Magazine Article | June 4, 2018

How 170-Year-Old BUNN Is Modernizing Service

BUNN has innovated service delivery with technologies including field service management, IoT, and AR.

More than 170 years ago, Jacob Bunn opened a grocery store in Springfield, IL. As the story goes, a young Abe Lincoln was one of his first customers. That grocery store evolved into Bunn Capitol Wholesale Grocery Company, which was later managed by George R. Bunn, who founded a beverage equipment division in the late 1950s. Bunn-O-Matic Corporation was officially incorporated as a separate entity in 1963, and since has been a leading beverage equipment manufacturer.

According to Tim Spencer, senior VP and GM for service operations at BUNN, the company has had a culture of innovation from very early on. “We’ve morphed and evolved continually since the company began in 1840, and we’ve done so by seeing the needs that our customers have and by being innovative and creative to meet those needs,” he says. “For instance, when we had our first commercial food service business in 1840, they brought a big safe into the store. Turns out it was the best safe in town, and customers began asking to keep their money in the safe. So pretty soon, we started a bank.”

The modern-day BUNN remains privately held and family-owned; Arthur “Hy” Bunn has been the president and CEO since 1988, assuming leadership of the worldwide beverage equipment company his father founded. A rapidly growing global company, the headquarters remain in Springfield, IL, and the company has added five additional U.S. locations, as well as warehouses or offices in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, China, United Arab Emirates, and the U.K.

Family-owned-and-operated companies, especially those with a long history, have a reputation for being resistant to change and have more of the “business as usual” mentality. Not BUNN. The company’s strategic vision for the delivery of service, as well as the technologies it’s using to support this vision, are a real-world example of how to successfully evolve.

Managing The Complexities Of Rapid Growth
BUNN is in the midst of a transition from manufacturing company that provides service to support its products to a true service business. The company’s goal is to grow the business by five times over a five-year period, beginning in 2017. In 2017, the business nearly doubled. In addition, BUNN’s products continue to grow in complexity and capability, particularly on the commercial side. Between rapid growth and more complex products, BUNN is challenged with onboarding and training field technicians, protecting the customer experience as the company grows, and continuing to develop strategies to successfully navigate this evolution.

"Without innovation, we’d be out of business. It’s a key part of everything we do. Not only in product innovation, but in always thinking about how to best serve our customers — what do they need, how do they want to interact with us, and how do we best support them?”

Tim Spencer, BUNN


The BUNN field service workforce is expanding to accommodate the company’s growth goals. “We provide home equipment retail products, which we provide technical support for but don’t service,” explains Spencer. “Our field service is on the commercial beverage equipment. Field technicians perform installation, preventative maintenance, removal of old equipment, refurbishment, and break-fix service. They also do some programming work on the more sophisticated commercial equipment (such as programming in recipes, etc.).” In addition to its own field technicians, BUNN also enlists third-party field technicians to perform commercial service.

To keep the company focused as it navigates this season of growth, BUNN has four guiding principles for its service operation: provide proactive service, make the move to predictive analytics, continually improve quality, and reduce the costs of service delivery. To support its progress in those four areas, BUNN has implemented a number of modern field service technologies and has some others on the horizon.

BUNN uses SAP ERP and Salesforce CRM in the back office. The company has deployed ServiceMax from GE Digital for scheduling, work order management, mobile, warranty and contract management, parts and returns, and their current customer portal. The ServiceMax solution is branded to BUNN contract workers and employees as BUNNserve Plus, and field technicians access the solution through a combination of iPhones and iPads. While Spencer can’t divulge any details on the impact BUNN has seen from using ServiceMax, ServiceMax conducted an independent study this year and found that their customers increase technician productivity by an average of 19 percent and customer satisfaction scores by an average of 11 percent through the use of the solution. BUNN also leverages the LoT (location of things) platform from MapAnything (ServiceMax and MapAnything just formally announced a partnership on May 3).

IoT Enables Proactive Service
BUNN also began using IoT technology about five years ago. “As beverage dispensing equipment became more complex, BUNN recognized the opportunity to add value both to our customers and to our business by placing sensors in critical functional areas of the machines. Our engineering, marketing, sales, and service teams worked together to build an ‘offering’ to address the needs of customers while also ensuring that other data important to BUNN was part of our road map. A bundled solution called BUNNlink has been available now in our specialty drink equipment for about five years, and we have expanded its application to new product launches since its inception,” says Spencer. BUNN’s IoT solution is provided through Mesh Systems and is branded as BUNNlink.

The introduction of IoT was a major advancement for the company and its customers. “With IoT, we can more quickly help the customer determine if a phone fix can solve their service issue or if a dispatch is necessary. Each fault code triggers a notification both to the customer and to our technical support center. We often know before the customer does that their equipment is experiencing an issue that could, or is currently, causing performance issues. We can reach out to the customer and walk them through some troubleshooting steps to try to get their equipment alert resolved quickly and at no expense to them or us (if under warranty),” explains Spencer. “Should they call into our call center before we call them, our agents all have access to BUNNlink screens that show them exactly what the onboard sensors have detected, present the agent with a script for troubleshooting that is specific to that error code, and enable a much higher than typical opportunity to resolve while on the phone. Should a phone fix not be possible, this same information is transferred to the work order ticket so that the dispatched technician knows exactly what was reported and likely which part is needed — not based upon a customer’s input alone, but based upon equipment alerts from specific sensors. This saves a lot of time, enables us to help customers more precisely and quickly, and prevents downtime or shortens it by virtue of our advanced notice and insight provided by the equipment’s direct feedback.”

IoT has propelled the company forward in each of BUNN’s four focus areas — with the ability to use product data to work toward predictive analytics, to provide proactive service by alerting customers of potential failures before they occur, by improving the quality of service through optimal uptime, as well as by offering customers access to data valuable to their businesses (such as peak usage times, preferred products, etc.), and to reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary service visits and arriving prepared when a visit is deemed necessary. (Spencer estimates that the company saves $297.80 per unit per year in overall cost of ownership.) Customers can benefit from BUNNlink both indirectly and directly; meaning, the IoT technology benefits them indirectly through BUNN’s ability to provide more proactive service, but they also have the opportunity to use the data more directly, by subscribing to BUNNlink and gaining access to all of the data relevant to their business (this subscription model also creates a new revenue stream for BUNN by providing access to information that customers find valuable enough to pay for).

IoT has also been valuable to BUNN in testing, evaluating, and developing new products. “Based on the nature of our equipment, it’s expensive to test. You have to consume a product to do so,” explains Spencer. “Being able to use IoT data to augment the testing we’re doing helps us to validate assumptions, discover trends, and overall, have a larger pool of data from which to make product-based decisions.”

AR Streamlines Training, Ensures Proper Repairs
Most recently, BUNN has deployed an augmented reality (AR) solution from Help Lightning to onboard and train field technicians quickly and effectively to keep up with the company’s growth. “As we’re growing, we’re bringing in new field technicians that aren’t familiar with our culture, who don’t yet know our customers and their nuances, who may or may not have experience in this industry,” says Spencer. “Training them is more than just teaching them how to fix a piece of equipment — it’s training them on the systems you use, the culture you’re proud of, the customers you serve, and much more.”

BUNN previously used classroom-style training, augmented when needed with web-based training. Those options still exist, but the AR solution was deployed so that BUNN could scale its training as growth occurs while providing more hands-on support to new employees. “These are all remote workers, both our own and third-party,” explains Spencer. “Implementing AR gives us the ability to ensure the remote workforce — especially the new hires — are delivering the experience we want our customers to have. We’re teaching them as they learn our culture that a ‘good job’ to us might be better than the ‘good job’ they used to do at their old job.”

The Help Lightning solution is a merged mobile reality solution, in which two real-time mobile technology visual environments are merged to allow virtual presence help. “What we liked most about the solution is that we could hit the ground running with it fast — it’s really off the shelf. It can integrate with your own apps, with your customer’s apps, with your call center management tools, with your CRM. You can use it internally, or brand it and sell it to your customers,” says Spencer. Help Lightning is a standard app that can be used on any mobile device, with no special equipment needed.

The two biggest benefits to BUNN of the AR solution are the impact it has had on training, as well as the validation measures it provides to ensure quality service. From a training standpoint, the solution allows BUNN to provide a mentor to newer field technicians without the cost of sending an expert on site with a new hire. Using Help Lightning, BUNN can provide a remote technical coach for new employees to help them learn both technical skills and company culture faster.

The other benefit of using AR is that BUNN can validate the work being done on site remotely. “By engaging with the individual doing the repair on site, we can ensure the work is done correctly and prevent them from having to make a return trip. In other words, an AR session can help the technical coach discover if a new hire is misdiagnosing an issue. For instance, if the determination is made that the board is bad when, in reality, it’s a faulty heating coil, the fix is a few bucks instead of hundreds.

On top of that, the issue is resolved correctly the first time, therefore providing a better customer experience,” says Spencer. “We don’t have to use the AR solution on every job, but when we do use it, I’m positive it is reducing costs and improving uptime each and every time.”

Knowledge Management, Business Intelligence On The Horizon
As you may have guessed given BUNN’s evolution, the company’s journey of innovation is far from over. So what’s next? There are a few projects on the horizon to further modernize BUNN’s field service operations.

First, BUNN is in the process of designing a new customer portal to enable greater self-service. BUNN’s customers today have access to a customer portal through the service management system, but the goal is for their experience to be more seamless by them being able to enter the portal directly from BUNN’s website.

Second, BUNN is currently piloting a knowledge management solution from Infomill. The goal is to give field technicians a very simple, user friendly way to access any information they need at a customer site from their mobile device. Further, BUNN has plans to use AR to provide product-specific data (parts manual, repair tutorial, etc.) to technicians by scanning the bar code on the equipment.

Finally, BUNN is evaluating BI (business intelligence) solutions. With the technologies the company already has in place, the data BUNN is gathering is powerful — but what the company wants to work toward is having a system to make better sense of all of that data at a macro level. “I never lack for data — if I have a question, I can go find an answer. But I’ve got to go find it,” says Spencer. “Our goal is to migrate toward the ability to have all of our data collectively presented to us in a way that it tells a story and helps to guide our business.”

As a family-run business that began when Abe Lincoln was doing his shopping, I think the magnitude of BUNN’s transformation is impressive. “Without innovation, we’d be out of business. It’s a key part of everything we do. Not only in product innovation, but in always thinking about how to best serve our customers — what do they need, how do they want to interact with us, and how do we best support them? Having that focus is what has kept, and continues to keep, our company successful,” Spencer says. He explains that the culture of innovation is led from the top, with CEO Hy Bunn always focusing on what’s possible. “He’s always thinking and strategizing what’s next, and he urges everyone in the company to do the same. He challenges us to think not about the reasons we can’t, but all the reasons we should. Instead of focusing on the disablers, the roadblocks, he challenges us to focus on the enablers. As a result, we have to organize ourselves and our teams in a way that we have enough capacity in our days to think about those enablers. Those things can be very small, like in the way you schedule your call center. Or they can be very big, like an entire business-model change. But you have to have that enabler mindset; I think that has been the secret to our company’s success.”