The 17th of May marked the 50th work anniversary of Wellington-based Jones Services Service Manager Bruce James.
The service workshop originally operated under the banner of Tharcold Appliance Services Ltd. which was established in 1961 as a family owned whiteware servicing company. It was acquired by The Jones Family Business in 2006 as part of the company’s commitment to provide the best possible in-store and after sales service support for all the brands it distributes and retails. The Jones Family Business is the umbrella company of Kitchen Things, Applico and Jones Services, the service arm of the business (www.jonesservices.co.nz)
Bruce started working as an apprentice for Tharcold in 1967 when he was just 16 years old. His involvement with the company goes back even further though. Notes Bruce: “My father worked at the workshop as a service technician in the early 60s. I’d come to work with him during school holidays and help clean out the workshop”.
After a two year apprenticeship, Bruce became a service technician and carried out maintenance and repairs on domestic appliances until the end of the 1970’s, when he was promoted to Service Manager and started training new employees. He was on the road a lot from that point on and only started working in a more administrative role in 2010.
Bruce explains a lot has changed in the half century he has worked with appliances in New Zealand. “Back when I joined the company, no appliances were made in New Zealand. They all came from the UK, and we did not have a lot of brands to work with. Those who owned a washing machine had the same model, and they were very basic. People also didn’t have very high expectations of their appliances. Most of the time, they were just happy to have a machine! Suffice to say appliances have come a long way since then.”
Bruce recalls working mostly with refrigerators and washing machines throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. “There were very few dishwashers and rangehoods and no dryers at all,” he remarks. Early electric washers were wringer-type machines, as fully automatic washing machines were really expensive. In the 1980’s, dishwashers were introduced to New Zealand, although Bruce recalls they were considered “an absolute luxury”.
The real shift in New Zealand appliances came in the 1990’s. “We started servicing more dishwashers, rangehoods, and washing machines with electronic controls. In later years, we started working with new technology such as induction cooktops and steam ovens and things became more technical. We’re dealing with ten times as many spare parts as we did 50 years ago.”
In terms of what motivated Bruce to keep working for the same company for 50 years, he says: “I’m very well looked after here. I liked being on the road with colleagues and staff members. I’m happy with all the people I’ve worked with and I’ve enjoyed coming to work every single day.”
Although Bruce is nearing the end of his career, his legacy will live on in the new generation of service technicians he has taught. Interestingly, things are now coming full circle for Bruce as he is witnessing the return to the structures that he originally learned under.
Over the past 50 years, the average age of a service technician has increased and there has been very little investment in apprentices. This is all changing as Jones Services, which incorporates Tharcold Appliance Services Ltd. in the Central Region, Appliance Works in the South Island, and Xpert Appliance Services Ltd. in the North Island has committed to investing in apprenticeships and services.
New vans and uniforms are being supplied, adult apprenticeships schemes are going to be rolled out and, in addition to full electrical services, technicians will be trained on how to carry out limited service work on gas appliances.
The investment The Jones Family Business is making should go a long way towards reigniting the trade, as well as provide a full service offering to customers which allows for their appliances, whether they be electric, induction or gas, to be serviced by a single service technician. Jones Services technicians will also be able to deliver and install an appliance and service it for the lifetime of the appliance. In short, Jones Services now represents a one stop after sales solution.
The investment in training has been extended to Jones Services authorised service technicians countrywide, thereby ensuring a nationwide service network. This should give customers peace of mind as they will be able to buy a Kitchen Things appliance safe in the knowledge that there will be someone to look after the appliance over the course of its lifetime.
Bruce is currently working with management to ensure that good old fashioned service, coupled with the latest technology, is at the forefront of Jones Services future offering. This approach ensures a first time fix carried out in a timely manner that meets customer expectations.
50 years is a long time in any industry and while things have changed, Bruce is pleased to see a return to service and apprenticeship investment. When the time is right, he will be able to retire with confidence, knowing that he has helped so many customers and will leave the business in a very strong position.