HVAC contractor shifts its business from mostly new construction to mostly maintenance and repair work with the help of Vista Field Service

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Maintenance and repair work helps smooth out the ups and downs of project revenue for many contractors – especially during economic slowdowns, when customers are looking to save money by extending the life of their existing equipment rather than installing new systems. But a successful service business requires speed, efficiency and close coordination between the office and field to operate profitably while performing quality work and delivering a positive customer experience that generates repeat business.

Thermal Concepts has figured out how to do just that. With the help of Vista Field Service, the South Florida HVAC, refrigeration and ductwork expert now gets most of its revenue from maintenance and repair work. Founded in 1983, the firm provides commercial and industrial clients with the full spectrum of mechanical capabilities for new construction, service and retro-fit projects.

“We used to be 85 to 90 percent construction and 10 to 15 percent service, and we’ve been focused the past seven or eight years on flipping that the other way around, and we’ve successfully done that,” says Thermal Concepts General Manager Rick Maurer. “We started 10 years ago with 30 techs. We now have more than 200 and we’re still hiring like crazy.”


There’s plenty of mechanical work in South Florida – which vies with Houston and Phoenix as the most air-conditioned metro area in the country – and Thermal Concepts has been successful as a contractor on many large new-construction projects. But as the region became increasingly developed over the past 40 years and competition increased, the company realized it was making more money on service and renovations, with custom work done directly for owners a close second, and new-build subcontracting an increasingly distant third.

Tighter economic times around the financial crisis of the late 2000s, the Covid pandemic and other downturns also emphasized the importance of having a stronger service arm. “Construction is a low-margin operation and most service is a high-margin operation, and the tighter the market gets, the more customers need service because they don’t want to spend on replacing their system,” Maurer says. “We wanted something that had repeat business with a recurring revenue stream and a lot of pass-through with those connections.”

Thermal Concepts has been a Viewpoint Vista ERP customer for more than a decade and also takes advantage of its native Viewpoint HR Management extension for everything from applicant tracking and onboarding to managing benefits enrollment, expense reporting and time-off requests. However, until a few years ago, the company used a third-party product to manage its service operation. While it had positives, “we had to wait months for it to become compatible with Vista updates and invariably things would get broken. We couldn’t get our work orders to the field or back from the field.”


After acquiring a controls company and another mechanical firm, each with their own approach to managing maintenance and repair work, Thermal Concepts realized it was time to find a solution that worked across the company’s expanding and diversifying service portfolio. As it moved the new firms onto Vista, it became clear that – like Viewpoint HR Management – a native extension for service would also make sense. “We decided that was probably a good time to go ahead and make the switch to Vista Field Service,” Maurer says. “It’s tightly integrated and the updates are automatically there.”

“I wanted a solution that would grow and keep up with our whole system, including Vista and HR Management,” he adds. “I also wanted us to have everything in the cloud instead of on servers. I didn’t want to have to support everything internally like we were doing. I wanted it all integrated. Trimble has been putting so much time and effort into integrating everything into one system, and I wanted to be part of that.”

Maurer also saw the value of Vista Field Service in its own right. “For the office, it simplifies creating work orders and dispatching technicians, it’s easy to send updates on jobs, and we instantly receive completed work orders for same-day billing,” he says. “For the field, it provides all the information they need to complete a job, including materials, history and tasks. When the job is done, it instantly sends their times, notes, photos and signatures back to the office.”


Having everything under one roof has been eye-opening for Thermal Concepts. Prior to implementing Vista Field Service, “start and stop times didn’t flow through to the ERP, so we couldn’t validate them in payroll,” Maurer says. “Now we can, and we realized that we were overpaying a lot of people because they were constantly overlapping their time. So that gave us an awareness that we didn’t have before.”

Getting all of the firm’s service teams onto Vista Field Service as part of Vista ERP with HR Management has also helped build a cohesive company culture. “For what we did and the number of people we had to transition, it went really well,” Maurer says. “We didn’t miss a beat. We were able to build, to do the jobs, get our reports in, without a break. We transitioned 100-plus people over two months and the people we have hired since then have gotten the benefit of that experience.”

Some of the company’s service techs have come from firms that managed service with paper-based systems. “They’re already used to their own personal smartphones so it’s actually easier for them than paper,” Maurer says. “The field application is very user-friendly and easy to operate and they can use it on a laptop, a tablet or a phone. And now it’s integrated with their time-off calendars and their things in the HR portal. It’s a single portal that they can go to for everything. They can go straight from a work order to a time-off request.”

And now Thermal Concepts knows exactly who’s been doing what, where and when. “We have people on work orders, people on jobs and people on both. It’s great to see their time in one view,” Maurer says. “Vista Field Service has worked out marvelously. It’s helped us triple our margins and we’ve got a tremendous amount of pass-through on the service work that we perform. And the worse the economy gets, the better service is because people don’t replace their systems, they just keep fixing them.”

Learn more and get a custom demo of Vista Field Service.

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