service call will start on a Komatsu, and once the technicians on the site and he's finished, the customer will say, "Hey, while you're here, can you look at this Deere dozer? Can you look at this CAT excavator?" And that's a huge advantage of being independent. Whereas, as a dealer, you can only work on your products and so you're never going to have that guy work on other brands. And it's a huge advantage. One trip charge for the job, multiple machines. That's really the ultimate test case of our platform.
Bryan Furnace (08:51):
So now let me come at it from a different angle. Let's say I'm a decent sized contractor. I've got a couple in-house technicians, but one thing I don't have is a lube guy to do my filter changes, all my preventative maintenance. Do you guys offer that service as well?
Alex Kraft (09:04):
Absolutely. We do PMs, anything that you can think of. We do DEF repairs. That's probably our most common repair is DEF, just like everybody deals with. PMs. PMs can be scheduled out, too. So a customer puts in a, "Hey, I need a 2000-hour service," they see available options, they pick a tech, they work it out, they tell the tech to pick up the filters and everything before they get to the job. Boom, everything works in harmony. Yeah, it's, like I said, on demand.
That's really at the heart of what we're doing that's very different is the customer has control. And so I know from working at a dealership for a long time, one of the most frustrating things for customers is that you have a machine down and you just don't have answers. You have to call in and then you're always waiting. And so with us, hey, you have a fleet manager, "Hey, I need these machines serviced." You can go into Heave, I'm going to book that guy for Thursday. And then if you have a machine down that's urgent, you see available options immediately. You pick a guy. All right, someone will be there tomorrow morning. You're really never waiting, which is what customers really, really love once they try it out for the first time.
Bryan Furnace (10:16):
And so what kind of cost savings are we talking as a contractor, because I still think, "Oh, I'm still paying a hefty fee for these guys to come on and work on it," and I'm sure Heave has got some subscription fee or something. What are my real cost savings?
Alex Kraft (10:31):
We don't have a subscription fee. We bill a customer after the job is done. The savings? We finished our first year. One of our best customers here locally in Tampa, I've been pressing him, "Hey, how much are you saving? Let's open the books up." And he told me that he'll save $500,000 this year on maintenance alone versus the prior year. He owns a fleet of 50 machines, so he's not an enormous contractor and his revenue grew probably 35% in 2023. His fleet is older and he saved 500 grand versus last year on maintenance.
Bryan Furnace (11:11):
Wow. That's not a little number. And I think that's what a lot of people in the industry don't understand is when you start using those third party technicians, those cost savings rack up very quickly.
Alex Kraft (11:22):
Yeah. I mean, if you're booking somebody for 140 bucks an hour, whereas the dealers charge you 190, do the math.
Bryan Furnace (11:30):
It goes quick. So my final question, we're going to totally flip this whole thing. Let's come at it from the technician side. If we've got technicians watching, that they've maybe been thinking about going independent, not really sure how to establish a customer base and how to get rolling, how would I sign up as a technician on the app and what's the process there?
Alex Kraft (11:47):
So we have a Heave Tech app. They download the app and then we always vet the technicians. So as a technician, you cannot just sign up and go start to work. So we've instituted a background check. We have a conversation with technicians. They have to submit a copy of their insurance to us. We keep it on file. We have someone who manages it, so we know everybody has valid insurance in place. So as a customer, you're never going to hire someone on the Heave app that is not insured. So that's another thing for peace of mind there. And we find out their background. Like I said, most guys worked at these dealers, they've been a technician for 10 plus years. We find out what software they have, the truck with a crane, what size, what their job capacity is. So there is a vetting process before we turn them on to start receiving jobs.
Bryan Furnace (12:37):
Excellent. It's very interesting to see our industry is finally getting into this technology component, and so you see a lot of guys from the tech industry coming over, and it's been fascinating to see how creatively people are dealing with a lot of these challenges and problems that the industry's facing. So Alex, thank you for coming up with a platform to try to ease the pain of being short on technicians.
Alex Kraft (12:59):
Yeah, I know that's how we got linked up was I wrote an article about that, the shortage of technicians. And my argument is that it's pretty simple. It's a highly skilled labor force that are really underpaid for the value they provide. And so that's why I've seen a lot when I was at the dealership. I saw a lot of guys go independent because there's an opportunity to make three times more money and it just doesn't have to be more complicated. If there's a shortage of supply and it's high skilled, why isn't the wage rising to meet that? And that's hopefully one of the problems that we're going to solve.
Bryan Furnace (13:37):
Well, there you have it. Thank you again for Alex coming on the show to tell us about Heave. It's a quick download in the App Store and there you are, ready to rock, getting a technician to your job site to fix your downed equipment. As always, I hope this has been helpful to you and your business. We'll catch you on the next episode of The Dirt.