Contractingbusiness 2060 Cb0711refrigservicetoday Abrams

Taking Change to the Limit

July 1, 2011
For this edition of RST Contractor Insights, Contracting spoke with Lauren Abrams, CEO of Source Refrigeration, Anaheim, CA

Look out for Lauren Abrams. The new CEO of Source Refrigeration and HVAC, Anaheim, CA, is on a mission to propel the commercial refrigeration and HVAC installation and service company to new heights of customer service and operational efficiency.

Abrams is taking the HVACR service company through some intense repositioning calisthenics. But they're more than temporary exercises to make everyone feel good for a time. They’re long-term changes, designed to help customers throughout the Source 13-states-and-growing network of operations to improve mechanical system performance, gain improved value for their energy dollar, positively impact the environment, and lower overall operating costs. Abrams joined Source in 2009 as president and chief operating officer. Prior to that time, she was senior vice president of customer support operations for Cardinal Health. There, Abrams says, she gained an appreciation for the many “mission critical” needs of customers. She believes the medical and refrigeration industries share a sense of urgency, the need for state-of-the-art technology, a focus on people, and similar business processes.

Abrams success as Source president/COO included managing a strategic planning initiative that helped Source's employees understand the industry better, and Source’s place in it.

"We've clarified our understanding of customer needs, and ways to reposition the company and reduce customer cost of ownership," she says.

"It occurred to us that the products and services in the industry weren't integrated or designed in such a way as to bring solutions to our customers' greatest and most expensive problems. Refrigeration and HVAC systems drive most of the energy usage for many of our customers, and contribute to their carbon footprint. That's why we looked at our strategy, and, are taking a holistic approach to helping customers manage the total cost of ownership of mission critical refrigeration and HVAC systems."

Now, having assumed a greater role, Abrams says Source will be taking its change farther, and be more intently focused on offering the highest quality at every stage of service and support. The quality push will include new designs, remodels, refrigeration changes, and optimizing and sustaining the performance of those systems. Tactically, it will involve scrutiny in four key areas:

  • objective engineering design
  • integrated installation of systems
  • repair and maintenance
  • system optimization, including energy efficiency services.

Abrams is passionate about Total Quality Management (TQM), Lean management principles, Six Sigma, and the Japanese "Kaizen" philosophy of continuous process improvement. She believes applying any and all of these methods will improve Source’s business processes and service delivery.

"We've seen tremendous improvements in our business, from final delivery and time it takes to get to the site, to the service follow-up, to billing, to ensuring customers get the right invoice at the right time. The entire back-end office has seen radical improvements since we've worked on this," she says.

"The background I have in using Lean and Six Sigma in service processes has helped the organization. We’ve assigned deployment teams to concentrate on key areas in the organization, to improve our business processes and service delivery."

Twenty-three of Source's management leaders have been trained in Lean process mapping facilitation and leadership, and a core group is leading improvement teams within the organization. That process includes listening to field personnel — the people who work with customers and equipment each day.

"We know that the people who do the work really know the answers to how the business should run," she shares. "So, it's been a matter of bringing them in, and listening to what they have to say. The best way to improve morale in an organization is to get people involved in improving it, and owning it."

Source recently opened new locations in Florida. About the future, Abrams can only reveal that Source is in "expansion mode." The process improvements will come first.

"There's tremendous duplication of effort in the back office, between contractors and customers," she says. "There are opportunities to streamline work processes such as system interfaces, real time service data, and work flow management; these have all become very commonplace in most industries. We have some work to do. If we could all take some excess costs out of our systems, everybody would win."